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The Withered Arm and other
Wessex Tales…read more

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Thomas Hardy Social conditions
Hardy was one of the most popular English writers of the 19th century. His readers
enjoyed finding out about the lives of poor rural people in England, as well reading in
To understand the context of Thomas Hardy's short story The detail about the beauty of the countryside.
Withered Arm, you need to know something about the author, as · the poor were not well educated and their children did not attend school
well as the subjects that interested him as a writer. · the rich were few and the poor were many; their lives were very different
Thomas Hardy was born in 1840 in a tiny village deep in the Dorset · poor women were forced to work hard and in all weather: their tanned, weatherworn
faces became a 'label' of poverty and led them to be stereotyped
countryside in southwest England. His family was not wealthy. · rich ladies kept their skin fair and this, too, was a 'label' to show their wealth and
Hardy first became a builder, like his father; then trained to become
an architect; and finally, a writer. He became highly educated and · the poor hardly ever travelled far: they would walk miles on foot if they did undertake
a long journey
very successful, except in his marriage, which was unsatisfactory · transport was almost non-existent and only the wealthy could afford to travel by
and loveless. horse and cart
· the poor lived in dreadful housing conditions and survived on a diet of bread,
potatoes and vegetables
Hardy died in 1928. Long life meant that he lived through one of the
greatest expansions of industrial power in Britain, and a downturn in · healthcare was all but non-existent and people relied on natural herbs (and even the
supernatural) to try to cure their ills
the importance of farming. He also lived through a time when to be · witchcraft and superstition was still a powerful force in people's minds: an important
level of belief in those who 'worked magic' and were thought to inflict curses still
poor meant living in much more hardship than today; and to be rich existed
meant far more power over poor people. Men's and women's roles · the law was inflexible and strict, and especially prejudiced against the poor and
were very different to now, and women had a much poorer
education than men, if they were educated at all. · a criminal could be hanged for only a minor crime
· people considered a hanging as a spectacle and flocked to witness hangings
Hardy loved rural customs but feared that they were dying out and · child labour was accepted: youngsters worked on farms for very little and relied on
the rich for charity
would be easily forgotten. He had great sympathy for the plight of
the poor, especially the labouring rural poor, and also for women in · a stranger would be something of note as everyone knew everyone else's business
what can be seen now as a man's world (or patriarchal society). · the rich employed the poor as servants and gave them few rights and little money…read more

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Story summaries…read more

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The Withered Arm
A Lorn Milkmaid ­ The story begins with a convo between A vision ­ two or three weeks after homecoming of
a group of woman milking cows one evening. They are Lodge's, Rhoda is becoming obsessed with picture she has
gossiping about the return of a local landowner, Farmer painted of young wife, made up from details given to her by
Lodge and his new bride. Learn that in past Lodge had her son and from overheard comments in milk barn. One
relationship with Rhoda (another milkmaid) but not part of night, she is haunted b this image in a nightmare in which
convo. When the work is done, Rhoda meets son and tells an apparition of the wife sits on Rhoda's chest, almost
him news, his father is married. Rhoda is curious to learn suffocating her. In a desperate effort, Rhoda grabs the
all she can about new Mrs. Lodge and commands her son apparition's left arm, throwing it backwards from her.
go and look at bride on her way to her new house.
The next day, Rhoda us still deeply disturbed by the
The young wife ­ As planned, Rhoda's sine encounters seemingly life-like nature of the nightmare when the young
FL and young wife on road to village of Holmstoke. He wife visits Rhoda with a charitable gift of nee boots for boy.
stars at her in order to be able to give mother detailed Having met Mrs. Lodge in person, Rhoda feels ashamed o
description. Young wife comments to husband on how her former thoughts. When asked about her health, G tells
much the boy stared at her and he changed the subject. R of her `little ailment': her painful and bruising left arms,
Rhoda is anxious to hear every detail from son; but since Rhoda learns that the unexplained injury occurred the
woman was sitting down cant tell mother whether R is same night as her dream by apparition and grabbed its left
taller. Rhoda send her son to the church the next day to arm. She feels guilty and wonders whether she has
see woman again. He returns with detailed description if supernatural powers and through them has caused G's
her appearance and has concluded that FL new wife is mysterious injury.
`rather short' but very pretty…read more

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The Withered Arm (continued)
A suggestion ­ Rhoda's concern for G's arms leads her to A second attempt ­ 6 years later Lodge's marriage has
walk near the outskirts of Holmstoke in hope of meeting become strained due to disfigurement of G's arm. She has
her. It is with some alarm that Rhoda sees that the arm is tired every kind of cream. In desperation she visits CT
causing G great pain and has become shrivelled. Rhoda again. She begs him to use his magic to cure it, but he
believes she can detect her own handprint on the arm, conceded it is beyond his powers. In order to cure her arm
while G confides in R that the appealing appetence of her forever, he tells her, she must lay the limb on the freshly
arm has made her husband love her less. FL has broken neck of a hanged man.
suggested that the witch or the devil may be responsible.
A water-side hermit ­ on arriving in Casterbridge, G visits
When the two women meet again the next day, G has been the hangman to ask him to hep her carry our the cure, they
told by local about a man who may be able to reveal cause chat about the young man being hanged and G is informed
of injury. She asks Rhoda for detailed on Trendle and is that he is not guilty of crime but being hung as deterrent to
shocked is find out he is a conjuror. 2 days later she is others. The executioner agrees to help her.
desperate enough to consult even a conjuror about her
arms and she persuaded R to take her to him. A reencounter ­ G waits anxiously in jail whilst hanging
takes place. She is determined to carry out cure. With the
Conjuror Trendle ­ The 2 women walk across the moor to help of hangman she lays her arms on corpse's neck. As
Conjuror to Trendle's house. He pronounced that the injury she is doing this another woman's scream fills the room. G
gas been inflected by `an enemy' meaning it's caused by turns to see Rhoda and FL. She realises that the dead
witchcraft. He concocts a simple spell revealing to G, young man is their son and she faints. She dies 3 days
identity of enemy while R waits outside unable to see what later.
it happening. G is pale when she leaves CT's house and
her attitude towards R is no longer friendly, a rumour Farmer Lodge sells his property and moves out of the area
begins to circulate amongst local that R is responsible for and dies 2 years later,. Rhoda disappears for some time
G's condition. Within few months R and son leave the area. but eventually returns to her home village and lives a
simple life as a milkmaid again.…read more

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The Son's Veto
- Story is started with a intriguing description of Sophy - on the death of her husband Sophy is left with
Twycott's hair. She is in a wheelchair listening with her son personal income and house he had bought her before he
to a bad play in local park in suburban London. She is the died. Her son attended a public school and gulf between
object of much curiosity due to her disability and hairstyle. mother and son widens. She leads an uneventful life and
dreams about her village where she lives before her
On their way home Randolph, her son, harshly corrects her marriage. She enjoys watching the country people
bringing produce to sell at Covent Garden market, and
speech which he regards as inappropriate since she is now one day she recognises Sam Hobson as one of traders.
socially removed from people who use a regional dialect. They renew their acquaintance and she confides in Sa
Sophy accepts his chastisement and thinks how events in that she longs to live in the village where they grew up.
her life have resulted in her present situation. - Sam persuades Sophy to travel with hi m on his way
As a young woman living in North Wessex village, she to market one dat. Sophy realises that this would not be
worked as a parlour maid for local person, Mr. Twycott and appropriate for someone of her social standing, but is
tempted by adventure. On 2nd journey Sam proposes
his first wife who dies when Sophy was 19. Sam Hobson, suggesting they return to their home town and set up a
local gardener, wished to marry Sophy and mentioned this greengrocers. She refuses to marry him because of
to T, she and Sam quarrelled and called off the wedding. embarrassment caused to son for her to marry someone
Having taken him his meal one occasion, she fell down the of a lower class. She tells R that she intends to marry him
stairs and subsequently informed she must never walk in the future when it will not affect his life. R continually
refuses to accept the idea of marriage and after many
again. The fact that she was caring for him when she fell year of her pleading him, he finally makes her swear she
endeared her to T and he proposed. They married and ill never marry him without R's consent. Sophy dies
them moved to London, where people didn't know they wishing R would relent and is buried in her home town. R
were not from same social class. now a priest accomplices her coffin, which passes Sam's
shop. R resents the respectful presence of Sam outside
the shop.…read more

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