How does Hardy elicit sympathy for the three main characters?

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How does Hardy elicit sympathy for the three main characters? Thomas Hardy has an extremely clever way of obtaining sympathy for a character. Hardy has specific ways to elicit sympathy by varying the level of sympathy he gives to character. He either gives sympathy to someone or takes it away from a character so more sorrow seems to be on another. He also uses powerful language to strengthen his points and finally he shows sorrow from a character’s point of view. He uses these techniques on the three main characters (Rhoda, Farmer Lodge and Gertrude) exceptionally well. We first see Farmer Lodge in his gig while bringing his new wife Gertrude to Holmstoke. He sees his son but completely ignores him: “One of the neighbourhood. I think he lives with his mother a mile or two off.” (Page 4) Gertrude asks Farmer Lodge who the boy is but he totally disregards his son and does not even acknowledge the child. He does not even tell his new wife that the child is his son. We give him no sympathy for this cruel act as he should have at least greeted the youngster. In comparison, Farmer Lodge’s son looks up to him: “Mr Lodge, he seemed pleased, and his waistcoat stuck out, and his great golden seals hung like a lord’s” (Page 70) It seems his son wants to get to know his father and holds him in high regard as his description of Farmer Lodge is rather flattering. Hardy has made Farmer Lodge seem unfeeling and not caring about his son. This is another reason not to feel sorry for Farmer Lodge. Farmer Lodge ignores Gertrude and her needs because of her withered arm: “Half a dozen years passed away, and Mr and Mrs Lodge’s married experience sank into prosiness, and worse.” (Page 19) She needed his help and support but still he ignored her. This is cruel as he marries her and then ignores her. It is wrong. Hardy portrays him to be bitter and heartless and therefore he receives no sympathy what so ever. At the end, Farmer Lodge’s character changes, he tries to make up for his previous behaviour and how he ignored his son by setting up a reformatory for boys: “he went away to Port-Bredy, at the other end of the county, living there in solitary lodgings till his death two years later of painless decline.” (Page 33) Hardy uses strong words such as “painless decline” which gives atmosphere about the solitude he lived in. It is clear that Farmer Lodge wants to make up for his previous behaviour by setting up the reformatory and giving a “small annuity” to Rhoda.
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