Thomas Hardy was a major novelist and poet of the late 19th and early
20th centuries. 'The Wessex tales' are a set of short stories, which
are based in the 1830's - 1840's although Hardy wrote them many years
later. They are very much based around where he grew up and the
society he lived in. Egdon Heath is a moor land where he grew up but
has been re-named, along with all the other areas mentioned, which are
based on real places.
The three stories that I am writing about are:
· 'The Withered Arm'
· 'The Distracted Preacher'
· 'The Melancholy Hussar of the German Legion'
My essay will be based around the women in these stories, who are all
Lizzy Newberry, Rhoda Brook, Gertrude Lodge and Phyllis Grove, are all
young women whose lives are portrayed out in rural Wessex communities
in the 1830's to 1840's.
This was a society dominated by men and male values particularly with
regard to their relationships with women. In terms of where the power
lies within relationships and within this society the women are to
some degree powerless. There is a fatal inevitability to the way their
lives end. Whether in loss, love or death.
In these stories we see that money is a dominating factor, especially
with men. In one story 'The Withered Arm', farmer Lodge is a
prosperous and successful man, who fathers Rhoda Brook's child,
without being condemned by the local community. He can ignore Rhoda
for several years and bring a new wife Gertrude to Holmstoke.
Gertrude Lodge is des...
... middle of paper ...
...th no sense of honour or
Perhaps in some ways the most vulnerable and slightly ridiculous
figure is Stockdale. He is full of socially prescriptive ideas about
how Lizzy Newberry should be as a potential rector's wife. Her
determination and independence of spirit is simply something he can't
understand. It's interesting that when reviewing the story forty years
later, Hardy regretted the ending he gave at the time of writing. He
wished that he'd allowed Lizzy to go forth to America with Owlett,
rather than regretting her smuggling adventure for the community with
all the organisation and energy she showed. Hardy felt by this time
that it would have been a much better ending for Lizzy, than settling
as she does in the original story, for timid domesticity as the wife
of the 'The Distracted Preacher.
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