The Withered Arm is a pre-20th century book by Thomas Hardy; the plot
of the story is in and around the writers' imaginary village of
Holmstoke and town of Casterbridge.
One of the main themes of The Withered Arm was Jealousy it was
portrayed through Rhoda Brook, 'a thin fading woman of thirty' 'that
had once been handsome', who had an affair with Farmer Lodge and bore
him a son.
Farmer Lodge left Rhoda to bring up their son on her own and later
married a new wife, who was 'years younger than him', called Gertrude.
In this essay I am going to discuss the relationship between Rhoda and
Gertrude in The Withered Arm.
The relationship between Rhoda and Gertrude is a triangular one. It is
between Rhoda, her ex-partner Farmer Lodge and his wife Gertrude.
Rhoda heard about the coming of Farmer Lodge's new wife Gertrude
through her fellow 'milkers' who were gossiping while at work. She
then sent her son several times to go and 'give her a look'; she was
mainly interested in the appearance of the new wife. She specifically
asked her son to see "if she's dark or fair show marks of the lady'
and to 'notice if her hand be white or are like a milkers hands like'
It was obvious that Rhoda wanted to compare herself with Gertrude but
was disappointed when her son came back with news of the new wife
being 'A lady complete', 'and her face as comely as a doll's' as she
kept on asking her son questions like 'Her eyes not dark like mine?'
and 'Is she tall?' 'as tall as I'. All the answers Rhoda got about
Gertrude were so positive that when she heard that Gertrude was
'rather short' she said to her son 'with satisfaction', 'that's al...
... middle of paper ...
...onduct. In fear of loosing
Farmer Lodges love, Gertrude resorts to most despicable cure, which
led to her death.
In The Withered Arm Thomas Hardy used Rhoda's son to start a good
relationship between Rhoda Brook and Gertrude. The quirk of fate in
the situation is that Rhoda's son, the ill fated boy's life mutually
brought Gertrude and Rhoda together in the beginning of the story and
his death made them meet again, this time the last, not as friends but
The boy's carving of the chair instead of helping his mother cook and
his poaching, which eventually led to his death were suggestions of
his early and tragic death.
It seems that as long as the two women were alive their link kept
their relationship going whether good or bad, and it was only after
Gertrude's death that the relationship between her and Rhoda brook
finally came to an end.
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