The Life of Women in The Withered Arm and Other Wessex Tales by Thomas Hardy

The Life of Women in The Withered Arm and Other Wessex Tales by Thomas Hardy

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The Life of Women in The Withered Arm and Other Wessex Tales by Thomas Hardy


Thomas Hardy was a writer in the late 19th century. He lived in Dorset
for most his life. Most of his stories were set in Dorset and other
neighbouring counties. Hardy got most of his ideas from his parents
and grandmother. They used to tell him stories and tales of things and
events that had once taken place. He also got his ideas from things
that he heard from the locals and things that happened in his village.
The stories he wrote were aimed at magazine readers so he could not
always write an ending that he wanted to, rather he had to put endings
his readers were expecting like in "The Distracted Preacher" he wrote
an ending the readers were expecting rather than the one he wanted to.
In "The Withered Arm and Other Wessex Tales" all the short stories
have sad endings apart from "The Distracted Preacher" which has a
happy ending. All the short stories are written as if they were being
spoken or narrated to someone like in "Tony Kytes the Arch Deceiver"
Thomas Hardy writes "he reached the foot of the very hill we shall be
going over in ten minutes" which tell us that the narrator is
somewhere near the place where the story took place.

In the late 19th century, women were not considered as men's equals so
they weren't expected to work unless were of the lower class and the
working class where they had to work to survive. The kind of work
women did was work in a house, work as milkmaids, work as parlour
maids, all women worked under someone and it was very unusual for
women to be smugglers like Lizzy from "the distracted preacher" or be
in charge of something other than the household or to run a business.
Women who did not work would sit at home like Sophy from "The Son's
Veto".

The character of women in Thomas Hardy's "The Withered Arm and Other
Wessex Tale" is in many ways different and in many ways similar to

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women in this century. Unity and Hannah from "Tony Kytes the Arch
Deceiver" refused to marry Tony because of what he did and because
they had pride in them that stopped them from saying yes to Tony.
Because they refused Tony I think they are similar to girls in the 21st
century because girls their age in this century would refuse if
someone like Tony would have done something similar to them. Sophy is
different from women in the 21st century because Sophy married Mr
Twycott out of respect rather than love and she let her son Randolph
stop her from marrying her love, most women in this century would not
marry someone out of respect but rather they would marry because of
love and they would not let their children stop them from marrying
someone they loved. Phyllis is different from women in this century
because she did not run away with Matthaus instead she decided to go
back to Humphrey even though she did not love him, women in this
century would have most probably run away with their love rather than
go back to someone they were engaged to but did not love.

In the late 19th century people married in their own social class and
marrying someone beneath your social class was considered disgraceful
and was like committing "social suicide". Marrying someone above your
social class was a social advancement and a great thing like Phyllis
and Sophy. In those time people expected women to get married, have
children and settle down and take care of the family and the house.
Some women married for love and other for financial security. In my
opinion Milly from "Tony Kytes The Arch Deceiver" is the perfect
representation of women of that time because she married Tony for
financial security. If women did not marry they were called names and
were looked down on. In "Tony Kytes The Arch Deceiver" Hardy give the
readers an impression that Hannah and Unity were chasing Tony and
would do anything to get married to him. A man used to marry woman a
for her beauty not for her personality and character like in "The
Withered Arm" Farmer Lodge marries Gertrude because she is young and
pretty and doesn't care for Rhoda because she isn't very pretty and
because she is of a lower class.

A woman in the 19th century could not do anything disloyal like commit
adultery but a man could commit adultery and no one would say
anything. Humphrey from "The Melancholy Hussar of The German Legion"
told Phyliss that he has"privately married a young dear belle" and no
one said anything but if Phyliss had done something like that the
locals would look down on her, call her names and would not associate
with her. A man in those days could marry a woman half his age and it
would not matter. Gertrude was 'Years younger than he' in "The
Withered Arm". If a woman had a child out of wedlock it was considered
wrong and would be an outcast like Rhoda from "The Withered Arm".
Since everyone in the village kew eveyones business they knew that the
child was Farmer Lodge's but nothing happened to his reputation it was
Rhoda reputation that was destroyed. This shows that if a women in
those days did something wrong her reputation would be destroyed but a
man would practically do anything and his reputation wouldn't be
destroyed.

Women in the late 19th century really cared about their reputation
because if a woman's reputation was dented the people would look down
on her and no man would be ready to marry her. A woman's reputation
could easily be dented because living in a small village meant that
everyone knows about everything you do so you had to be careful about
what you do. Phyliss from "The Melancholy Hussar of the German legion"
did not run away with Matthaus Tina because her fiance had come back
and she cared a lot about her reputation and could not run away
because if she was caught she would be called names and no noe would
be ready to marry her or associate themselves with her.

There was a lot of belief in superstition in the late 19th century and
people believed in wizards, conjourers, witches, black magic and so
on. In "The Withered Arm" there is a lot about magic and since Rhoda
kept to herself and lived in a lonely area near the border of Egdon
Heath, the locals believed she was a witch and practiced black magic.
I think that since Rhoda kept to herself and didn't migle with the
locals, the locals started rumours about her and it spreaded around
like wild fire and it wasn't long before everyone believed she was a
witch and had powers. Rhoda knew that "she had been slyly called a
witch since her fall".

Women in those days didn't have much freedom and were dominated by men
like in "The Son's Veto" Sophy couldn't marry Sam because her son
forbid her from marrying him and made her "swear that she would not
wed Samuel Hobson without his consent". Phyliss from "The Melancholy
Hussar of the German Legion" was dominated by her father who wanted
her to marry Humphrey. He had forbad her from leaving the garden to
meet the German soldier even though she was in love with him. She
obeyed him and didn't leave the gate of her house but still continued
to meet her lover.

The late 19th century is very different to the 21st century and the
lives of women are different as well. In this century women are
considered as men's equals unlike the late 19th century. A woman
doesn't have to marry for financial security in this century like like
a woman had to in the 19th century. In this century women are not
dominated by men like they were 2 centuries ago. Women in the 19th
century didn't have as much freedom as women do right now. In this
century there isnt much about social classes like there used to be in
the late 19th century. I think I would find it extremely hard to live
in the 19th century after being used to living in a century were women
have freedom and are not dominated by men. In my opinion Thomas Hardy
portrays women as gullible and inferior to men and their lives being
dominated by men and the local people.
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