The Withered Arm

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Does Hardy portray a typical view of ghost stories with “The Withered Arm”? In my opinion I don’t think so. Let’s have a look at the comparisons. A typical ghost/supernatural story has usually three ghost sightings but in “The Withered Arm” it’s a different story. The ghost of a living person appears once in the form of a vision. This is very unlike the stereotypical ghost stories of today. I feel Thomas Hardy has uncovered a whole new type of ghost story. One of the messages the story conveys is ‘don’t wish bad on others or it will come back to haunt you’ Our story is set in the fictional region of South West England known as ‘Wessex’. There we meet our three main characters, Rhoda Brook, Farmer Lodge and Gertrude Lodge. Rhoda is a faded milkmaid and twelve years before the story is set Rhoda had an affair and fell pregnant with Farmer Lodge’s child. As he was of a higher class, Farmer Lodge soon abandoned Rhoda and his child. He is now newly wed to the more suited, Gertrude. Although Rhoda had never met the new bride, she carried a strong grudge against her. One night Rhoda had a supernatural vision of the young Mrs Lodge with “...features shockingly distorted...” and “...wrinkled as by age...” These are some of the phrases used to describe the vision. Also Gertrude flashes her new ring at Rhoda taunting her, “the figure thrust forward its left hand mockingly”. I feel this is the point in the story in which the reader is engaged. I do not feel this is typical of a ghost story, like I said previously; the vision was of a living person and not the undead. Setting doesn’t play a strong part in the story but it is still important. Take the description of Rhoda’s house for example; “a rafter showed like a bone protruding through the skin” This allows the reader to empathise with Rhoda’s situation. The description of her house then goes on to say the walls were made of mud, this shows the reader just how working class Rhoda is and how life must be a struggle for her...
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