Short Stories of Thomas Hardy

To what extent is feminist criticism helpful in opening up potential meanings in Thomas Hardy’s “The Withered Arm”? College

The short story, “The Withered Arm” explores the role of women in society, their submission to men as well as their independence while at all times retaining an understanding of their struggles. The author, Thomas Hardy reflects on the view of women in the late 19th Century sympathetically, through the use of language, structure and contrast and the exploration of a patriarchal society. Most would argue that Rhoda Brook’s life can be seen as an example of patriarchal oppression, reflected further in Gertrude’s submission to her husband and acceptance of being a trophy wife and the dominant idea restated by her that “Men think so much of personal appearance”. Although completely rejected by society, it is Rhoda, the “thin, fading woman” that prevails in society and lives through the hardships, by not conforming to the rules of society. Thomas Hardy would have been able to experience the greatest political era for women which included the suffragette movement and thus his upbringing and political awareness of the issues of the time enabled him to write a short story which conveys his view that the women that were able to survive the brutality of the 19th Century, without relying on the power of men, should be those acclaimed, as...

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