Thomas Hardy's & the Withered Arm

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Thomas Hardy's & the Withered Arm

The withered arm is a story by Thomas hardy, which was written towards the end of the nineteenth century. It presents several issues that were present during that time and outlines the perception of human during early times. This story reveals how tradition, spiritualism and superstition were highly rooted within the people of that time as most of them believed in different kinds of superstition and spirituality. It is a fictional story in the setting of Wessex and in a certain rural setting of Holmstoke during the nineteenth century. As in the villager setting, it reveals how culture and tradition interacted within different communities to influence how people lived; one of the themes that are evident in this story is the theme of social class. There is different classes in this village and the different social classes only associate with those whom they share class. This resulted into several problems and amongst them discrimination that affected these societies.

The most respected man in this village is the farmer Known as farmer Lodge because he owns huger chunks of land in which he offers several employments to the villagers who are languishing in poverty. The theme of social class is revealed by these farmers because there was a clear difference in an association between the upper social class and the lower social class. This was first evidenced and confirmed by Rhoda who is Lodge’s milkmaid. When Rhoda fell pregnant with Lodge’s Child, Lodge decided to abandon the child and Rhoda herself because he was in a different class of Rhoda. The kind of riches that were also evident by this people also affirms this.

The act of abandoning your own child is not easy in a normal human being relationship and most people would always try as much as possible to take care of their children. However, in this case, Farmer Lodge did not only abandon Rhoda, but he went further and married to Gertrude whom he described as fitting him. This shows how the issue of social class was rooted in the early nineteenth century in our societies. These kinds of acts in which different people group together are evident throughout the story and reflect the minds of people of that time. This also reveals how discrimination was on the rise due to differences in the social status. Those of the higher social class discriminated the lower class and always used them for their own benefits.

Hardy has also used local language very well throughout the novel to represent how the social classes were different. This is evidenced throughout the story with languages that ordinary people could not understand. From the names of different characters to the presentation of different ideas, and the language used, it is very difficult to understand certain words. This reflects the social status of a rural set up in which those in the urban centers would not understand the language of the rural well enough. It is therefore clear there is a working class who stay majorly in the town centers and other who work in the farms in the villages. However, it is also revealed that within the villages, there were also these differences in social statuses.

The description of the life of far Lodge also reflects the existence of some differences in the social status. The farmer Lodge and his wife are described in the story the withered hand to be travelling in a “handsome gig, with a lemon colored body and red wheels, was spinning wet westward and at wheels of powerful mare”. This shows that farmer lodge was rich and probably had a lot of money, which he got because of other people working in his farm. This is because at this time, there were very few cars and the most common means of transport was on foot or other animals. Moreover, this was a village and the possibility of owning a car was very rare and was only possible for people who are rich like Lodge.

Another instance is the description of the Lodge’s son way of dressing and interacts.  He is described as the “figure of a boy who was creeping on at snails pace. Under the heavy bundle he carried”. This description shows how this family was rich while others were creeping in poverty. It reflects the kind of life that we see in the modern world in which among the poor are the rich. These people use their status in the society to take control of everything so that they can do what they feel. It also reveals how the concepts of different social status in the society began early in the nineteenth century.

Another element that has been used to show how the social status was different was the type of clothing. The types of clothing that different people used in this story reveal that there were differences in the social status. The milkmaids are described to wear low class dresses that most people could afford. This was mainly worn for working purposes and represents the kind of dressing for the lower class. However, the description of the kind of cloths, houses, and means of transport used by lodge and the family were different. She is described to be wearing very luxurious and most expensive cloths that looked different from the normal cloths that people used in different meetings and festivals. This represents how the attire and the dressing system differentiated social groups even in the most sacred places like the church. Husband on the other hand also seems to be above the other ordinary members of the society as his wealth and riches are described by many as the lord. This has been evident in almost all parts of this novel in which different people are portrayed as being different in one way or another and has seen them settling in two different classes, the class of the poor and the class of the rich.

Class has been used well by Hardy together with the different contrasts between the characters especially those of higher income or rich and the poor to help the interest of readers of this story by focusing on the individuals. In this context, therefore the reader is able to visualize the scene and the events as they unfold in the story.  It is also apparent that the characters are not representing just themselves but Hardy has used the characters to represent the ideas of the social class. Social class with contrasts are also useful in this story since they maintain the readers interest by increasing the curiosity and the readers wants to read and know more about the individuals. It is therefore evident that the images that have been created in the readers mind during the exploration of the concept of social status encourage that particular reader to read more.

Rhoda Brook is also described in the story as an out-casted woman and is seen as to be lower than other people in the society are. Rhoda is severely discriminated upon because she raised an illegitimate son to farmer lodge. The things describe the social status and hence tell much on an individual status. People of this early time also regarded Rhoda as being fallen and cannot get married and hence this gives her an air of mystery. However, the society did not realize that all these problems originated from one Lodge who is claimed to be of a different status.

In conclusion, the theme of social status reveals even what is the case in most societies. This is true and reflects what is currently happening in the society in which the richer do not want to associate with the poor and therefore describe themselves as being in a different social class. Even though the withered arm is an old story, it reflects the current society in which certain values of the society are very important just like the pregnancy of Rhoda puts her off the society. These values are important, determine the social status of an individual, and hence have to be protected for an individual to maintain his or her social status.


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