The withered Arm - Sample Essay
Referring in detail to 2 short stories that you have read, explain what makes them examples of a ‘good short story’ The two stories I have chosen to examine in detail, in order to show that these are good examples of short stories are “The Withered Arm” and “The Superstitious Man’s Story. ” Thomas Hardy wrote both short stories around the year 1914. Thomas Hardy’s ‘The Withered Arm’ and ‘ The Superstitious Man’s Story’ are both excellent examples of short stories because they both have interesting beginnings and don’t spend a long time setting the scene.
This helps you understand the story and enjoy the content of the books. “The Withered Arm” has a tightly structured plot, the three main characters are quickly established and the plot is based around magic, superstition to create a sense of fear with a tragic outcome. ‘The Withered Arm’ is set at a milking farm with milkmaids chatting about Farmer Lodge returning back with his new bride (Gertrude Lodge), “He do bring home his bride tomorrow, I hear. ” Gertrude Lodge visits a milkmaid called Rhoda Brooks in a dream where Rhoda ends up grabbing tight grip of Gertrude’s arm in a tight grip and all of a sudden waking up.
Gertrude later becomes good friends with Rhoda Brooks and showed Rhoda the problem with her arm, “she uncovered her left hand and arm: and their outline confronted Rhoda’s gaze as the exact original of the limb she had beheld and sized in her dream. ” Rhoda and her son left town because Rhoda understood why and how it got there. Gertrude got worried and went to get help of a local man. She was told that “for it to be cured she must touch with the limb the neck of a man who’s just been hanged. ” Afterwards she went to Casterbridge where a hanging was to take place.
She next did what she had been told to do and as she was doing so she found that Rhoda and Farmer Lodge were behind her, due to the person who had been hung was Rhoda and Farmer Lodge’s son. Gertrude was taken to prison and then thrown out on the street where she died three days later. There are a small number of characters in “The Withered Arm” – the three main characters are as follows: Farmer Lodge, Rhoda Brook and Gertrude Lodge (Farmer Lodge’s new bride). Farmer Lodge is a very busy man who runs the farm and sells his goods from it; he has recently got married to Gertrude and are both happily settling down to married life.
Rhoda Brook is a woman who lives in a cottage near by the farm and works for Farmer Lodge, milking cows. She had a son to Farmer Lodge who rejected him and Rhoda Brook. Gertrude Lodge is Farmer Lodge’s new bride. She is new to the area and makes friends with Rhoda Brook and her son within the story. She is obviously unaware of Farmer Lodge and Rhoda Brook’s past relationship. The story ‘The Withered Arm’ starts with a few milkmaids chatting about Farmer Lodges new bride. “Though they say she’s a rosy – cheeked tisty – toasty little body enough. ” This gives you a description of Farmer Lodge’s new bride using adjectives.
It also only spends a short time setting the scene, “It was an eighty-cow dairy, and the troop of milkers, and regular and supernumerary were all at work”. Thomas Hardy also describes a lot about Rhoda Brooks cottage using many adjectives and a simile, “It was built of mud-walls, the surface of which had been washed by many rains into channels and depressions that left none of the original flat face visible: while here and there in the thatch above the rafter showed like a bone protruding through the skin” this descriptive passage adds atmosphere and mood to the story.
There is a really good description of Gertrude Lodge when she visits Rhoda in the dream, “that young wife, in pale silk dress and white bonnet, but with features shockingly distorted, and wrinkled as by age. ” This changes the reader’s perception of Gertrude’s character, and also helps establish the character and the plot of the story, thus creating atmosphere for the reader. The story has a mystery and slight-horror side to it, which makes the story interesting and more effective for the reader. This proved to create a powerful atmosphere within the story line, often through a build up of tension and suspense.
The effective ending in ‘The Withered Arm’ is that Gertrude discovers that the hanged person is Farmer Lodge and Rhoda Brooks’s son. This is known as a twist in the tale. ‘The Superstitious Man’s Story’ has a structured plot with two main characters. The plot is based around midsummer night eve, with a supernatural feature, creating a fear of the unknown and an eerie mood. ‘The Superstitious Man’s Story’ is set at the home of William and his wife who are both the main characters. ‘The Superstitious Man’s Story’ is about a married couple at home on Midsummer Eve, “Last night being Old Midsummer Eve.
” The man ‘William’ had gone to bed, and his wife who was up finishing the ironing. While she was hard at work ‘William’ walked downstairs and out of the house without saying a word, “no word was said either side, William not being a man given much to speaking, and his wife being occupied with her work. ” Later she decided to go to bed so she left a note on the door saying “Mind and do the door” but as she got into bed he was still lying there asleep. The next day she was talking to a friend and her friend said she saw him walking into the church and that this is what people who are soon going to die do on Midsummer’s Eve.
A few days later William dies while sleeping during a lunch break at work. He was seen at ‘the spring’ where his son had died at the time of his own death. In ‘The Superstitious Man’s Story’ the main character is William because the whole story is based on him and his death. He is said to be a forgetful character in the story by his wife. The other character is Williams’s wife, she seems to be playing the typical hardworking housewife, doing the ironing and setting the table for her husband. Her character portrays her to be loyal and loving wife to William.
This story is a mystery-based story with a tragic out come at the end. A magic and supernatural feature is present through out the story too, which adds more apprehension to the story. ‘The Superstitious Man’s Story’ starts by telling you information in relation to the main character. “William, as you may know, you could feel when he came near ‘ee. The story seems to start right in the middle of the story and makes the reader feel as if the reader is eavesdropping on a private conversation, making the reader want to hear and read more.
There is also a brilliant description of ‘William’ at the start of the story, this tells the reader almost everything he/she needs to know about the character in only a few words. This adds to the story giving you a quick insight into the main character. The story starts by giving clues away that the plot is linked to death, “he’d not known of the bell go so heavy in his hand for years – and he feared it meant a death in the parish” this gives an eerie mood to the story suggestive of something sinister about to happen.
There is a build up of tension when we find out his boots are still at the stairs even though he’s just left the house, “to her great surprise, and might I say alarm, on reaching the foot of the stairs his boots were standing there as they always stood when the had gone to rest. ” This is effective because this moves on the story by the build up of tension. When Williams’s wife finds him asleep there is a good example of a simile, “as sound as a rock. ” At the end when William actually dies his “fellow-mower” saw a miller-moth come from his mouth and fly straight away.
The effective ending in ‘The Superstitious Man’s Story’ is that William actually dies and his spirit is seen at a different place at the time of his death. The miller moth is a sign of death and is his spiritual presence. I enjoyed reading both of these stories due to them both being written by the same author, Thomas Hardy. Both stories were based on the same style, Thomas Hardy using imagery and description to create various effects. They both had good examples of adjectives and similes within them and good story structures. The mood of both stories was eerie and sinister, suggesting something serious was about to happen.