Thomas Hardy, when paid a lot of attention too, seems to be very sympathetic to women and their lack of rights. Being born in the 18th Century, he was brought up in a society of which looked poorly on the status and role of women and their rights. He was famously known as the ‘Guest master of description’. Apart from bringing literature that involved women and proved valid points on issues in society. His story’s often used bleak and pointless context in Novels and were usually set in the countryside.
Take for instance ‘Tony Kytes, the Arch Deceiver’. He begins the story with a memory, which Hardy used great detail in. Tony is described as a boy with a ’round’, ‘small pox infected’ face. Which still appeared attractive to women. Maybe he used this contradiction, to show how vulnerable or in-particular women were.
‘He was quite the women’s favourite’
In the story Tony has 3 peculiar relationships, with three different women. Hardy could have been trying to illustrate how men were ‘selfish’ and/or ‘greedy’. Because of this, women were abused and mistreated, or in this case deceived, hence the ‘arch deceiver’.
Tony is obviously a ‘player’ in other words; he is cheating on his fiancï¿½. He does not seem to be able to make his mind up, on which is his true love. Again Hardy emphasises the arrogance of men. Thomas Hardy describes Milly, Tony’s ‘bride-to-be’, as ‘a nice, light, small, tender, little thing’. Almost as if it were an object too Tony, instead of a person. Also suggesting she is liable or could be easily fooled with ‘fake’ love. This makes Tony even a lousier person, for taking advantage of someone like Milly. And by doing this Hardy has successfully created sympathy for women.
Tony then meets Unity, who is described as ‘snug’. This causes arousal of Tony’s feelings, but also brings tension. Because Milly is hiding in the back seat. As Tony rides her home, he begins to re-think about his relationship with Milly. He finds himself stuck in the middle, literally. So he beseeches his father for advice.
But, as if it wasn’t enough, Tony picks up a third young lady. Hannah, who is just to comfortable with him. She tries to win him over, as she
‘…sat a little closer’.
Tony once again, realises her beauty, and how his feelings are more than equal.
Finally at the end, Unity uncovers the truth, and sees him as a sexist womaniser. Hannah also leaves in disgust. Thus, he is left with Milly. She cannot refuse, because she is not in a position to refuse. But of course if we had this situation in today’s world (certainly in the west) a woman would have her rights and probably refuse the offer of marriage.
Hardy beautifully illustrates, how women, even after being deceived and taken advantage of, still have to give in to the ‘world’ of men. But the ‘Arch Deceiver’, is not the only story that makes this point.
We can take ‘Old Mrs. Chundle’ for instance. It shows how men lack respect or disregard women, no matter what age. Even someone with a highly respected status. (Not to mention religious).
A man seeks a village, in which he wants to become the Vicar. On the way he meets an intrigingly old lady, who, without any hesitation, made him lunch, out of her kindness. (And maybe loneliness). She, conveniently, is a member of the Church/parish and he finds out she isn’t really a member but an enthusiastic local. He finds time to revisit her and asks her why she lied. She explains she is partially deaf. At this stage, the audience can pick up that the man has a sensitive and caring side. He kindly sets a contraption for her, to enable her to hear, but he fails.
So the Mrs. Chundle is forced to buy an expensive ‘bell mouth’ contraption. But his patience runs out, and he comically, can’t stand her ‘onion and pickle’ breath. Being a ‘typical’ man, he gets fed up of her and tells her it is best, if she stayed home.
She later on calls for him, though he gets the message, he ignores it. As his strength and patience drew weak. He later finds out that she had passed away. Making him feel guilty and leaving him with no affinity from the audience. She trusted him and he let her down. What made it worse was she had left all her furniture to him. Once again Thomas Hardy creates understanding for the women and yet more anger towards men.
But Tomas Hardy didn’t only explore and/or focus the relationships between men and women. He also shows the contrasts between two women.
It is interesting how Hardy in ‘The withered arm’ uses the two women, Gertrude and Rhoda. Where Thomas Hardy in other stories, shows his sympathy for women and emphasises men’s poor attitude to women (in his time). He has produced sort of a contradictory opinion of women. The women in the story show a lot of sympathy and understanding for each other, but Hardy cleverly shows us that women don’t necessarily get on with each other, and by doing this he has shown that he takes into account, the not so vulnerable part of women. By comparing and contrasting Thomas Hardy’s presentation of the women, this is very obvious.
For example, Rhoda often asks to see the wound, and seems fascinated by the clear indication of the marks of four fingers which are increasingly visible. Gertrude relies on Rhoda for a sympathetic understanding of the growing estrangement between herself and her husband, who ‘knows the disfigurement is there’. The choice of the word ‘disfigurement’ reveals his attitude to appearances. To start off with Gertrude is very calm about the injury; she and Farmer Lodge go to several doctors to get their diagnostics and cures. Over time all the doctors failed to cure the arm and it seemed to get worse and worse by now Lodges interest in Gertrude had begun to fade. The more Gertrude’s arm withered the more Farmer Lodges interests in her withered. But this somehow brings Rhoda closer, and Gertrude in a way craves this sympathy and attention that she lacks from her Husband. There was only one other option for Gertrude and that was the supernatural one.
The other milkers had directed Gertrude at Rhoda to take her to a wizard called Trendle, at first Gertrude ignored this option but in the end she became too desperate and would try anything. She turns to Rhoda to take her to see Trendle; much to her dismay. Rhoda fears for the loss of a good friendship. We see that Rhoda almost dreads meeting Gertrude again, when Gertrude suggests the visit to Trendle, we see how Rhoda reluctantly agrees to go, and how she dreads Trendle informing young Gertrude about the true cause of her withered arm. After this we can see that Hardy has proved in his story, that the relationship can be lost as easily as it begun.