The withered arm coursework

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Even so, surely it is too much of a coincidence that, the very day following Rhoda's nocturnal dream of her violently seizing Gertrude by her arm, the latter turns up at her house, complaining that some marks have mysteriously appeared on that very limb! So far I have been treating the story as though it were a true account of some actual event. Perhaps it is entirely made up, in which case a skeptical analysis is nothing more than an idle exercise.

But let us assume that there is truth in the story. In that case the last point requires our serious attention.


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If the story is based on events that actually happened we need to ask how accurate the details are, notably their timing and sequence. We know who the author is and we have reason to believe that, like other stories he published, this one concerns events that were part of the folklore of the locality in which he spent his childhood. The presumably fictional narrator is not identified to us but we have to assume that Rhoda herself told her side of the story to someone who then spread the word around. So the account is certain to be full of inaccuracies, confabulations, and omissions.

Concerning the timing of Rhoda's dream in relation to Gertrude's revealing to her the marks on her arm, the narrator states that it occurred the night before. Can we be sure of that? In fact, following publication of the story, Hardy is reported as saying:. Note also that Gertrude does not say that the night of her dream was the same as Rhoda's, only that it occurred 'one night'.

Could it even be that Rhoda dreamt of her assault on Gertrude after Gertrude had shown her the marks on her arm, but when the time came tell her part of the story at least six years later by my calculation , she recalled the events otherwise? It is very common for memories to be adjusted, even unconsciously, so that they make a more compelling narrative. And this also goes for anyone telling this story. There is more to the story of skeptical interest.

The withered Arm Essay Example

The condition of Gertrude's arm deteriorates and acquires a 'withered' look, much to her alarm and that of Rhoda. She consults a doctor:. The name of the man is Conjuror Trendle, but when Rhoda informs her that 'they used to say he was a - he had powers other folks have not' Gertrude retorts:.

Two hundred years later or thereabouts, we witness the same dilemma facing many people whose ailments have not yielded to the ministrations of mainstream medical practitioners. Though often skeptical of the treatments on offer from 'alternative' therapists, in their desperation they are 'willing to try anything'. And sometimes there is such a person in the locality who, like Conjuror Trendle, has a wonderful reputation for curing all sorts of conditions that have proved intractable to conventional medicine.


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There is however something about Conjuror Trendle that one rarely, if ever, finds in his equivalent these days: he is skeptical of his own abilities! What a contrast to the contemporary quack! Moreover, 'He would not take a farthing'. Perhaps Conjuror Trendle is voicing the skepticism of Thomas Hardy himself. Did he have in mind the placebo effect and confirmation bias, I wonder. On examining Gertrude's arm, Trendle's opinion is 'Medicine can't cure it… 'Tis the work of an enemy'.

Gertrude herself then has to identify this person by the following means.

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Trendle takes a tumbler of water and an egg 'preparing it in a private way' , breaks the egg, and pours the white of the egg on the water. Gertrude then examines the tumbler's contents in order to identify 'the enemy'. She appears shocked but withholds any disclosure of what she has seen from Rhoda, who accompanies her. Here, in the mind of the informed skeptic the terms 'apophenia' or 'pareidolia' will appear - the processes whereby random stimuli or vague patterns appear as meaningful objects and faces, or human characteristics are perceived in inanimate objects.

It is human nature to attach great import to such phenomena - cf. The narrative then moves on half a dozen years and Gertrude's disfigured arm remains her constant pre-occupation. She and her husband have no child and their marriage has 'sank into prosiness, and worse':. The farmer was usually gloomy and silent….. Many of the villagers who worked at Farmer Lodge's Farm were known as "Milchers", as they mainly worked within the dairy on the farm.

Withered Arm

Hardy gives the locals a common southwestern dialect to add to the credibility of the characters. The local healer, known as "Conjuror Trendle" also has a local dialect, and is well respected within the village. However, because "Gertrude", Farmer Lodge's wife is not originally from the village of Holmstoke, the dialect used for the locals is not reserved for her.


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  6. Gertrude's dialect is mildly different to the common villagers. I believe that this dialect reinforces the impression that the villagers are very simple and that they live in a relatively isolated area. The moral attitudes of the villagers are relatively common, with normal interests such as men-women relationships and the usual foolishness, which frequently occurs in a community that is closely knit.

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    This diverts our attention from concentrating on the credibility of the poem and promotes us to concentrate on the s Continue reading this essay Continue reading. Toggle navigation MegaEssays. Saved Essays.