The writer of both short stories (Old Mrs Chundle and The Withered Arm) is Thomas Hardy who lived in rural County Dorset. He grew up in rural surroundings and therefore his interests in his writing were generally going to be country life. After reading both short stories I discovered that Hardy seemed to focus mostly on the lives of ordinary people. He wrote about peoples lifestyles, work and also the making and breaking of relationships. I am not going to be looking at that aspect of his writing but I am going to compare and contrast the character and setting in the two short stories; The Withered Arm and Old Mrs Chundle.
Whilst reading The Withered Arm and Old Mrs Chundle I noticed that Mrs Chundle and Rhoda Brook had a lot in common but yet quite a few contrasts between the two.
The location (Dorset, Southern England) in which both short stories takes place is the same, therefore you would tend to believe that overall the setting would be the same and there would be no differences at all. If we take a more detailed look we can find a number of contrasts. After taking a detailed look at Rhoda Brook I noticed a few very interesting things about her. Firstly I noticed that she had a son and had no husband or the boy had no father living with him. This must have meant that Rhoda had a fling with some man at some stage of her life.
In the time this story was set having a fling with another man was not something the local community would have approved of. In the later stages of the story it becomes evident that the father is Farmer Lodge who is a local man with a big farm, where in fact Rhoda works. Evidence of this is 'your father brings his wife home from Anglebury tomorrow.' We could also draw from the evidence available that a man (Farmer Lodge) mistreated Rhoda and she felt as if they had something more serious going on (marriage probably was what she had planned). In The Withered Arm I also noticed that Rhoda was an isolated and an unsociable woman, which is evident from the first time Rhoda appears. She is 'a thin, fading woman of thirty milked somewhat apart from the rest.' I also noticed Rhoda is a kind, mother-like person and even though she is bringing up a son without the aid of a man she has done an extremely good job. We know this because the boy is very well mannered and always does what his mother tells him-this shows that he respects her.
Rhoda seemed to have a very good relationship with Gertrude Lodge (Farmer Lodge's wife) even though at first she didn't like her because she thought she had stolen her position. In Old Mrs Chundle I noticed she was an old sour woman who knows her place in society. 'Oh, I don't want to be paid for the old snack'. This is an example of her gentle kind nature because on this occasion she was making the curate dinner. In the end a man (the curate) mistreated Mrs Chundle, which is quite similar to what happened to Rhoda who was also mistreated by a man. Mrs Chundle had nobody in her life until the curate came along but in the end the curate only cared about his own comfort and it was him that killed the woman.
In both short stories I noticed a great deal of irony. For example in Old Mrs Chundle the curate promised to come but did he? No! Another example of it in The Withered Arm is when Gertrude tells Rhoda about Farmer Lodge joking about her withered arm being a witch or the devil himself, when Rhoda knows that it was something suspicious like that (she had done it). Mrs Chundle is considered a social outcast and unsociable like Rhoda Brook. The text states 'A wicked old woman.
What can she think of herself for such deception!' Rhoda was also a social outcast. Mrs Chundle also had a kind side to her as she took the curate in and made him dinner. This also signifies that she is a kind, mother-like person. This is in parallel to Rhoda who has brought up her son in the same manner.
Another similarity between the two stories is the fact that when Mrs Chundle goes on a journey it ends up in death and it is the same for Rhoda, when she goes on a journey death is around the next corner. The story is set in the rural County Dorset and to be more pacific Eldon Heath (Anglebury). Rhoda lived in an isolated area, 'apart from the rest,' Rhoda's character therefore is symbolic to the setting. '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 a rafter showed like a bone protruding through the skin.' The rafter is exposed to the eye 'like a bone protruding through the skin' and it gives an already humble home an even worse image. If we recall Rhoda's history it is exposed to the local community and portrays Rhoda's image worse than it really is.
In Old Mrs Chundle the setting of an old castle ruin was close to where she dwelt. This in my opinion is symbolic of her life a ruin but once could have been something big. After all she had the title "Mrs" which meant she was once married. 'Stone built old cottage of respectable and substantial build.' This is a huge contrast to Rhoda's dwelling house and in this case it is not a reflection of Mrs Chundle's character. I conclude that Thomas Hardy's background has developed his writing to produce two great short stories on rural life. There are many comparisons between the two characters I chose and also many similarities.
The one similarity in character that stood out the most in my opinion was the fact that a man mistreated both women. The locality in which both stories take place is of course the same but in contrast the two houses are completely different. Thomas Hardy creates a great image of both characters and has generally has given us a good insight to their characters but personally if he ever tried to upgrade the two short stories I believe he could have give better detail on setting.