Saturday, February 23, 2013

How much does the character of Gertrude Lodge change as the story unfolds?

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Gertrude Lodge is one of the main characters in the ‘Withered Arm’ and as the story unfolds her character changes dramatically. We see Gertrude change from a kind, loving, beautiful lady, to a suspicious, deceitful, desperate, bitter women.

She enters the story as the nineteen-year-old bride of Farmer Lodge. Although little more than a girl, Gertrude is mature and ‘a lady complete,’ and immediately on her arrival in the village sets about the duties of the bosses wife by bringing gifts to the poorer people in the parish. She is, however, timid by nature, and has a natural shyness, as is shown by the ordeal of her first public appearance in church.

At the beginning of the story, Gertrude is a well-presented lady with a future of prosperity ahead of her. She is well educated and of a well spoken family. She is very pretty; ‘her face too fresh in colour, but it was of totally different quality � soft and evanescent, like the light under a heap of rose petals.’ She is young, ‘her hair is lightish, and her face as comely as a live doll’s.’

Rhoda, one of the milkers, is very fond of Farmer Lodge. She had his son, and uses him to find out more about his wife, Gertrude. One night, Rhoda has a nightmare. She dreams about Gertrude being dressed in fine clothes but looking ugly, old and demonised. She comes to mock Rhoda. Gertrude’s apparition almost suffocates her, and Rhoda is forced to throw her to the ground. Rhoda awakes thinking that everything she dreamt was real. This dream of Rhoda’s is what changes Gertrude for the worst, as we see a massive change from the loving character se once was to a bitter, somewhat evil women. However, Gertrude change is not instant. It unfolds throughout the story.

Gertrude is known to be a very kind and helpful women towards Rhoda’s son. She visits them at the small cottage isolated in the woods, out of kindness to give the boy some new shoes. ‘In her Basket Mrs. Lodge brought the pair of boots that she had promised to the boy, and other useful artiles.’ When Rhoda meets Gertrude, she responds readily to her ‘sweet voice and winning glance’ and quickly forms a good relationship with her, which limits on affection. They become close and create a strong relationship. Rhoda is astonished at how kind Gertrude is. Gertrude continues to visit them everyday portraying her affection and kindness.

One day, Gertrude finds a strange occurrence on her arm. It begins to become withered and old looking. When the blight first appears on her arm Gertrudes enlightened and educated mind accepts it as a natural misfortune. Although blessed with good looks she is not vain, for she confides to Rhoda that she herself ‘does not much mind it.’ But she does mind the effect that she thinks it has on Farmer Lodge. When Rhonda sees her arm, he dream comes backs to her. Gertrude also sees that Farmer Lodge’s attitude towards her is changing, as his affection is not as deep. This does not help Gertrude overcome her troubles, it just makes them worse. Her attention from trying to help others and being a carefree lady changes to the obsession of her withered arm. When the suggestion to visit Conjurer Trendle is first made, Gertrude rejects the idea out of hand as superstitious nonsense. During the following five years Gertrude’s interest in her arm declines into a fixation, and she becomes ‘irritable and superstitious,’ seeking a cure in the wildest of remedies from herbs to black magic. Her pursuit of a cure leads to considerable single-mindedness and a strength of purpose.

Her attitude changes so much towards addressing everyone that she becomes a one women force, learning that she is unable to trust anyone. She is astute enough to realise that personal appearance is very important to her husband and she begins to fear losing his love. Her suspicion grows inside when she sees all the possible doctors there are, and her arm is still not cured, instead the conditions worsens. This brings out the desperation in her and she builds up a lot of anger in herself. She then asks Rhoda to guide her to Conjuror Trendle, whom she had first rejected. He has supernatural powers of ‘white wizard’, she believes that he is able to cure this act of witchcraft that is upon her. She goes to see him and he is able to show her the face that did this and to tell her that this injury does not have a physical cause. When she sees the face she emerges pale and shaken, looking older. This face changes the manner in which she shows towards Rhoda, each of them becoming more distant and bitter.

We can see that this change in character has occurred after seeing this face in the egg white. Gertrude becomes bitter and twisted seeing that Farmer Lodge’s interest in her has changed dramatically. This makes Gertrude more and more desperate to find a cure. She starts to lose all power in her arm this forcing her to return back to Trendall.

She goes again to Trendall showing her obsession with magic has deepened and that all her care is focused towards the curing of her arm. Trendall say’s that seeming that nothing has worked the only thing possible to do is to touch a dead man who has been hung. She portrays herself as being able to do anything if it will cure her arm. The change in her character this far is terrible already and worse is to come.

An encounter which proves altogether too much for her delicate vitality. Gertrudes unfortunate but natural affliction becomes, for Rhoda, a source of guilt fed by superstition and her own unhappiness. Gertrudes fear of losing Lodges love displaces her natural reason and deteriorates into an obsession.

Although she loves her husband, Gertrude is distanced from him by age and her irrational fears, and is unable to discuss the misery of her affliction calmly with him. She is tortured by the belief that the disappearance of the blight from the arm will re-generate her husbands interest in her, and she summons up all of her dwindling strength to face the awful contact with the freshly hanged corpse.

She is so desperate for a cure that she begins to wish for the death of someone. Here we can see she is portraying the evil side of her conscience, we see that she has got to the point where she is on the brink of committing suicide.

Finally when she hears about the death of someone in the village of Casterbridge and that her husband is leaving on a business trip, she sees the time is right, and once Farmer Lodge leaves, she set off too. When she arrives in the village of Casterbridge, she books into an inn and then out of pure desire she rushes to the ‘Hangman’s’ cottage to speak to the hangman known as Davies.

After discussions, he allows her to touch the body of the soon to be dead eighteen year old male the next day at a small fee. Once they agree that she can touch the body, she is relieved and knows all that awaits her is to touch the man and be cured.

The following day the young man is hung and he is brought to the back of the prison where Davies allows Gertrude to touch the body. As she touches him, she then looks at her arm and sees that it is cured. With great relief all her anxiety, desperation has gone.

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1 comment:

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