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Antony Aleagha Essay

Essay Topic:

Analyse the ways in which Hardy and Lawrence make their respective fictional environments realistic in The Withered Arm and Odour of Chrysanthemums

Before I begin to analyse these stories, I feel it is important that I give short definitions of environment and realism. This will ensure that I tackle the question with greater accuracy. Environment can generally be defined as the physical surrounding, conditions and circumstances in which a person lives. Realism however, is a term used where fictional situations correspond to situations which occur in real life. Throughout this essay I am going to explore ways in which both writers portray realism in their stories and compare my findings.

Firstly I am going to look at the settings of both stories as I feel this is a key feature, which adds realism to the stories. The setting of “The Withered Arm” is based in the south of England. The location for the majority of the story is the farm, which is mentioned quite frequently. Towards the beginning of the story we are given an immediate impact and the environment is immediately described. “It was an eighty-cow dairy”. I find this quite useful as it immediately portrays realism by describing the setting giving us the capability of picturing the surroundings in our heads.

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I also feel that “Odour of Chrysanthemums” portrays realism to a great extent through its setting. “Odour of Chrysanthemums” is based on a stereotypical mining town in England. For example, the pub and the pit are both mentioned frequently. In the period in which this story is set, the pub was a typical and important part of every day life in mining towns.

I also feel that the characters give a great sense of realism in both of the stories.

Firstly, if you look at the marriage of Walter and Elizabeth in “Odour of Chrysanthemums” you are given a realistic example of the sort of characters around which the book is set. At the bottom of page 72 it says “Twenty minutes to six!” in a tone of fine bitter carelessness she continued “Eh, he’ll not come home now till they bring him. There he’ll stick!” This is a stereotypical reaction of a wife when her husband does not arrive home on time. You can sense that she seems angry with her husband for not being there. You also know that she is worried about her husband without actually saying so. If you read further down that section she says “But he needn’t come rolling here in his pit-dirt, for I won’t wash him”. This also shows anger. I get the impression that this is a frequent routine for Elizabeth as she can sense what to expect, especially as she says “Never mind. They’ll bring him when he does come – like a log.” She meant there would be no scene. “And he may sleep on the floor till he wakes himself. I know he’ll not go to work to-morrow after this!” This sentence portrays resignation, anger, hurt and experience very well. The children also add to the realism as their reaction towards their fathers’ disappearance is quite normal. This is shown on page 73 when Annie says, “My father hasn’t come” in reply to her mothers’ demand that she go to bed. This proves that she cares about her father, as she does not want to go to sleep until she knows that her father is back safely. Lawrence uses the words “wailed” and “plaintively” when describing Annie’s speech, this also gives the impression of concern.

Realism is also portrayed through the environment in “The Withered Arm”. The feelings of Rhoda Brook and Gertrude Lodge are a good example. I think that Rhoda must be feeling quite depressed and is quite jealous of the new wife. This is shown on page 50 where it says, “She contemplated the new wife”. This is a normal feeling for women in Rhodas position and shows great realism. Gertrudes feelings also show a good extent of realism. For example, when analysing page 53 I got the impression that Gertrude is quite confused by recent events, she says “When I awoke, I could not remember where I was” she added, “till the clock striking two reminded me”. It is quite realistic to be confused when in her situation. I also get the feeling that Gertrude’s good character is being taken advantage of. On page 56 it says “Trendle might name her as the malignant influence which was blasting the fair person of Gertrude, and so lead her friend to hate her forever, and to treat her as some fiend in human shape”. This is a realistic scenario as quite often in real life good, kind people are taken advantage of. In “Odour of Chrysanthemums” a good woman is being taken advantage of by her lover.

A main feature of these stories that plays a key role in portraying realism is the language used. If you refer to “Odour of Chrysanthemums” quite a lot of the language used is typically northern and you would expect it to be used in a mining environment. For example, if you look at page 67 it says “A ‘Sat’day night – I know that’s true”. This is stereotypical language from a working class Nottinghamshire town. There is another example of this on page 68. It says, “Aye” he sighed, wiping his mouth, “It’s a settler, it is …” There are other examples of colloquial language throughout the story.

The language used in “The Withered Arm” also portrays realism. The language is also stereotypical and realistic for the time in which it is set. The terms that are used are typical for the setting of the story. Once again colloquial terms are used to set the scene. There is a good example of a colloquial term on page 47. It says, “The driver was a yeoman”. The term yeoman was often used in those days to describe a farmer. On page 46 there is also an example of stereotypical farmland speech where it says “Tis hard for she”. This signifies quite typical working class farm talk that you would expect to be used in the environment described in “The Withered Arm”.

Emotions and beliefs are also a major factor in both stories. They really help to portray realism and make the stories more believable. In “Odour of Chrysanthemums” the family of the husband Walter shows the main emotion. Their emotions go up and down because of the disappearance of their father. Anger, sorrow, depression, worry and happiness are all portrayed in this story. On page 73 when Walter disappears, Elizabeth’s anger and frustration gets the better of her and she takes it out on the children by making a fuss about nothing when she says to John “Just look at those shirt-sleeves!” To me, this gives a real sense of realism as it is typical of families in fact and fiction to experience roller coaster rides of emotions such as the ones experienced in the story.

Emotions also play a major role in making “The Withered Arm” realistic. For example, Rhoda’s’ jealousy of a younger woman who has taken her lover is a stereotypical reaction of a woman experiencing the same thing in real life.

After analysing and comparing both stories I feel that they both contain a large amount of realism.

I feel that the environment consists of many factors that can be taken into consideration such as the setting, characters, language, plot and emotions.

I have come to the conclusion that whilst both stories portray realism by using the same methods (settings, lifestyles, language), the methods are used in completely different ways. I feel that both authors are very effective in their styles of making fictional situations realistic.

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