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There is a reference to an 'unsentimental pity' in Michael Thorpe's editorial introduction to H.E. Bates's The Ox. As a tragic character Mrs. Thurlow definitely deserves a whole lot of sympathy for her stolid stoical endurance, her rather dispassionate and uncomplaining fortitude, her ability to go on and suppress all her agony in dire circumstances and so on. But the key point is that she has been shown in a really life-like manner. There is no melodramatization of her character at all. But yet her character seems to evoke the cathartic tragic emotion of pity quite effectively. I think these are the ways the author subtly taps it---
1. The metaphoric or the rhetorical level of the text supports it e.g. Mrs. Thurlow's ironic and deliberately overdetermined analogy with the ox has a violent reductionism of a great figure that in its sheer injustice evokes sympathy.
2. The circumstancial condition--her selflessness, the fact that she remains unloved at the end.
3. Her loving companionship with her cart--the old rusty bicycle, on which she depends so much.
4. Images in the story are really poignant and draw our sympathy for Mrs. Thurlow--e.g. Mrs. Thurlow constantly counting money, Mrs. Thurlow moving alone with the bicycle, her afternoon-reading of old newspapers, her meeting with Mr. Thurlow in the prison, her last journey with the punctured back-tyre of her beloved bicycle at the end.
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