In "The Withered Arm" by Thomas Hardy explain Gertrude's human behaviour patterns throughout the short story.

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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Gertrude is the young, beautiful, gentle wife of Mr. Lodge, who has, in Rhoda's mind, taken Rhoda's place by becoming Lodge's wife. While Rhoda survives on her pride in having borne a son to Lodge,

'I go to see her! I wouldn't look up at her if she were to pass my window this instant.'

Gertrude is all humility and modesty. To discuss all of Gertrude's human behavior patterns requires more space and time than we have here, but I can direct you to understanding the pivotal beginning, midpoint, and ending patterns of human behavior that Gertrude displays.

In a way, one might say that Gertrude displays only one human behavior pattern since Hardy has captured her and characterized her so authentically that her transitions seem all part of one pattern, that being her authentic genuine personality, inner character, and reactions. Yet, if you take a slice of her behavior from the beginning, middle, and end, it is possible to see the stark changes that come over her.   

In the beginning, Gertrude is the soul of gentleness, generosity, kindness, tender-heartedness, compassion, and is neither proud nor haughty. These traits can be seen in her compassionate reaction to the boy who stares at her on the street while with Mr. Lodge and later by her gift of shoes--one of many gifts to the villagers--to the same boy (Rhoda's and Mr. Lodge's son).

'How that poor lad stared at me!' said the young wife.
'... I think the poor boy may have looked at [me] in the hope we might relieve him of his heavy load, ....'

After Gertrude's arm is blighted by the actions of Rhoda in her dream state, and after she journeys to Conjuror Trendle, Gertrude begins a spiral of decline and futility. The midpoint of the story reveals the deepening despair of her descent.

Gertrude in desperation seeks all manner of "witch mixtures" with which to try to stop the ever worsening blight and withering of her arm. Mr. Lodge is repulsed by her arm and the remedies and ointments littering her bedroom closet.

She has changed drastically from the confident though tender young bride into a sad, a profoundly sad woman who is crushed by withdrawn love; who is desperate to restore her arm to its former beauty, not out of vanity but out of the desire for the return of love; who carries a tragic deep and darkening secret agony. Her sorrow from her strange punishing wound withers her inner being as the wound withers her arm.

She ... turned her sad, soft glance upon him in such heart-swollen reproach ....'

'You want somebody to cheer you, … I once thought of adopting a boy; ....'

She guessed to whom he alluded; ... 'Six 'years of marriage, and only a few months of love,'     

Gertrude's final pattern of human behavior is her last, leading to her death. Her desperation ultimately leads her to the most dangerous steps she can take. She goes from Trendle to the hangman to touch the neck of a newly hung man. Here she meets the reality of the vision that blighted her arm and life with the hatred of pride and fury. Before meeting Rhoda and Mr. Lodge the last time, Gertrude, though brave and persistent, is terrified, in anguish and as one who is dead.

the young woman's state was such that a grey mist seemed to float before her eyes, ... it was as though she had nearly died, ....
Gertrude shrieked:' 'the turn o' the blood'... had taken place. … she never reached home alive. (.txt., Chrome)


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