‘Lamb to the slaughter’ author Roald Dahl, and ‘The Withered Arm’ author Thomas Hardy

In class I have been studying wider reading. I have read and studied two short stories. These were ‘Lamb to the slaughter’ author Roald Dahl, and ‘The Withered Arm’ author Thomas Hardy. In this essay I will be talking about and comparing roles of women, power and control in the two stories, and to a lesser extent the relationships these women have.

The two stories are different from each other, but similar in some ways. They both show women as having the role of a traditional housewife. Cooking, cleaning, and tending to their husbands whenever they can.They both show women in the home, and to a certain extent, they show the control and power a husband has, and just generally, that men have. Both these stories show the way that society has dictated the roles of men and women within a relationship.

The women is almost always seen as the inferior partner, who has less worth than her husband. This is shown in both stories, but in very different ways. This attitude has changed now in our modern world. Now women want to be free-spirited, independent, and not tend to their husbands every beck and call. Men have also embraced this ‘new’ type of woman over the years.

In society now this is often favoured by men. But these two stories were set before that time, and attitudes then were as I have outlined above as the woman being the inferior partner in the relationship. In Lamb to the Slaughter this is shown by Mary Maloney waiting for her husband to come home, anticipating it because it is the highlight of her day. This means that she loves him, but also a dictated role by society. In The Withered Arm this is shown by farmer Lodges young wife Gertrude. She is expected to follow her husband, do what he says, and serve him.Since she is much younger than he is, and since farmer Lodge only really married her for her beauty and youth, she was always dependent on him because she was just a ‘trophy wife. ‘ She was never an equal partner in the relationship.

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This was due to the fact that she was a woman living in times of unequality, but also because she was very frail minded. Lamb to the Slaughter is story about Mary Maloney, a wife who is pregnant with the child of her husband whom she loves very much. Again she has the inferior role in the relationship because she is a woman.She is known by the people in her society as loving her husband very much, as all wives should do.

She loved everything about him. Unfortunately this was not to last long. One day her husband comes home with some very upseting news that she will not like.

What this news is was never revealed, but the control in the relationship shifted very quickly, and the wife was no longer the inferior partner in the relationship. With one swift blow she killed her husband whom she did love very much and had a devious plan of getting rid of the murder weapon.In the heat of the moment when she was told the upseting news she killed her husband with a leg of meat.

She then went by her normal business, going to the local shop and acting completely normally. Then coming back to find her husband on the floor and then calling the police at the police station where he used to go to work. She then fed the leg of lamb she used to kill her husband to the hungry police officers. She had complete control of the situation she had put herself in. In the beginning Mary’s character was very meek and mild. She was the typical 1950’s housewife.

Staying at home during the day while her husband worked, cooking, cleaning, and doing almost anything to please him. Even breaking the normal weekly routine. Her husband Patrick was the far superior partner in the relationship without really meaning to be. Mary’s character seemed incapable of being independent without her husband in the early stages of the story. The impression was given that she only lived for her husband. But toward the end of the story she had become almost completely independent on her own, concerned about her own welfare and also the welfare of her unborn child.She actually never needed her husband. She managed to come up with a very clever, almost perfect plan to disguise the killing of her husband and a way of disposing of the murder weapon.

New attributes as a result of killing her husband. Mary was no longer the clichi?? housewife of the 1950’s, but an independent woman in complete control of the situation she was in and her life. It seems the power and control within the relationship has shifted extremely. The Withered Arm is set in a 19th century countryside, uneducated community.

The people in this community are somewhat narrow minded, and love to gossip. There are two main female characters in this story. The first is Rhoda. She is a housewife who had a relationship with the farmer Lodge, who has a leading role in the village.

This relationship is now obsolete. Farmer Lodge is disgraced at the fact that he was ever with this woman, because she is from a lower class than himself, and because now she is no longer as beautiful and youthful as she used to be. Rhoda has a strong character. She is strong willed and independent.She does not associate with the group of people she works with, she keeps herself to herself, and she has raised farmer Lodges son on her own for many years.

A son that farmer Lodge does not even acknowledge existence to. Rhoda’s son is completely ignored by his father. Rhoda probably has a strong character not out of choice or personal qualities, but because she has undergone the stress of raising a child on her own, and earning a living for them both in the narrow minded society in which she lives. She is also called a witch by the people she works with.

Rhoda does not like framer Lodges young new wife.She has spite for her and she has a dream that gives Gertrude a very bad arm condition. Gertrude is the young new wife of farmer Lodge.

A ‘trophy wife’, married because of her beauty. Gertrude does not have strong character. She depends on her husband, and is nai?? ve, believing what Rhoda tells her, and not understanding why Rhoda was called a witch by the townspeople. She was very weak, and could not survive after receiving the withered arm. She did not play her part in the community as farmer Lodges wife, and was by far the inferior partner in the relationship.She became preoccupied with her arm and Lodge gradually fell out of love with her.

She had the role of typical housewife, but even this role was not fulfilled by her, let alone the role of a liberated and independent woman. Power and control all came from Lodge in the relationship, and Rhoda because of the withered arm and because Gertrude considered her a friend. The role of a typical housewife is played by Mary and Gertrude. They are both mentally and materially dependent on their husbands.

But there is a big difference between them.Gertrude is genuinely dependent on her husband, she is forced to play this role, and alone she would not survive, but Mary seems to choose the unequal role of a woman within a marriage that she plays. She is shown to be able to look after herself, and be completely independent of her husband. The housewife role is played by both women, but Mary is able to break free. Rhoda has not been shown to play the role of houswife. She has broken free, but now she has to look after a child by herself.

Mary and Rhoda are similar. They both are independent, can fend for themselves and there children, even though this is not of their own choice.Power and control in the two stories shifts. In Lamb to the Slaughter Patrick has all the control in the beginning, but Mary has all the power and control toward the end. Rhoda had control over her life when she was no longer with Lodge. With Gertrude, farmer Lodge always had control within the relationship. She would always have to please him. The roles of women change in the two stories.

Mary and Rhoda break out of the unequal role they play with their partners, but Gertrude does not get anywhere. These roles may have changed for the better.Society has evolved from these times. Women are now treated more equally within a marriage, and have more power and control than they used to, but the role of a housewife depending on her husband is still there. The reltionships in these stories could have worked in the times we live in now.

Mary would have had a career as opposed to loving her husband dearly and waiting for him to come home, and Gertrude would have never married Lodge in the first place. The roles of women have changed very much over the years. There are now more equal roles within relationships.