The opening of the story, among the milkmaids, is much more innocent in terms of the tension and terror than the plot turns out to be although tension is shown here because of the mystery. This is similar to many of Hardy’s other novels. Terror is mainly brought out in the end when everyone passes away except Rhoda who may be the most evil character in the plot. In most of Hardy’s short stories written he uses unexpected twists to create terror and tension. This may link to the sort of life style in those times.
Rhoda wants her mysterious unnamed son to observe the new Mrs. Lodge as Farmer Lodge and Rhoda have had a certain relationship. At this point of the short story the reader is bought to ask what type of relationship they had; we gradually learn that they have had a son together. Gertrude Lodge is much prettier than Rhoda, therefore Rhoda wants to know what type of person she is and how she had been bought up. Rhoda does this by sending her son for the second time to inspect her hands to see if they were rough, if so that would mean she would have done some work before.
If Gertrude did not work this would mean that she would have been raised from a rich family who employed people like Rhoda to do the work for them. “You never told me what sort of hand she had,” Tension is created by the fact that she is so inquisitive about Gertrude but she does not go and speak or see her personally. Tension is again also created because Farmer Lodge totally ignores and takes “no notice” of his own son even when he could see his son was in pain by carrying a heavy load. This shows the fact that he does not want Gertrude to know about the relationship.
It may also be because in the time when the short story was written there was a palpable set of classes. If you were seen having a relationship with one of your social subordinates, especially a sexual relationship, you would be made an outcast from the particular social sector and your reputation would be ruined. At the beginning of the short story Gertrude cares for the boy being charitable towards him, she gives the unnamed boy boots and “other useful articles. ” We presume that this is more than Farmer Lodge has ever done for the boy.
The irony brings out tension also because the reader is scared that Gertrude might find out that the boy is her husband’s son. The eerie setting of the story and where Rhoda lives primarily creates tension at first. The environment is isolated and desolate. We also see this as a similarity to the emerging character of Rhoda. The home she lives in is made with mud, which is usually associated with dirty and poor things. The surface had been washed into “channels and depressions,” the word depression had a double entendre; firstly being geographical term but secondly as gloominess.
This creates a hidden sense of tension. The roof was also hatched; this looked “like a bone protruding through the skin. ” This simile gives the reader a sense of apprehension as they can actually imagine this happen to their own body. The health is also a predominant feature in literature; this is usually associated with evil. The dream is the basis of the short story; tension is created as we are left with many unanswered questions. Firstly we are questioned about the reality of the dream.
We are given many implications that it is, Gertrude’s arm stared to hurt at the exact time when Rhoda’s spectral encounter. ” If this were true the reader would secondly be questioned whether the dream was a coincidence or if witchcraft had played a part. Tension is created by the fact that none of the questions are actually answered in the short story. Progressively we see the relationship between Rhoda and Gertrude become firmer. We see Rhoda give advice over what Gertrude should do over her increasingly withering arm.
The reader now observes an immense form of dramatic irony because Gertrude asks Rhoda to go to the Conjuror with her. Rhoda, although hesitant of going with her because of her inconspicuous acts, agrees to Mrs. Lodge. “Could you not go with me, to show the way? ” This also creates tension within the short story as the reader fears that Rhoda might get caught for the suspected misdemeanors she may have adversely done. At Conjurer Trendle’s home the first reaction that he had was that an “enemy” had been in Gertrude’s life. Rhoda immediately goes away.
This make the reader suspect more wrong doing’s by her and a sense of tension is created. When Rhoda went, Trendle bought out an egg and cracked it into a glass of water and told Gertrude to see what figure she saw. The response was inaudible to the reader so another sense of tension is created. Also when Gertrude came out of the conjuror’s house, she did not want to speak to Rhoda and said she “cares not to speak,” of what she saw. This enhances the tension because the reader gets a strong feeling that Rhoda is involved, and the question of her innocence is reduced in the readers mind.
Rhoda leaves the farm straight after the incident; this creates even more tension about Rhoda’s innocence. We do not find out where she actually goes; we just presume she has left because she is guilty and does not want to be convicted of the crime’s committed. In the short story we see a defiance of social principle. Gertrude, a rich upper class woman, is starting to mix with lower class people like Rhoda Brook, Trendle and a Hangman. Rhoda Brook is a very poor woman and is employed to do other people’s work, as she is a maid; this shows that she is lower than Gertrude as her husband has employed her.
Conjurer Trendle is associated with potions and magic, which in those days is known as witchcraft. You would be placed in the bottom of society if you were slightly interrelated with it. This would be the same if you were to be associated with the hangman. Rhoda’s son is a key character in the opening of the short story but he is pushed aside in the middle and bought back in a major way creating an unanticipated twist to the text. He is unnamed in the story, which creates a slightly sinister atmosphere. (This is known as connotation)
Terror is also shown when she is at Trendle’s house for the first time. When Trendle does the egg experimentation the reader is not told whom Gertrude thinks she sees. Therefore the reader presumes automatically that it was Rhoda who did it by witchcraft. The main point of terror is shown to the reader when Gertrude does not wish to talk to Rhoda about what he said. This is the main point where the text implies it was her. Gertrude also questions Rhoda about why it was her idea to visit Trendle; this also implies that Gertrude thinks Rhoda is her “enemy.
The whole incident brings terror to the story as the reader cannot predict what is going to happen next even after Rhoda has left Holmestoke. Gertrude visits Trendle for a second time; this time the main terror before the end is bought out. To heal her arm Gertrude has to touch the neck of a freshly hung person to turn the circulation of blood. At the beginning of the story Gertrude would never think of doing this but her character had changed, her “light” had been blown out because she is so desperate to get her husband, Farmer Lodge, back.
This terror is not expected of her but she actually hopes someone get hanged soon for her own comfort. This is a fefinite change from the kind, giving Gertrude. Also she states that she wants to hang an innocent person increases the terror. “O Lord hang some guilty or innocent person soon! ” The end of the short story has a twist like many of Hardy’s work. Terror is bought out just the second Gertrude is about to heal her arm. The “scream” of Rhoda with Farmer Lodge takes Gertrude into a shock turning the blood to far over, putting her in a coma.
There is terror in all three angles. Firstly the fact that Gertrude is doing this horrible deed, secondly the fact that Rhoda’s son is the boy being hanged and thirdly Farmer Lodge is actually there with Rhoda. Gertrude obviously reacts to this because like everyone else except Rhoda she dies at the end of the ordeal. Tension is also created for Rhoda and Farmer Lodge as they may think that Gertrude may have been involved with the execution of their son. Also the fact that Rhoda refers to “Satan” when she sees Gertrude enhances the tension surrounding the mystery.
The main question at the end of the story is who is the main source of evil during these times. The son cannot have been as he has not been allowed to be involved with the matter although he is used as a messenger at the beginning of the short story. Farmer Lodge does not seem to be interested in the matter of the involvement of Rhoda all he seems to care about is the beauty of his wife and his social status. This leaves us with the two main character, Rhoda and Gertrude. It could be either one of them Rhoda at the end admits to being involved with Satan.
But this is not shown in form of action in the text so she could have just meant the dream at the start of the short story and said the involvement with Satan in the spur of the moment. “This is the meaning of what Satan showed me. ” This also implies that Satan showed her that Gertrude is evil. Gertrude can also be seen as evil as she was the one who appeared in the dream in the first place. She could be involved with witchcraft because it’s She is the person who actually got hit down. Also the fact that she mixes with hangmen and Trendle show the fact she is going to the evil side of society.
The reader does not know which one is the real source of evil even though Rhoda is the only one to exist this is left in suspense which creates tension. In conclusion tension and terror are seen in all chapters of the story; each one leaves a question unanswered so tension is easily created. The main section of terror and tension was the fact that everyone dies except Rhoda who carries on her life in the milk shed. The short story is ambiguous because nothing is definite and the reader must use their imagination to predict the future in each part of the story. This is the basis of tension and terror throughout the short story.