The Withered Arm


THE WITHERED ARM by Thomas Hardy

“A white bonnet and a silver-coloured gownd. It whewed and whistled so loud when it rubbed against the pews…”

You must already know this Egdon Heath and Casterbridge story. So, no need to re-rehearse the plot for you. And I have simply read it again and laid myself open to its meaning as evolved subconsciously in my mind throughout the last 12 years of self-training in the art and freewheeling rigour of gestalt real-time reviewing. A story of milking and milkmaids, and of two women, both betrayed by the same man, and of the boy-child that he gave one of them. There emerge “freaks of coincidence”, and a mutually synergistic curse as balanced by alternating dream-streams between the two women, a curse inadvertently aimed by each of them at the other — one woman as an “incubus” upon the other’s body, the latter who then stigmatises or squeezes the former’s arm with a recognisable four-fingered grip… and an identity later revealed by a singularly conjured floating egg-yolk face just as, at the end, we see that boy-child now grown into a man subjected to an undeserved hanging, duly stigmatised or squeezed, this time by a rope — and, eventually, I feel, there evolves a new mutual synergy of the other egg-yolk face precariously balanced or suspended “to the rhythm of alternating milk-streams.

Egg-yolk pareidolia.

My ongoing review of Hardy’s Collected Stories:

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