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A GCSE English Literature Guide to Hardy’s Wessex Tales

| Monday March 18, 2013

Categories: KS4, AQA GCSE, OCR GCSE, WJEC Eduqas GCSE, Hot Entries, Prose, Analysing Prose, Hardy's Short Stories, The Withered Arm, Wessex Tales, Writing, Analytical Writing, Literary Analysis, Prose Analysis, AQA English Literature, Unit 4 Approaching Shakespeare, OCR GCSE English, Unit A641 Reading Literary Texts, OCR GCSE English Literature, Unit A664, WJEC GCSE English Literature, Unit 2a Literary Heritage, Drama and Prose

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Guide Navigation

1. Introduction
2. The Withered Arm
3. The Son’s Veto
4. Tony Kytes, The Arch-Deceiver
5. Absent-mindedness in a Parish Choir
6. The Melancholy Hussar of the German Legion
7. The Distracted Preacher

This guide has been written with a focus on AQA Unit 4, Section B (‘Approaching Shakespeare and the English Literary Heritage’); however, Hardy’s stories are popular and the guide will be useful for any exam board specification.

In the AQA unit specifically, candidates will need to read texts from the so-called ‘English Literary Heritage’ (one of which must be a play by Shakespeare). The unit allows candidates to appreciate why certain texts and writers become ‘classics’ owing to their enduring appeal and timeless themes; also, the unit allows students to recognise how texts arise as a result of a writer responding to aspects of their social, historical and cultural context.

The edition referred to in this guide is the The Withered Arm and Other Wessex Tales Heinemann New Windmill edition edited by Robert Gittings (ISBN-13: 978-0435122874). All page numbers refer to this edition.

Features of a Short Story

A short story is usually developed around a single theme-related ‘inciting incident’, with the writer developing an absorbing plot in ways that allows them to ‘use’ the story to explore a few interconnected themes persuasively. In a typical short story, there are usually just a few characters and thus the author ‘uses’ these again both for purposes of plot, but almost always, too, ‘thematically’. The action often takes place over a short space of time, or at very distinct points in time (as in Hardy’s The Withered Arm, for example).

In Hardy’s collection of short stories, The Wessex Tales, he includes:

  • The Withered Arm – 3 main characters, takes place in Holmstoke & Casterbridge, although action takes place at two main points in time, a few years apart.
  • The Son’s Veto – 4...

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