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A GCSE English Literature Guide to Hardy’s Wessex Tales | The Distracted Preacher

winwoodedu | Sunday March 18, 2012

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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 story, first published in 1879 is set in the early 1830s; it is told in the ‘third person’ by an ‘omniscient narrator’ a narrative choice and device that allows Hardy to create a usefully biased narrator when useful to his plot and themes, sharing details with the reader about characters that other characters cannot know and thus helping to create dramatic irony and useful plot tension.

The story is divided into 7 sections:

  • How his Cold Was Cured
  • How He Saw Two Other Men
  • The Mysterious Greatcoat
  • At The Time of the New Moon
  • How They Went to Lulwind Cove
  • The Great Search at Nether-Moynton
  • The Walk to Worm’ell Cross and Afterwards

Hardy bases his story on the lives of the rural poor. Thematically, Hardy often shows a deal of sympathy for them and uses a narrator who does not condemn their illegal smuggling activities; instead he uses the character of a young preacher to condemn them. Hardy was not overly fond of established religion or their clergy; he thought they exerted too great an influence over their ‘flocks’ while not following the strict Christian values they preached about.

1. How His Cold Was Cured

We are introduced to Mr Stockdale, a Wesleyan minister at Nether-Moynton. He is lodging with Mrs Lizzy Newberry, a widow. He first meets an older woman at the house who he assumes is Lizzy but this proves to be her mother and Lizzy is her opposite: a young and very attractive woman. Stockdale is suffering from a cold and Lizzy tells him that brandy might help cure him. She takes him to the church and shows him several smuggled barrels of brandy. Stockdale is worried about what he sees and Lizzy’s possible part in the smuggling. Lizzy sometimes sleeps late into the afternoon. Stockdale starts...


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