The Darkness Out There Character Analysis

Published: 2021-09-11 03:45:09
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‘The Darkness Out There’ being 20th century. Thomas Hardy writes ‘The Withered Arm’ as a 3rd person narrative whereas Penelope Lively uses a mixture between 3rd and 1st person. The Darkness Out There’ combines the author’s narration with the thoughts and feelings of Sandra, a girl belonging to the Good Neighbors club. She goes to help out an old lady, Mrs. Rutter, with the help of a boy called Kerry. Mrs. Rutter lives in the countryside; next to a wood called Packers End, feared by Sandra. Mrs. Rutter has a secret, that when told, horrifies the children. This sub story is of the German she found and left to die back when she was a girl in the war. Penelope Lively develops Mrs. Rutters character in many ways, with clues early on to her true self.
Sandra’s views on the characters change by the end, as well as her whole out look of life as a result. One of the ways Mrs. Rutter’s character is portrayed by Penelope Lively is through her environment, both historically and geographically. The house is introduced sending out two different messages. One is that of a quaint homely place. This can be recognized through the descriptions of the china ornaments, “big-eyed flop-eared rabbits and beribboned kittens and flowery milkmaids and a pair of naked chubby children wearing daisy chains”.
Firstly, this gives the impression of a cuddly ‘grandmother’ figure, but then the picture is broken with the mention of the “smell of cabbage”. This comment conflicts with the otherwise friendly scene to suggest something is not rite. The house reflects Mrs. Rutter’s character. An example of this is “her eyes investigated, quick as mice”. Later, the house mirrors this comment by the author describing that it “smelt of damp and mouse”. Animals and flowers are frequently mentioned in the description of the ornaments and her love of plants, “You should see the wood in spring, with all the bluebells”.
This constant reference to nature implies there is a link with Mrs. Rutter, for nature is changeable and not always as it seems. There is also evidence to suggest she is an old lady whose mind is still stuck in the past, such as her collection of “old calendars and pictures torn from magazines”. This could later explain why her memory of the German plane and dying soldier is still vivid as ever. The affect of what Mrs. Rutter says and does also reveals sides of her character. She welcomes Kerry and Sandra into her house.
But rite at the beginning there is a contrast in description, “a creamy smiling pool of a face in which her eyes snapped and darted” sounds friendly and comforting but subliminally uneasy and then later sinister. She’s a very judgmental woman. She sends the boy straight away outside to do the manual work and leaves Sandra the light chores indoors. She makes conversation with the girl, but not with Kerry, thinking he’ll have nothing interesting to say. This is because she doesn’t think much of his ambitions, smiling falsely while he tells her that he wants to work as a car mechanic.
She insults him, “well, I expect that’s good steady money if you’d nothing special in mind. Sugar? ” then moves on quickly to a gesture of hospitality, trying to conceal the jibe aimed at Kerry. She’s patronizing too, with comments like “You’re a little dress maker, too,” and “Chocky? ” She asks Sandra to offer Kerry a chocolate too, but has already forgotten his name “Take them out and see if what’s-‘s-name would like one? ” showing his insignificance in her mind. One reason why she does this may be because she has no children of her own, so she goes on stereotypical ideas.
She also makes the reader feel uneasy, “Mind your pretty skirt, pull it up a bit, there’s only me to see if you’re showing a bit of bum. ” This provokes the thought that she has a slightly warped mind. She starts to tell Sandra about her husband who was killed in the war. He died rite at the beginning, and she hasn’t formed any relationships since. This can make the reader feel a little bit sympathetic towards her. Penelope Lively lets us know what others think of Mrs. Rutter as Kerry builds a profile on her character when he talks with Sandra. He shows his dislike of the woman, “I don’t go much on her” and “I dunno.
The way she talks and that. ” Sandra encourages him to feel sorry for her by telling him of her tragedy, but he explains that “There’s lots of people done that” dismissing the excuse for her peculiar and disturbing behavior by implying that she wasn’t the only one to loose somebody in the war. The way Mrs. Rutter always watches Sandra and “glinting from the cushions” gives an uneasy feel towards her. When Kerry returns inside Mrs. Rutter begins her anecdote. He asks if she saw the plane come down and she chuckles, seeming to delight in the idea.
She explains how her and her sister went to investigate the scene and was only going to get help if it was an allied plane. This alarms Kerry. Her twisted side becomes more apparent when she says, “We cheered, I can tell you” as they realized it was German. Sandra is alarmed and quips how awful it was, but Mrs. Rutter, who disregards her discomfort, abruptly interrupts her she is so involved in telling the story. She tries to soften what she is saying by ‘sugaring the pill’, for example friendly additives such as “my duck” to unsettling sentences. She refers to the injured man in the broken plane as “that site”.
She mentions nothing about the man himself but just remarks how “it wasn’t a pretty site”. She is unmoved when the German was crying “mutter, mutter”. This shows she is a cold, heartless woman. She recollects easily how she left the man in pain because it was raining. This shows she has no feeling of mutual human kindness and doesn’t feel obliged to help. Again, she is not bothered with the fact he is in his late teens. Mrs. Rutter is bitter and resentful because of the death of her husband. She delights in the German’s death, “I thought, oh no, you had this coming to you, mate, there’s a war on. She seems surprised when Kerry and Sandra suddenly get up to leave, disgusted with her tale. She has no remorse and doesn’t realize there was anything wrong with what she did, her conscience still not activated all these years later. Rite from the beginning there had been implicit clues to her nasty inner character, not just from the story she told which revealed it explicitly towards the end. Penelope Lively through other means, like metaphors reveals the character. Like her body, her personality is not clear-cut. The author suggests this when she explains “she seemed composed of circles”.
Introduced as “a cottage loaf of a woman”, gives the misleading impression of a warm, traditional, safe, chunky, old woman. But following this, is another metaphor, “with a face below which chins collapsed one into another,” implicitly meaning she had different guises, was false and two- faced. Someone not to be trusted. On balance, it seems that Mrs. Rutter was a twisted old lady, unable to let go of the bitterness she acquired from her husbands killing and sick because of the fact she relished in the idea of the young German soldier left to die.
Her historical background, the fact she lived through the horrors of war is no excuse. She believes herself to be an innocent old lady; blind to her own faults and separated from the outside world. Penelope Lively used various characterization techniques to skillfully convey the character of Mrs. Rutter well. ‘The Withered Arm’ is another story in which people can be falsely judged. As with ‘The Darkness Out There’ Thomas Hardy uses environment very effectively to reveal sides of Farmer Lodge’s character. Farmer Lodge is the squire of his backward Wessex village.
His geographical, historical and mainly social environments influence his character unlike in ‘The Darkness Out There’ where Mrs. Rutters social environment has little effect on her. In the 1800’s, there were strong social class divisions. Farmer Lodge personified the segregation. Other people from this time may have been distant from different classes but Gertrude (his pretty young wife) crossed the boundary, therefore couldn’t he? Years ago he had used Rhoda, but was reluctant to have any responsibility for his actions, in this case Jamie, the product of their affair.
He refused to let Gertrude go and see Rhoda Brooke, as he was scared that she would find out his secret. He told her repeatedly in the video, not to mix with the villagers. He feared public opinion and loss of respect if the secret became formally open. His up bringing had molded him irreversibly into someone who thought he was above those who were poorer than he was. As with all stories, a lot is revealed by what a character says and does. Farmer Lodge remains aloof to most of the other characters, not getting emotionally involved. This is a shield to protect his superiority.
Near the beginning of the story, Farmer Lodge is being driven along by the horse and cart, next to Gertrude. She is unnerved at the sight of Jamie, staring at her constantly. When she mentions this worriedly and Farmer Lodge dismisses him as “One of the neighborhood. I think he lives with his mother a mile or two off. ” This is a lie to cover himself, as he knows full well who he is and where he lives. He warns Gertrude to stay away from the superstition of the village people and doesn’t allow her to use alternative methods for a cure to her arm. He only advises learned solutions such as the doctors and medicine.
This shows he is a firmly grounded man, who is smart/ enlightened. He doesn’t like her dabbling in the village ‘quackery’. He shows little sympathy for Gertrude, and comes to despise her for her disfigured left limb. This is a man for whom appearances are very important. He stopped loving his wife when she showed an imperfection, when she needed him most. How Farmer Lodge treats others is another key way of showing his character. The only simile used is, “The driver was a yeoman in the prime of life, cleanly shaven like an actor”. This gives the reader the chance of implicit interpretation.
It means Farmer Lodge is false, that he is pretending to be something he is not, like his treatment of Gertrude. She is only really a showpiece, he couldn’t have really loved her. For him, Gertrude is too independent. She takes boots to Jamie and Rhoda’s cottage, for the boy. This was an act of pity, highlighting her kindness. This is a visible contrast to Farmer Lodge who is angered by her visit. One day, he catches Jamie poaching on his land. Instead of charging him for the offence, he lets him go. This shows that he does have some morals, as the punishment would be hanging for the boy.
However, he only shows consideration for Jamie when he doesn’t actively or publicly have to show responsibility. Another example of this is when they are on the road and he “seemed annoyed at the boys persistent presence, but did not order him to get out of the way”. He is also characterized by how people react to him, both to him as a person and to his position as squire. The villagers respect his position of authority, for example his reserved place in church, the front row. Unlike Jamie, he needn’t arrive early to get a place in the front, but comes almost last.
He grabs the opportunity to arrogantly parade down the aisle, showing off his new wife. Gertrude feels uncomfortable and shy, when he makes the obvious point of superiority “The well-to-do Farmer Lodge came nearly last; and his young wife, who accompanied him, walked up the aisle with the shyness natural to a modest woman who had appeared thus for the first time. ” When Jamie is caught with the hare on Farmer Lodge’s land, he is scared of the man as the yeoman Farmer, whose land he has been poaching on and not of him as a person because he doesn’t have any personal and emotional attachment to him.
Rhoda’s experience of the Farmer has left her bitter. He used her and left her completely to provide for Jamie and herself on her own. When Gertrude visits, she says, “Men think so much of personal appearances”. Rhoda answers, “Some do – he for one. ” This is an explicit insight into Farmer Lodge’s character from the point of view of the women affected by him. The village people aren’t so respectful behind the Farmer’s back, about him personally. The milkmaids right at the beginning gossip about his new wife, “He do bring home bride to-morrow, I hear. Only the dairyman, who employed the milkmaids and a closer connection to the squire, hushes them, “now then, what the Turk do it matter to us about Farmer Lodge’s new mis’ess? ” At the end of the story, there is a twist surprise to the plot, which is that Jamie is hanged. This has a profound affect on Farmer Lodge and is there for Rhoda at the trials and execution, the first public display of responsibility. He becomes a recluse and out of his guilt tries to make amends by offering “a small annuity to Rhoda Brooke” although Rhoda refuses this.
Thomas Hardy shows that his character changed by explicitly stating in narrator form, “he eventually changed for the better, and appeared as a chastened and thoughtful man”. He tries to repent by giving up his lands to a “reformatory for boys”. As an overview, Farmer Lodge is very much motivated by his environment. He had changed his attitude to responsibility by the end but it was too late. Two people had died and one mentally scared by the time he had converted from his old ways. In conclusion, the social environments were different for the characters in ‘The Darkness Out There’ and ‘The Withered Arm’.
Due to the time periods in which the stories were set, the hierarchical society that motivated Farmer Lodge into the person he was, in contrast, didn’t have an effect on Mrs. Rutter, who lived in an egalitarian society. They did however; both have prejudices against different groups of people, for example Mrs. Rutter and the Germans, and Farmer Lodge with the poor. There is a big difference in the revealing of characters between Mrs. Rutter and Farmer Lodge. In ‘The Withered Arm’ Mrs. Rutter was misleadingly portrayed as a nice, homely old lady.
Her dark side was made explicitly apparent until her anecdote. There were little implicit hints previously, but were hard to pick up on yet the evidence was there. So the end surprise was only a revelation, not a change to her character as it had always been there. In ‘The Withered Arm’ Farmer Lodge’s dark side had always been present, and his reform at the end was a genuine change of character. A reason why the original thoughts of Mrs. Rutter were so misleading was because Sandra didn’t realize her disguise. ‘The Darkness Out There’ was a collaboration of 1st and 3rd person text.
Unless the audience was very analytical and close readers, they would generally go along with what Sandra was thinking, they wouldn’t know any better. When Mrs. Rutter is exposed by her evil characteristics the audience learns and was guilty with Sandra. They make the same mistakes of stereotyping as her. As a result, they are more emotionally involved and effected by the moral ending message. Unlike in ‘The Withered Arm’, the authorial voice distances the reader from the action. They don’t get an insight into what the characters are actually thinking, just from what they say and do.
It is hard to identify with the characters as much in a 3rd person narrative like ‘The Withered Arm’. Penelope lively is more implicit in her way of characterization. She gives the translation more to the reader than Hardy, who tells the reader exactly what’s happening. Such as the lists of lovely trinkets owned by Mrs. Rutter, mixed in with the strange smell of cabbage. Thomas Hardy doesn’t leave much to the reader’s imagination, preferring to use more explicit uses of language to detail what is going on. Thus, the reader is more engaged in ‘The Darkness Out There’ and its characters.

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