Thomas Hardy was an English novelist and poet. During his long life of 88 years, he wrote fifteen novels and one thousand poems. Considered a Victorian realist, Hardy examines the social constraints on the lives of those living in Victorian England, and criticises those beliefs, especially those relating to marriage, education and religion, that limited people's lives and caused unhappiness. Hardy got many ideas for his stories while he was growing up. An example of this was that he knew of a lady who had had her blood turned by a convict’s corpse and he used this in the story The Withered Arm. The story is set sometime around 1820. It starts in the milking shed of a large farm in Dorset. The milkmaids are gossiping about the new wife of the farm’s owner Farmer Lodge. As they begin to talk about how one of the other maids, Rhoda Brook will feel about the impending nuptials, it quickly becomes apparent Lodge is the father of Rhoda’s twelve-year-old son. Rhoda’s initial curiosity quickly turns into an ominous obsession. She asks her son to spy on Lodge and his wife Gertrude, so she can learn more about who the farmer has chosen to marry. Her son stands by the roadside and gets a look at the couple. Later he goes to church on Sunday to gather more information about Gertrude. Rhoda avoids meeting Gertrude personally but comes to learn a great deal about her through intensely questioning her son. Listen online to free English audiobook "The Withered Arm” on our website to experience the short story by Thomas Hardy.