The Withered Arm has been described as a moral tale as well as a gothic story. Find out all about the plot, chapter by chapter.
It's early evening in spring as we meet
"thin and worn" Rhoda Brook milking the cows on a rich man's farm. She remains oddly separate from the other milkmaids. There is gossip about the farm's owner, a middle-aged wealthy man called Farmer Lodge. He has recently married a very pretty young woman. Two milkmaids hint that this must be hard for Rhoda to cope with. We learn that Farmer Lodge has not spoken to Rhoda for some years.
Rhoda lives with her 12-year-old son in a lonely spot in a small and poor cottage. She is not married. She sends her son to watch Farmer Lodge as he returns home: Rhoda is keen to learn about the farmer's new wife. The son refers to Lodge as
"father" but shows no other concern. In the chapter title the word
"lorn" means lonely and also ruined in the social sense of having a child outside marriage.