Having studied ‘At Castle Boterel’, a short poem written by Thomas Hardy in the early twentieth century, and ‘The Melancholy Hussar of the German Legion’, a short story written by him in the late nineteenth century, it appears that Hardy is interested in the ideas of love, time and human mortality. Hardy writes about his own past experiences. The poem ‘At Castle Boterel’ is written about his love for his Cornish wife, Emma Gifford. Hardy is particularly interested in the perception of time and the way in which human life follows the pattern of time, and this is shown in both the short story and the poem.
Hardy’s interest in time can be linked to the quotation ‘Time’s unflinching rigour’ in the poem ‘At Castle Boterel’. He is also interested in the way that the physical landscape never changes, and how there is a wide span of unchanging time. This is quoted in the first line of the short story, ‘Here stretch the downs; high and breezy and green, absolutely unchanged since those eventful days’. This quote, especially the words in italic, tells us that the landscape never changes, and it outlives many generations of human life.The landscape has been around forever and has witnessed all the events of human life.
This emphasises the fact that human life is insignificant, as humans die while the landscape lives on forever. Through this very quote, we learn that Hardy is interested in the movement of time and the idea of human mortality. Hardy’s use of the unchanging landscape provides a bac...
kground for transitory human life. In ‘The Melancholy Hussar of the German Legion’ Hardy skips through time very quickly, as he significantly misses out periods of time.
This point cannot be specifically linked to a quotation, but we do know that Hardy skips through time because, for example, we hear very little about Phyllis’s engagement to Humphrey Gould. Her engagement was obviously not as important to her as her love for Mattheus Tina. This tells the reader that Hardy is very interested in the movement and perception of time. We are also told that Hardy attempts to literally cheat time, and he does this by not writing the same amount for specific events in the story. This, in my opinion, creates an awkward read, as time throughout the story is not spread out equally.This is done in an attempt to defeat ‘Time’s unflinching rigour’.
We are made aware that Hardy misses sections of time because Phyllis recalls some events more than others, because some events are more important to her than others. In the story Hardy is able to defeat ‘Time’s unflinching rigour’. He can control time within his narrative. Having studied ‘The Melancholy Hussar of the German Legion’ we are told that Hardy is interested in how one moment in time can change the whole live of an individual. We know this because the execution of Mattheus Tina, although it only lasted for a short period of time, changed Phyllis’s life forever.Hardy draws attention to the fact that one moment, even if it lasts for only a few seconds, can be the mos
important moment in a person’s life.
Hardy is interested in the trickery of time, and he experiments with this in the short story. Hardy, throughout the short story, attempts to defeat ‘Time’s unflinching rigour’. This is indicated as Phyllis, in ‘The Melancholy Hussar of the German Legion’ attempts to defeat ‘Time’s unflinching rigour’ by tending Mattheus Tina’s and Cristoph Bless’s graves, as she is trying to make her memories of them live on forever.This is quoted on the last page of the novel, ‘While she lived she used to keep their mounds neat; but now they are overgrown with nettles, and sunk nearly flat’. This tells us that Phyllis attempted to defeat time by visiting their graves. Writing the executed names down in the parish death book, told on the penultimate page of the short story, successfully defeats ‘Time’s unflinching rigour’ as the soldiers are forever remembered in writing.
Phyllis is finally defeated by ‘Time’s unflinching rigour’ when she dies at the end of the story.Hardy also tells us that memories can be distorted. One of Hardy’s objectives in writing the story was to write about events so they can be remembered because memories don’t last forever. Hardy writes the story as a novel to capture the images and emotions throughout the story. We are told that Phyllis’s love lives on throughout the story, as she tends their graves and tells her story to the narrator who repeats the story. This is an example of where ‘Time’s unflinching rigour’ is defeated.
Hardy also indicates to us that one’s attitude to certain things change as time goes on.Hardy uses clothing to tell us this. This is quoted, ‘The British uniform of the period, with its immense epaulettes, queer cocked-hat, breeches, gaiters, ponderous cartridge-box, buckled shoes, and what not, would look strange and barbarous now’. This quote, especially its final part, tells us that people’s attitudes to things change over time. For example, the quote tells us that the soldiers clothing of the past would look ‘strange and barbarous’ now, however this would not have been so about two centuries ago. People’s attitudes change with time.
This is another example of Hardy writing about the trickery of time. By writing the short story ‘The Melancholy Hussar of the German Legion’, Hardy wanted to make the point about ‘Time’s unflinching rigour’ and asks us if human existence can defeat it. He tries to say that time goes on forever but you can escape from it. He tries to tell us that it is possible to escape from ‘Time’s unflinching rigour’.
We are also told in the story that although love may only occur for a short period, memories live on, however not eternally.We are told that memories can be distorted. One also learns that the landscape never changes for hundreds of years, and this brings about the idea of how human life is insignificant and inferior compared to the landscape. The time period, in which the story was set, was a time in which women were not given the same freedom and responsibility in marriage as they are today. Back in the nineteenth century,
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