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'At Castle Boterel' and the short story 'The Melancholy Hussar of the German Legion' by Thomas hardy.

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Introduction

Thomas Hardy's works often explore the subjects of relationships, mortality, love and the 'unflinching rigour' or pattern of time. He uses the image of a landscape to great effect in both the poem 'At Castle Boterel' and the short story 'The Melancholy Hussar of the German Legion'. The poem is quite personal and is probably about his first wife Emma (because of the date it was written) and is most likely to be autobiographical where as the short story- 'The Melancholy Hussar' is not personal because it has many different layers of narrative and it is not his own story- it is Phyllis's. Large gaps in time between the events of the story and the story being told and this also allows him to manipulate time. In both the poem and the short story, Hardy introduces the idea of the transitory, fleeting nature of human life. He compares the brief moments which are regarded as 'important' in people's lives against the everlasting backdrop of time and the eternal landscapes. Hardy also compares the intensity of love (even though it is short lived in the case of 'The Melancholy Hussar') with the abstract of time. Hardy uses the effect of pathetic fallacy to great effect in both 'The Melancholy Hussar' and 'A Castle Boterel'. In 'At Castle Boterel', when Hardy is writing about the present, he describes 'the drizzle bedrenches the waggonette'. ...read more.

Middle

Both these extracts from the poem and short story demonstrate Hardy's idea that human life is transitory and ephemeral against the backdrop of prehistoric landscapes that have been unchanged for thousands of years. With the landscapes as the backdrop, Hardy implies that the story of the 'Melancholy Hussar' could have occurred at any time in history because he does not actually tell you a date during the course of the story. Although you can guess the period that the story is set in, you only discover the date of the story at the end of it when Hardy inserts an extract from the Parish burial records. In 'The Melancholy Hussar', the date is not mentioned until the very end of the story. The events of the story occurred in 1801. Between that time and the time that the story was written, there were many changes. There were three major acts passed which affected the rights of women. These acts were: 'The Divorce and Matrimonial causes act' of 1857 and 'The Married women's property acts of 1870 and 1882. At the time of the story, it was very rare for women to break from convention. Phyllis did just this by following her heart and starting a relationship with a foreign soldier even though she was already betrothed to a local gentleman. ...read more.

Conclusion

Hardy as a writer is good at manipulating time and defeating 'time'. He spends a lot of time describing seemingly insignificant things: 'Ever since her childhood it had been Phyllis's pleasure to clamber... the walls in this district being built of rubble without mortar, so that there were plenty of crevices for small toes.' But he spends very little time describing events that other people may view as important and makes them seem simple and trivial: 'This bachelor of thirty found his way to the village on the downs... and she sufficiently inflamed his heart to lead him in that direction daily; till he became engaged to marry her.' Even though 'At Castle Boterel' and 'The Melancholy Hussar' have similar themes but have different content and are written in different ways, Hardy succeeds in defeating 'Time's unflinching rigour' by recording the memories and this serves to remind us of human mortality because if Hardy had not sat down to write down these memories over a hundred years ago, the memories of the experiences would have been lost forever and although there are many millions of similar memories, these are two examples which have been preserved for eternity. Also, the facts of Matth�us's life are recorded in the burial records of the parish but his love affair with Phyllis is not but this is what the story does. Compare and contrast the ways in which hardy explores "Time's unflinching rigour" in 'At Castle Boterel' and 'The Melancholy Hussar of the German Legion' Alastair Yap Page1 08/02/03 ...read more.

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