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Thomas Hardy’s “The Workbox”: A Commentary on Mortality

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Introduction

Calvin Teemer Prof. Morell English 122 08/10/03 Thomas Hardy's "The Workbox": A Commentary on Mortality Thomas Hardy's "The Workbox" centers on the connectivity between life and death. The author shows the elusive nature of the confines of our lives (as they relate to death), as well as the abruptness in which these boundaries intertwine. Hardy shows this connectivity through the symbolism of the timber, whose components (a work box and a coffin both constructed of the same piece of oak) represent life and death respectively. Hardy stages a forum on the discussion of mortality in the poem by showing the husband to have a more open attitude, while establishing the wife as a more stubborn and closed minded character. The timber in "The Workbox" represents the continuum of life and death, or in other words, the timeline of the soul. Hardy writes, "The shingled piece that seems to cease against your box's rim, continues right on in the piece that's underground with him." ...read more.

Middle

(Lines 30-32) the irony being, that from the moment we are born, we start with one foot already in the grave, and before we know it, mortal life (the first inch) ends and death (the second inch) begins. In addendum to his symbolic use of the timber to express his opinion of the human condition, Hardy uses the relationship between husband and wife to show the connection between life and death as well. The husband has a clear perspective of life. He is responsible for the construction of the workbox, as a "joiner, of village life" (Line 3). He speaks about the nature of the work he has created, the oddities and pitfalls that are intrinsic in the material from which it comes. Through his understanding of the workbox Hardy demonstrates an understanding of life in the character. The man is open to deliberate in things pertaining to life and death. By constructing the workbox from a "scantling"(Line 10) scavenged from a coffin workshop, Hardy is showing the comfort the husband has with death. ...read more.

Conclusion

The wife's face continues to be held askance, but her visage has been affected; her lips now limp, and "wan" i.e.; pale, deathly. In describing a woman that has pressed hard to avoid the issue of death as death-like, Hardy is telling the reader that despite any wishes to avoid death, death touches us all regardless. The connection between life and death cannot be denied, nor avoided. They are intrinsically involved, leaving one sole option; which is the acceptance of our inexorable fate. Hence the focal point of Hardy's "The Workbox" is indeed the connection between life and death. The author shows the elusive nature of the confines of our lives, as well as the abruptness in which these boundaries intertwine. The author shows the irony, and inevitable disposition of life and death. Showing this connectivity through the symbolism of the timber, the workbox that was established as representing life, and coffin clearly representing death, Hardy has drawn a succinct commentary of the human condition, in all of its complexity. ...read more.

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