Pessimism in Thomas Hardy’s The Darkling Thrush

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Pessimism in Thomas Hardy’s The Darkling Thrush Thomas Hardy’s writings are often imbued with pessimism, and his poem “The Darkling Thrush” is not an exception. Through the bleakness of the landscape, the narrator’s musings on the century’s finale, and the narrator’s reaction to the songbird, “The Darkling Thrush” reveals Hardy’s preoccupation with time, change, and remorse. Written in four octaves, “A Darkling Thrush” opens with a view of a desolate winter landscape. With “spectre-grey” frost covering everything in sight (line 2), all joyful colours and sounds are smothered with an intangible film of bleakness. This gloominess is not to be dispersed, for the imagery of “Winter’s dregs” suggests that there exists a residue of the year’s melancholy (3). The burden of the word “dregs” creates a caesura, and the heaviness of the poem is reinforced with alternating lines of iambic tetrameters and iambic trimeters. The tangled bine-stems that scored the sky (5) and “the land’s sharp features” (9) move the miasmal pessimism to a more sharply defined pain that is intensified with the alliteration in “his crypt the cloudy canopy” (11). The “bleak twigs overhead” (18) cast a sharp image of bars stretching across the sky, embracing the gloominess in Hardy’s world. Reflecting the narrator’s sense of perceptions, the dreary landscape mirrors the narrator’s depression and projects his emotions into solid images. An occasional poem, “A Darkling Thrush” depicts the setting of one century and the birth of another through the narrator’s eyes. Leaning perhaps wearily on the coppice gate, the narrator observes how even the people that haunt the land like soulless wanderers (7) return to their homes where brightly shine their fires, a ... ... middle of paper ... ...llest cause for hope. The thrush’s exuberance seeps into the narrator’s life for a brief moment, revealing to him a life lived to the fullest, yet the narrator remains unconvinced and melancholy. Submerging “The Darkling Thrush” in a dreary landscape devoid of life and colour, Thomas Hardy is able to weave pessimism into his work, providing a core of bleak emotions for his narrator, who sees no hope for the empty society he lives in. Even when he catches a glimpse of cheerfulness from an old thrush, the narrator declares his personal plight excluded from the possible causes of joy. With all signs of hope criticized as being absurd, Thomas Hardy’s “The Darkling Thrush” conveys a purely pessimistic view. Work Cited Hardy, Thomas, “The Darkling Thrush.” 1900. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. 7th ed. 2 vols. New York: Norton, 2000. 2: 1935-1936.

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