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Poetic Methods Hardy Uses to Evoke Distinctive Settings in His Poem

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Referring closely to 2 poems, discuss the poetic methods Hardy uses to evoke distinctive settings in his poem. Thomas Hardy’s ‘The Ruined Maid’ is a poem about a young woman named Amelia who meets her old friend, and character foil, in town from her old life in the rural areas. As the poem progresses, with her friend making contrasting comparisons between how Amelia was and how she is now, we begin to realize that she had traded in her virtues to have, ironically at that era, a better life. Hardy evokes distinctive settings in the poem through his use of language and linguistics. Hardy’s ‘The Darkling Thrush’ is a desolate poem about a man who leans against his gate and cogitates on the human world. The poem explores the hopelessness of humanity as we progress through the poetry of Hardy’s dark mind and the question that follows: Is there hope? Through his clever use of sound devices and figurative language, Hardy successfully and subtly establishes a setting for his poem.

In ‘The Ruined Maid’, Amelia’s friend had mentioned terms such as “thik oon”, “theas oon” and “t’other”, words that are a regional dialect most commonly linked to the country life, which suggests that Amelia had previously lived in the rural areas before she came to “Town”. Another example that reinforces this thought is the differing ways of how Amelia and her friend speak. It is obvious, as her friend says “prosperi-ty” and “’ee” that Amelia is more sophisticated in the manner in which she speaks, suggesting how much Amelia has changed since leaving the ‘barton’ or farm. It also reinforces the idea of Amelia’s country life. Through his use of word choices, Hardy not only sets up Amelia’s previous life at the farm, but also her current life in the urban area. In ‘The Darkling Thrush’, imagery plays a very important role in the location of the poem. The frost is “spectre-gray”, which suggests the eeriness of the scene as well as establishing the dullness of the landscapes before him. Another example of such dreariness in the poem is when the poet says “Winter’s dregs made desolate”. Since dregs are the grainy things left at the bottom of a cup of coffee, it can be assumed that Hardy intentionally describes the winter scene as grubby, unlike the usual sceneries of winter of warm fires and beautiful snow.

Through this, Hardy establishes the depressing scene before him that not only reflects this poem as a whole, but also his mind. Throughout the poem, ‘The Ruined Maid’ has had many phrases with suggestive meanings attached, usually as an attempt of Hardy’s to establish a setting. Before Amelia left the countryside, her friend claims that she had previously been “digging potatoes” and “spudding up docks”, suggesting that both women belonged to a low social class. Moreover, her friend describes old Amelia as being in “tatters” and “without shoes or socks”, strengthening the idea of Amelia’s low class that she couldn’t afford proper clothes. Her friend had even said that Amelia’s “hands were like paws”, suggesting that she had been working on the ground so much so that she resembled an animal. In this, Hardy uses simple words to establish the two young women’s social class in society. Hardy makes use of sound devices in ‘The Darkling Thrush’ to also set up the scenery before us. The harsh sounding alliteration of the letter ‘c’ in “crypt…cloudy canopy”, suggests a cold icy ground being trawled upon. The sound could also suggest one of choking, enhancing the idea of death in the poem while simultaneously setting a foreboding mood. Another example is the alliteration ‘b’ in “blast-beruffled”. The plosive consonants help to reinforce the idea of a strong wind coming at the scene.

Thus the location Hardy has set up is one that is not only frozen in place, but also having occasional howling of the wind which aids in setting up the eeriness of the poem. The era of ‘The Ruined Maid’ is also explored through Hardy’s use of pronouns and word choices. Amelia’s friend mentions that Amelia had had to address everyone with “thee” and “thou”, suggesting not only the rural dialect once again but also the era in which this took place; The Victorian Age. Words such as “garments” and “ruined” are also linked to this era. Thus, Hardy reinforces the idea of the era of Queen Victoria as the time in which this poem had taken place. The time in ‘The Darkling Thrush’ is also explored, though not as obvious as in ‘The Ruined Maid’. There are quite a few instances in the poem of points of transition, the most noticeable being the symbolic “coppice gate”, the boundary between the poet’s house and the outside world. Another example is in “the weakening eye of day”, another midpoint, between day and night.

The point of transition in the poem help to reinforce the time this poem took place, December 1900, both the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century. Through this Hardy strengthens the time in which this poem had taken place. Hardy uses Amelia’s name in the poem to reinforce his idea of her transformation. When Amelia’s friend meets her she instantly clips Amelia’s name to ‘melia, which in Latin means ‘rival’, suggesting her character foil’s jealousy to how well Amelia is doing. The clipped name could also be a reference to ‘Melior’, which means to do better. This suggests that Amelia’s welfare had improved since moving to Town and her friend’s envy at that fact. Hardy again uses imagery to describe the dead landscape before him. He mentions the land’s “sharp” features, suggesting an image of leafless branches. The absence of leaves is also explored in “tangled bine stems”, inferring the dead scenery before him. Through this, Hardy sets up a depressing scenery of death and lifelessness. The two poems are similar in that the contents of the poem reinforce the time and place that Hardy has set up, however, the two differ in their methods: While ‘The Ruined Maid’ makes use of linguistics, ‘The Darkling Thrush’ makes use of figurative language. Thus Hardy successfully evokes distinctive settings in these two poems.

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