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A Guide to Thomas Hardy’s Poems | Aspects of Narrative

Jonathan Peel | Monday October 03, 2011

Categories: Hot Entries, Poetry, Hardy, Writing, Poetry Analysis, AQA A Level, AQA A Level English Literature B, LITB1

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The following guide would be useful for AQA LITB1, Aspects of Narrative but also for many other A level (and GCSE) units, where Hardy’s poems might be studied.

  • Neutral Tones
  • The Darkling Thrush
  • ­At Castle Boterel
  • ­The Voice
  • ­Drummer Hodge
  • ­In Church
  • ­The Oxen

To many, Hardy is a genius, worthy of the highest respect as a technician in his poetry: a poet able to move his readers deeply often by his portrayal of ordinary people and events, both rendered special by the manner of his telling; to others, his technical ability is never in doubt, but they sometimes see a rather cantankerous, self-obsessed old man – a voyeur undoubtedly, but one whose often pessimistic and morose personality has, they feel, led him to be a bit too quick to wring out the self pity from many an event.

This dichotomy is at the heart of the AQA LITB1 ‘Aspects of Narrative’ course. You need to look not simply at what is being said, but at how the writer presents it. It will help if you keep in mind a neat mnemonic: SLAP (Structure / Setting / Language / Action / People). In ‘Setting’, I include both physical setting and time of day/time passing. Action relates to what actually happens in the poem/novel and ‘People’ to characterisation. Language should be self-explanatory but most particularly includes that special use of language that creates not only meaning, but feeling: language that carries connotations. We will consider several poems in detail later, but before that, some discussion of an biographical nature that will help.

Thomas Hardy | Biography

There are many excellent biographies on the market which you might wish to read, but since we should be aware of Hardy in context, I will give a brief outline here of his life. He was born in 1840 and died in 1928. This long life makes him, quite amazingly, a contemporary of both Charles Dickens and T.S. Eliot, for example – a man who was born in the agricultural world of rural Dorset and...


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