Tone, Rhyme, and Irony in Thomas Hardy's the workbox - Essay Example

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Though there are many literary elements, Hardy focuses on three in his poem. Through tone, rhyme, and irony, Thomas Hardy exposes the uncertain intentions and…
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Tone, Rhyme, and Irony in Thomas Hardys the workbox
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Carly Shaw Composition 1302 March 24, Paper 2 Thomas Hardy’s “The Workbox” is a narrative poem that portrays an ironical situation between a manand his wife. Though there are many literary elements, Hardy focuses on three in his poem. Through tone, rhyme, and irony, Thomas Hardy exposes the uncertain intentions and honesty between the man and his wife. The poem tells of a husband who has constructed a workbox as a gift to his wife, and by using the extra wood from a coffin made for a man supposedly unknown to both the man and wife, the husband tries to force something out of his wife. Something she cannot fess up to.
The tone of the poem is set as aggressive and menacing in the first line of the poem with the forceful and demeaning words, “See, here’s the workbox, little wife,” (Hardy 374). The opening words of the poem, where the husband greets his wife, are seemingly innocent enough unless the reader close reads and notices an almost overpowering sense of control. The husband’s intentions were never to give a gift to his wife, but a reminder of an issue she has caused for him. The overall tone can be mistaken for a happy and light conversation between the man and his wife until further read into, when the reader can tell there is a hidden fact they both know of. The narrator announces in the aggressive tone that he has made something for his wife to take a look at. In the following stanza, it is revealed that the workbox the narrator constructed of polished oak is a present to his wife. Gifts signify gratitude and rewarding. However, the tone in which the husband opens to present his wife with the gift is aggressive and angry in its tone. The combined tone of anger and control shows that the giving of the gift is ironical because it is not a present the husband gives in joy and thankfulness to his wife.
A sense of irony comes into play in the first stanza when the tone set by the first two lines is taken into consideration. The aggressive tone of the opening words along with the context that the rest of the stanza carries is enough to reveal a large amount of ironic quality.“ ‘See, here’s the workbox, little wife, that I made of polished oak.’ He was joiner, of village life, She came from borough folk” Throughout the rest of the poem we learn details about the source of the materials and the wife’s past life which reveal the nature of the relationship through the real intentions of the husband and his wifes silence. Throughout the poem, irony intertwines in the theme to show that a gift from a loved one can be an act that is meant to cover anger, malice, and control.
Hardy’s poem on the surface is about a seemingly loving yet dense husband who gives his wife a handmade workbox as a gift, which he has crafted out of the remnants of a coffin he has just completed. The wife happily accepts the gift which she believes is given out of love, but is shocked and frightened when she learns of its origin. The husband with fake innocence tells his wife the name of the owner of the coffin, John Wayward, who is now buried, but he tells her only after she cheerfully accepts the gift to get a reaction from her. Hardy uses literary devices such as rhyme, tone, and irony to portray the heated and secretive lives of these unnamed people.
Thomas Hardy’s “The Workbox” is a ten-stanza poem with four lines making up each verse, qualifying the poem as a quatrain. According to Watkins “a quatrain is a poem consisting of four lines of a verse with a specific rhyming scheme with the first and third lines rhyming and second and fourth rhyming” (Watkins 80).Hardy utilizes alternating rhymes in each of the stanzas in the poem. Hardy utilizes a rhyme scheme ABAB in “The Workbox” where the first line and the third lines rhyme (As) and second and fourth also rhyme (Bs). For instance, in the verse:
“‘The shingled pattern that seems to cease
Against your box’s rim
Continues right on in the piece
That’s underground with him.”
An alternating rhyme scheme pattern ABAB is evident. Hardy uses this rhyme pattern in all the stanzas of the poem. The alternating rhymes in each stanza are made up of tetrameters (A) as well as trimesters (B). The poem is basically a direct speech with very swift flow. However, Hardy’s rhymes are a bit less forceful. The lines in the stanzas of the poem are not end stopped, which makes the rhymes more obvious. Hardy uses enjambment technique in the above stanza, where he uses no terminal punctuation. This de-emphasizes rhyming lines. The use of rhyming words at the end of eat stanza in the poem makes it me memorable. The alternating pattern of rhymes in the stanzas clarifies to the audience the metrical structure of the poem. Generally, the rhyme pattern in the poem helps in identifying the form used as a quatrain because of the four rhyming lines for every stanza in the entire poem.
Works Cited
Hardy, Thomas. The works of Thomas Hardy: with an introduction and bibliography. Hertfordshire: Wordsworth poetry library, 1995. Print.
Watkins, Samuel T. Whispers from My Heart: Poems and Inspirations. Bloomington, IN: Author House, 2010.Print. Read More
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