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HOW DOES HARDY POWERFULLY CONVEY DISTRESS AND GRIEF IN THIS POEM ?

The Voice by Thomas Hardy was written shortly after the death of his first wife, Emma. As the pain of his loss was very fresh, the poem therefore accentuates abundant distress and grief. Thomas Hardy delivers the gloomy message of loss and sadness through multiple mediums such as the thematic nature of his poem, the devices used as well as the purpose behind writing it. The Voice is above all, famously remembered due to its quality of romanticism even in death. The first line speaks of the central subject of this poem, a woman much missed. This is Emma, Hardys first wife who he married but later became estranged with. The thematic nature of this poem is of love and loss and Hardy is found to be often juxtaposing both of these emotions and bringing them to the same verse. Hardy successfully conveys his estrangement with his wife by juxtaposed disconsolate language such as changed from the one who was all to me as well as as at first, when our day was fair. Also, Hardy frequently mentions the past of his relationship in this poem, drawing upon the happy times with Emma (Even to the original air-blue gown!) to further convey his feelings of grief and loss of both her as well as the happiness of the early times of his marriage. The poet uses the device of juxtaposition effectively to convey his feelings of distress and grief as he brings together the happiness of his marriage and the sadness of his loss to display the shell shocked, broken man he has become. Furthermore, Hardy uses a plethora of imagery to enhance the powerful emotions of distress and grief already present through the simplistic romantic language in The Voice. From the very first stanza to the fourth and final, Hardy speaks in images painting multiple photos of Hardys personal moments and history with Emma in the readers mind. For example, the second stanza talks about a time where Hardy would ride into town to find her in waiting for him, in a beautiful blue dress. Hardy brings this experience up as he believes he hears her voice, calling to him (mentioned in the first stanza). The poem then flows into the third stanza, where Hardy brings himself back into a reality, telling himself that the voice he hears is in fact just a breeze, whispering to the trees in a wet meadow. This literal imagery of trees in a meadow is powerful as the field is empty, and therefore the loudest sound is the wind. This reflects Hardys emotions and state of mind as after the demise of Emma, he feels lost, alone and is still unable to comprehend her passing, therefore imagining her voice. The final stanza also contains imagery, and succeeds in showing Hardy attempting to move on from the passing of his first wife as he shows the audience that he is faltering forward, even if it is just wavering. Moreover, leaves around me falling can be seen as imagery with a deeper meaning the leaves falling around Hardy could be the passing of his marriage, leaving him bare and exposed to the world. This verse can show the vulnerability of Hardy after the passing of Emma. Moreover, there is also personification which is a kind of imagery. Hardy talks about the wind oozing thin as well as earlier, the breeze travelling across the wet mead. This powerfully conveys distress and grief as the readers believe that even though Emma is no longer living, her voice still haunts Hardy like a living ghost. It further succeeds in showing Hardy as a man with a broken soul, who both feels guilt for the estranged relationship he had with his wife, as well as utter shock at her sudden demise.

Moreover, the sounds used in the poem such as alliteration and sibilance also help express distress and grief in The Voice as they help create the atmosphere the poem is set in. There are three examples, two of alliteration and one of sibilance in the poem. The third stanza primarily focuses on using sibilance (listlessness, wistlessness) to help make the imagery of wind playing with fields more realistic as the noises wind makes are similar to that of sibilance. This aids in creating the distress and grief felt in stanza 3, more tangible for the readers. The occurrence of alliteration in line 11 (wan wistlessness), shows the readers what became of Emma as her marriage to Hardy progressed. She became sickly and inattentive which was a cause of guilt for Hardy after her passing which amounted to his grief and distress as well. The alliteration simply helps in creating the effect of her gentle, flowing voice while readers can picture her standing sickly and pale. The alliteration in the final stanza (thin through the thorn) ensures that the first three lines of stanza 4 move smoothly for the reader until it reaches the final verse of the entire poem (And the woman calling). This final verse is essential to the poem and therefore stands out as it speaks of Emma still remaining in Hardys life, even if he moves on. The alliteration is therefore vital in helping to convey the grief of Hardys loss, but also showcasing the space Emma will always have in his heart. Additionally, repetition is a device used in the first stanzas opening verse (call to me, call to me), and this helps bring forth the message of distress and grief, as the readers can see the state of Hardys mind to be confused, shocked and he is therefore found to be repeating phrases while thinking he is hearing Emmas voice. Lastly, the rhyme of the poem also helps in creating a sense of distress and grief. The Voice is, as the title suggests, primarily about how Hardy hears Emmas voice calling out to him, reminding him of their good times and finally, telling him to move on. It is with that subject matter in mind that readers discover that the rhyme scheme is critical in helping create the auditory imagery of Emmas voice and sustaining it throughout the poem. Therefore, the rhyme scheme is regular and definite (ABAB for each stanza) and is one of the key devices Hardy uses to display his emotions of loss in his poem. Sara Mansoor Syed