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“The Going” Essay

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“The Going” by Thomas Hardy begins with the question ‘why’ a question which Hardy is asking as himself about the death of his wife. According to the footnotes this poem is written as eulogy to his first wife Emma, who died in 1912. Her death is sudden to him and he is questioning why he did not see it coming or if he missed any hints she could have given that would have pointed to her impending death. Her passing is described as happening quickly, calmly, and indifferent. Using the words ‘as if’ are key, because that is where he won’t admit that she would leave without telling him and he is protecting himself from having to outright call her indifferent. He doesn’t want to accept that she could be indifferent to her life because that would mean accepting that she was indifferent to him.
The poem never directly mentions her dying, and death is only inferred through such word choices as ‘up and be gone’, ‘wing’, and ‘swallow’ all pointing toward a heavenly departure instead of a physical one. To him this leaving would be the same as her finally ending their marriage and leaving him forever. ‘You would close your term’ leaving in a way that to him feels almost purposeful. The choice of the word ‘term’ makes the reader feel that Hardy did not really know how his wife felt about him and what her place was in his life. He almost views her going as the end of her time with him, and is annoyed she didn’t tell him that she was leaving.
The end of the fourth sentence, however, gives the reader a hint of how he viewed her. The use of the phrase ‘up and be gone’ alludes to his past beliefs that she was a person capable of flight, and if he believed that then she may have given him that hint when they first met. Later in the poem ...


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... life without her to him still remains as some sickening thing, and even in the final stanza he can only view life as an ‘it’, as he cannot access his deepest emotions to come to term with their lost life. He ‘seem[s] but a dead man held on end’, once again he is not in touch with his emotions enough to know whether he is or is not capable of continuing even though he feels his life forces draining out. He wonders if he could ‘sink down soon’, like his wife did, but then he pauses, and blames her again for the discontent her death has caused him. By putting the end-stop after ‘foreseeing’ the author is making us pause to reflect on the fact that nobody could have seen this coming, not even the author, and the sad thing is that Hardy is not talking about the loss of his wife’s life, but instead that no one could have foreseen how that loss was going to affect him.


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