In this poem written by Thomas Hardy, we can almost predict what the meaning and the tone will be like. Not unlike his other famous poems, Hardy used fatalistic phrases that portrayed his attitude towards death and mortality. He rejected the Victorian belief in a benevolent God, and much of his poetry is viewed as an outcry for the misery of the human condition and their final fate, death. Hardy starts the poem with a very patronizing attitude towards women, writing “See, here´s the workbox, little wife”; this is probably the view of women when the poem was written. This is Hardy´s way of introducing the characters, stating that the husband and wife are completely different, not only in their backgrounds, but also in their attitudes towards death. This is one of the only bits of the poem that is written as narrative instead of dialogue.
In the second stanza, Hardy starts the actual story of the poem. He holds the present up to her as with a smile she nears and answers to the proffered, ´Twill last all my sewing years!´´ By writing the last line, Hardy wants to emphasize that his wife is a little anxious, and the way she is saying it is typical of someone when they´re in denial.
Dramatic irony plays a very important part in molding the tone and theme of the poem. In that, very sense the husband himself can be compared with Oedipus who literally brought his own destruction upon him. Knowingly or unknowingly, the husband gifted his wife the box, which came from the same tree as the coin of wife’s lover – John Wayward. Her husband told her that the wood of the box was a remnant of the coin of her lover, John Wayward and that he labored on that box. This sense of dramatic irony is relevant throughout the poem that without having the knowledge the husband did something, which had a much implication or will have a much bigger effect on their married life.
Reading the poem one understands things never thought about before. Someone can understand the plot of the poem in such way: the wife of the main character came from a different town, where she loved John Wayward. Her husband killed John because of rage, anger, and jealousy. Then he made a wooden box as a gift for her, thus, this box reminded her about the great love to John Wayward that did not die, but always will exist. The ending of the story tells it clearly. Another one can understand in the other direct: wife was in love with John Wayward; she waited, but then moved the city, where she married a new guy. Next John Wayward dies. Her husband brought her a box made from the same material as the John Wayward’s grave. Thus, the ending depicts that this box will always remind her that she killed a man she loved. The situations are not said through the poem, so that the reader may imagine and understand as he or she wants. Hope you enjoyed going through The Workbox Tone by Thomas Hardy.
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