Thomas Hardy’s Pessimism Essay

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Thomas Hardy’s Pessimism The very meaning of being pessimistic is that of being opposite of optimistic – a lack of hope and a tendency to see the worst aspects of things. Most of Thomas Hardy’s work is rather pessimistic and some would say his philosophy is built around that. However, Hardy always argued against his critics from being a pessimist – he called himself a “meliorist” and a realist. The meaning of being a meliorist is the idea of being between metaphysical optimism and pessimism. The metaphysical optimism is the small vision of hope that we can see in some of his work. People call him a pessimist because there is a great sense of gloominess and despair in his poetry and novels. As seen in his poem “The Darkling Thrush”, the whole outlook for the speaker is rather depressing. In the beginning of the poem, he is leaning against a gate staring out into a gloomy gray winter. The desolate dregs represent gray snow – nothing like a snow white Christmas: I lent upon a coppice gate When Frost was spectre-gray, And Winter’s dregs made desolate The weakening eye of day. Hardy uses a variety of words indicating death and decay, such as “corpse” (10), “crypt” (11), and “death-lament” (12), all which seem pessimistic. Hardy’s pessimism increases as he references the earth being unfertile and how life is as dull as himself: The ancient pulse of germ and birth Was shrunken hard and dry And every spirit upon earth Seemed fervourless as I. The poem then shifts from being pessimistic to having a small ray of hope and optimism. There is a small bird that sings “in a full-hearted evensong” (19) “upon the growing gloom” (24). Hardy uses the nature of a birdsong to bring about a vision of hope and uses the reflections of his surroundings to imitate a dark and depressing world. There is no reason for the bird to be singing but the bird seems to have
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