The exploration of Ghosts and Absence in Thomas Hardy’s The Voice and The Haunted
From the first line of The Voice Tomas Hardy reminds the reader that the ghostly nature and presence of ghosts , as well as an underlying faculty of absence, can be expected in his poems. The repetition of the words ‘call to me’ in the first line of The Voice can be cited as the first example of these themes being encountered. The repetition allows an echo, in this case of a particularly haunting nature. This echo is central to the poem and can be linked to the idea of the presence of ghosts within the poem. The tendency for ghosts to appear as real as what they represent and then merge back into thin air can be compared to the nature of echo, starting off strong and fading away, of the words ‘call to me’. The fabricated image that the narrator see’s in his mind, seemingly of Hardy’s deceased wife Emma is present throughout the poem which can be drawn as a parralell to the eternal and indefatigable nature of ghosts.
The image that is illustrated by Hardy can be likened to one of a ghost further, thanks to the diction deployed in line 2 of the poem: ‘now you are not as you were’. As well a potential reference to the change that Hardy reluctantly noticed and felt in the relationship between him and his wife, it can also be interpreted as a reference to the contrast he now feels between the image that confronts him and his memories of her. The confusion that anyone encountering a ghost (a sceptical one that approaches the situation in denial) is evident in the narration, thanks to the rhetorical question ‘can it be you that I hear?’ in line 5.
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A sense of absence is successfully portrayed in the third stanza of The Voice, as a result of Hardy’s highlighting of the contrast between this stanza and the one that precedes it. The second stanza allows the narrator to picture, in detail ( for example the words ‘the original air-blue gown’, in line 8) the image that he so fervently longs for. This is followed by severe bleakeness as a result of the narrators realisation that in reality he is on his own. This allows for the emergence of a sense of absence and loneliness for the narrator, Hardy, as well as a prime example of Hardy using absence to express and develop his point. In this example ,the narrator’s romantic visulisation disappears, and he uses the weather as the reason behind why he incorrectly was under the impression that the image was real.
The bleak outlook onto life at this stage is continued in the final stanza with the use of ‘leaves around me falling’. The sense of loss and absence with the rest of existence, or absense, is actualized to the reader of the poem by Hardy through pathetic fallacy. Hardy allows the bleakeness of the scene that is setm, and the environment in general, to express his feelings regarding Emma and in general about life. An example of the dreary landscape refering to absense and loneliness, the ‘wet mead’ holds obvious connotations to water and tears.
Finally, in regard to The Voice, it can be argued that there are examples in the poem that illustrate the narrators (and Hardy’s) state of mind and in particular the gap between his thoughts and the rest of the world, by successfully using language in a somewhat contradictory and false manner. The first example of this effect is Hardy’s use of the word ‘existlessness’ (and in later versions ‘wistelnessness’), which can be considered a neologism.This lack of existence can be drawn as a a parallel to hardy’s obscure detachment with the world and his thoughts. As well as this, the poet mentions the ‘wind oozing’ which can be considered mysterious and strange considering normally it is only liquids that ooze. This doubles up as another example of how pathetic fallacy is used by the poet to illustrate the absence of the narrator despite being surrounded by nature.
The usage of the aforementioned examples can be considered representations of the frequently deployed yet unique literary technique that Hardy takes advantage of to stress the narrators dearth of realness. Although obscure, it is this remoteness that can most vehemently stress the way that Hardy feels in the poem, as well as being an effective way of accentuation how much he misses his wife and how empty he is without her.