Please give a critical analysis of Thomas Hardy's poem "The Going."

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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"The Going" by Thomas Hardy is one of his many poems that he wrote after the death of his first wife, Emma, and his subsequent feelings of loss and grief after she died. The poem begins with the speaker addressing the person who has gone complaining that she never gave him any hint that she was planning on going, and that she was leaving to go "Where I could not follow." The rest of the poem focuses on the speaker's various regrets and sadness that he is now unable to do so many things with her now that she has left. The final stanza reflects on the way in which time goes by and how impossible it is to go back and change anything, leaving us trapped to face the terrible nature of our present:

Well well! All's past amend,

Unchangeable. It must go.

I seem but a dead man held on end

To sink down soon...

The way in which enjambment is used to place emphasis on the word "Unchangeable" stresses that what has passed, no matter how much we wish to change it, is literally impossible to change. The description of the speaker as "a dead man held on end" is something that captures his sadness and depression as we imagine him "sinking" down into his grief and solitude. The last lines reflect that he has become "undone" because of his wife's going in a way that nobody would ever have guessed.

The poem thus centres on the way in which grief can impact us and make us wish we could go back to change the past and say the things we wish we had said and made the most of being with that person before they died. It is a grim testimony to the passing of time and how impossible it is to change what has happened.


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