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Thomas Hardy’s marriage to his first wife, Emma, is a famously paradoxical relationship. Although they seem to have been genuinely in love at first, they grew increasingly distant and estranged as the years went by. Eventually they were living in the same house but essentially living different lives. Some biographers believe that Hardy grew tired of Emma’s somewhat superficial personality; others think that there was a decrease in sexual compatibility between them; still others believe that Emma was jealous of Hardy’s appeal to other women. Whatever the “real” explanation(s), their marriage, for much of its existence, was unhappy, even though it is often claimed that they still genuinely loved one another. Indeed, when Emma died, Hardy deeply mourned her loss and wrote many poems expressing his sadness. He even revisited many of the places where they had spent time together.
Is Hardy’s poem “The Convergence of the Twain” in any way related to Hardy’s marriage to Emma? Perhaps by analogy, although the analogy seems strained. The poem, after all, deals with the catastrophic collision between the great ship named The Titanic and the iceberg which sank the ship, leading to the deaths of most of the people it was carrying. Perhaps Hardy, when writing the poem, contemplated the unfortunate fate that brought him and Emma together. Stanza VII may lend itself to such a reading. In that stanza the speaker refers to the Titanic and suggests that the “Immanent Will” (another term for fate)
Prepared a sinister mate
For her — so gaily great —
A Shape of Ice, for the time far and dissociate.
The word “mate” may imply a subconscious allusion to Hardy’s meeting with Emma. Later, referring to the ship and iceberg, the speaker mentions “The intimate welding of their later history.” The word “intimate” might again be read as a subconscious allusion to the relationship between Hardy and his wife, and, to push the argument even further, “welding” might be read as a subconscious distortion of the word “wedding.”
Yet this interpretation seems strained, to say the least. The coming-together of the ship and the iceberg seems related to the coming-together of Hardy and his wife only by a real stretch of the imagination. Certainly this possibility would not have struck most of the initial readers of the poem.
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