The Convergence of the Twain Questions and Answers
by Thomas Hardy

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What historic event might "The Convergence of the Twain" be referring to? Whose fault was it according to the poet? Explicate the poem to show how the poet gets his theme across.

The historic event that "The Convergence of the Twain" is referring to is the sinking of the Titanic in 1912. The fault for this disaster is attributed mostly to fate but also, in part, to man's overreaching pride.

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Throughout the poem, fate is personified as an omnipotent and malevolent force. In the sixth stanza, the speaker refers to fate as the "Immanent Will that stirs and urges everything." Fate "Prepare[s] a sinister mate" for the Titanic, the "mate" being the iceberg that sinks the ship. The fact that fate prepares the iceberg, intending for it to sink the ship, suggests that fate is malevolent. Later in the poem, fate is referred to again, but this time as "the Spinner of the Years" who says "Now!" With that word, it brings together the iceberg and the ship. The force of the collision, and thus the forcefulness of fate's command, is so powerful as to "jar... two hemispheres."

Elsewhere in the poem, Hardy also suggests that the construction of the Titanic, then the largest cruise ship in the world, was an example of mankind overreaching itself and being too proud and too boastful of its abilities. Indeed, the ship is described scornfully as "this vaingloriousness" and "this creature of cleaving wing." The implication is that fate "prepared" the iceberg as a sort of cruel lesson or reprimand for mankind. Just as Icarus's wings melted when he flew too close to the sun and just as Prometheus was punished by the gods when he gave the gift of fire to mankind, so too the sinking of the Titanic serves as a reminder, courtesy of fate, that mankind should know and respect its limits.

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