The Melancholy Hussar of the German Legion

by

Thomas Hardy

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Matthäus Tina/German Hussar/Soldier Character Analysis

Matthäus Tina is a soldier in the German Legion who forms a connection—first friendly, then romantic—with Phyllis when the Legion is posted nearby. He is deeply homesick for the part of Germany he is from, a town called Saarbrück, where his mother still lives. Tina meets Phyllis when he walks past her garden wall, dressed in the stiff, ornate military garb that distinguishes him as a foreign soldier and seeming melancholy and withdrawn. When he sees Phyllis sitting on the wall in a low-cut dress, he blushes and walks on silently, demonstrating the same shyness that Phyllis shares. Over the following days, however, Tina walks the same way, having gradually longer conversations with Phyllis and sharing with her his homesickness and his resentment at being posted to England. Eventually, he tells her his plan to escape to Germany and asks her to join him. Tina knows the dangers of the plan—if he’s caught, he’ll be punished as a deserter—but he’s so desperate to return to his home and his mother, he’s willing to accept those risks. Once he has made his plans to escape—along with Phyllis and his friend, Christoph—he becomes more reckless. At one point, he stays to talk to Phyllis even after the military camp closes, at risk of demotion, because he prioritizes his loyalty and love for Phyllis over his military status. On the night of the escape, when Phyllis explains to him her decision to stay in England, Tina does not attempt to persuade her otherwise. His respect for her decision leads him to put aside his own desires, and his loyalty to Christoph, who is waiting at the harbor with the escape boat, means he must continue his plan without her. Ultimately, that loyalty leads to his death, after he and Christoph, along with two other soldiers who also decided to escape, are caught in Jersey and punished for desertion. Tina and Christoph take the blame for the escape, saving the other two soldiers and guaranteeing themselves capital punishment. Matthäus Tina dies in England, the place he was so desperate to escape, and is buried in the churchyard in an unmarked grave, next to Christoph’s grave, and eventually Phyllis’s, too.

Matthäus Tina/German Hussar/Soldier Quotes in The Melancholy Hussar of the German Legion

The The Melancholy Hussar of the German Legion quotes below are all either spoken by Matthäus Tina/German Hussar/Soldier or refer to Matthäus Tina/German Hussar/Soldier. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Captivity, Restriction, and Escape Theme Icon
).
Part 2 Quotes

Phyllis used to say that his English, though not good, was quite intelligible to her, so that their acquaintance was never hindered by difficulties of speech. Whenever the subject became too delicate, subtle, or tender, for such words of English as were at his command, the eyes no doubt helped out the tongue, and—though this was later on—the lips helped out the eyes. In short this acquaintance, unguardedly made, and rash enough on her part, developed and ripened.

Page Number: 8
Explanation and Analysis:

The stone wall of necessity made anything like intimacy difficult; and he had never ventured to come, or to ask to come, inside the garden, so that all their conversation had been overtly conducted across this boundary.

Related Symbols: The Garden Wall
Page Number: 9
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 3 Quotes

Phyllis had not the smallest intention of disobeying him in her actions, but she assumed herself to be independent with respect to her feelings. She no longer checked her fancy for the Hussar, though she was far from regarding him as her lover in the serious sense in which an Englishman might have been regarded as such. The young foreign soldier was almost an ideal being to her, with none of the appurtenances of an ordinary house-dweller; one who had descended she knew not whither; the subject of a fascinating dream—no more.

Page Number: 10
Explanation and Analysis:

“My dear friend, please do forget me: I fear I am ruining you and your prospects!”

“Not at all!” said he. “You are giving this country of yours just sufficient interest to me to make me care to keep alive in it. If my dear land were here also, and my old parent, with you, I could be happy as I am, and would do my best as a soldier. But it is not so.”

Related Characters: Phyllis Grove (speaker), Matthäus Tina/German Hussar/Soldier (speaker)
Page Number: 12
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 4 Quotes

Without him her life seemed a dreary prospect, yet the more she looked at his proposal the more she feared to accept it—so wild as it was, so vague, so venturesome. She had promised Humphrey Gould, and it was only his assumed faithlessness which had led her to treat that promise as nought. His solicitude in bringing her these gifts touched her; her promise must be kept, and esteem must take the place of love. She would preserve her self-respect. She would stay at home, and marry him, and suffer.

Page Number: 15
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 5 Quotes

The spot at the bottom of the garden where she had been accustomed to climb the wall to meet Matthäus, was the only inch of English ground in which she took any interest; and in spite of the disagreeable haze prevailing she walked out there till she reached the well-known corner. […] She observed that her frequent visits to this corner had quite trodden down the grass in the angle of the wall, and left marks of garden soil on the stepping-stones by which she had mounted to look over the top. Seldom having gone there till dusk, she had not considered that her traces might be visible by day.

Related Symbols: The Garden Wall
Page Number: 18-19
Explanation and Analysis:

Their graves were dug at the back of the little church, near the wall. There is no memorial to mark the spot, but Phyllis pointed it out to me. While she lived she used to keep their mounds neat; but now they are overgrown with nettles, and sunk nearly flat. The older villagers, however, who know of the episode from their parents, still recollect the place where the soldiers lie. Phyllis lies near.

Page Number: 21
Explanation and Analysis:
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Matthäus Tina/German Hussar/Soldier Character Timeline in The Melancholy Hussar of the German Legion

The timeline below shows where the character Matthäus Tina/German Hussar/Soldier appears in The Melancholy Hussar of the German Legion. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 2
Gender, Rank, and Power Theme Icon
...watches him from where she sits on the garden wall. Phyllis is surprised by the soldier’s melancholic expression. Until now, she’d thought that military men were generally happy people. As the... (full context)
Love vs. Societal Expectations Theme Icon
Phyllis thinks about the soldier all day. She can’t get his face—“so striking, so handsome, and his eyes […] so... (full context)
Captivity, Restriction, and Escape Theme Icon
Love vs. Societal Expectations Theme Icon
Loyalty Theme Icon
Phyllis and the soldier continue to converse over the garden wall in the following days. Though the German soldier... (full context)
Part 3
Captivity, Restriction, and Escape Theme Icon
Love vs. Societal Expectations Theme Icon
Gender, Rank, and Power Theme Icon
Secrecy, Rumor, and Storytelling Theme Icon
Loyalty Theme Icon
...engagement is intact. He tells Phyllis he has noticed her garden wall conversations with Matthäus Tina, and he suspects she’s looking for an excuse to keep leading the soldier on. He... (full context)
Love vs. Societal Expectations Theme Icon
Gender, Rank, and Power Theme Icon
...she believes herself in control of her own feelings and lowers her guard against Matthäus Tina. They meet almost every day at dusk, and she notices him becoming more tender and... (full context)
Love vs. Societal Expectations Theme Icon
Gender, Rank, and Power Theme Icon
Loyalty Theme Icon
The next night, Phyllis does not appear at the wall at the usual time. Matthäus Tina waits for her even after the trumpets have sounded to signal the closing of camp.... (full context)
Captivity, Restriction, and Escape Theme Icon
Love vs. Societal Expectations Theme Icon
Gender, Rank, and Power Theme Icon
Loyalty Theme Icon
The next time Phyllis sees Matthäus Tina, he has been demoted from corporal to private for his late return to camp. Phyllis... (full context)
Captivity, Restriction, and Escape Theme Icon
Love vs. Societal Expectations Theme Icon
...sense of belonging in this part of the countryside, she does not immediately resist Matthäus Tina’s plan. He shares more details with her: the regiment will soon be leaving the area,... (full context)
Captivity, Restriction, and Escape Theme Icon
Love vs. Societal Expectations Theme Icon
Soon, however, Phyllis’s father confronts Phyllis about her meetings with Matthäus Tina, and tells her she’ll be going to stay at her aunt’s house until the York... (full context)
Part 4
Captivity, Restriction, and Escape Theme Icon
One night the following week, Phyllis, Matthäus Tina, and Christoph make their escape. The plan is for Tina to meet Phyllis at the... (full context)
Love vs. Societal Expectations Theme Icon
Secrecy, Rumor, and Storytelling Theme Icon
Loyalty Theme Icon
Phyllis is hiding behind a fence on the highway, waiting for Matthäus Tina, when a stage-coach comes down the hill and stops a few yards away from her.... (full context)
Captivity, Restriction, and Escape Theme Icon
Love vs. Societal Expectations Theme Icon
Loyalty Theme Icon
Phyllis suddenly realizes that her behavior—her relationship with Tina and her plan to escape—will be seen as a great scandal. She regrets believing the... (full context)
Captivity, Restriction, and Escape Theme Icon
Love vs. Societal Expectations Theme Icon
Gender, Rank, and Power Theme Icon
Phyllis watches Matthäus Tina walking away and eventually meeting Christoph further down the highway. She is tempted for a... (full context)
Part 5
Love vs. Societal Expectations Theme Icon
Gender, Rank, and Power Theme Icon
Loyalty Theme Icon
...him. Phyllis is relieved by this news. She wants to confide in Humphrey about Matthäus Tina but knows she must not—especially because keeping his escape a secret will grant him more... (full context)
Love vs. Societal Expectations Theme Icon
Secrecy, Rumor, and Storytelling Theme Icon
Phyllis returns home, halfheartedly regretting her decision not to leave with Matthäus Tina. Wrapped up in her sadness, she doesn’t leave the house for a few days. One... (full context)
Love vs. Societal Expectations Theme Icon
...coffins. A procession advances while the army band plays a death march; Phyllis sees two soldiers in a mourning coach along with two priests. The two men are blindfolded and made... (full context)
Captivity, Restriction, and Escape Theme Icon
Loyalty Theme Icon
It transpires that Matthäus Tina and Christoph made it to the boat, but navigated to Jersey instead of France in... (full context)