The Melancholy Hussar of the German Legion


Thomas Hardy

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The Melancholy Hussar of the German Legion: Frame Story 1 key example

Part 1
Explanation and Analysis—Phyllis’s Story:

“The Melancholy Hussar of the German Legion” is an example of a frame story, since it contains a story within a story. At the start, Hardy is telling the story of a middle-aged English man unburdening himself of a secret he has carried for an older woman (Phyllis) since his youth, and, as the story goes on, it morphs into the man’s story itself. Though the man will occasionally speak from a first-person perspective at different points in the story, he all but disappears after “framing” the story in the following way:

Phyllis told me the story with her own lips. She was then an old lady of seventy-five, and her auditor a lad of fifteen. She enjoined silence as to her share in the incident, till she should be “dead, buried, and forgotten.” […] The oblivion which in her modesty and humility she courted for herself has only partially fallen on her, with the unfortunate result of inflicting an injustice upon her memory; since such fragments of her story as got abroad at the time, and have been kept alive ever since, are precisely those which are most unfavourable to her character.

Here, the man explains how he has not shared Phyllis’s story in the decades since she told it to him because she asked that he only do so after she was “dead, buried, and forgotten.” The man also makes it clear that he is interested in telling the full story to avoid “fragments” of her story being used to present her in an “unfavorable” manner. From this language, readers get the sense that the narrator is committed to being loyal to Phyllis even after her death and will present her story in a trustworthy, thorough way.