The Melancholy Hussar of the German Legion


Thomas Hardy

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The Melancholy Hussar of the German Legion: Style 1 key example

Part 3
Explanation and Analysis:

Hardy’s writing style in “The Melancholy Hussar of the German Legion” is lyrical and poetic, full of figurative language meant to engage readers emotionally. These elements of Hardy’s style can be found in the following passage, in which Phyllis reflects on her father’s threat to send her to his sister’s house (to keep her from seeing Matthäus):

The house of her father’s sister was a prison to Phyllis. She had quite recently undergone experience of its gloom; and when her father went on to direct her to pack what would be necessary for her to take, her heart died within her. In after years she never attempted to excuse her conduct during this week of agitation; but the result of her self-communing was that she decided to join in the scheme of her lover and his friend, and fly to the country which he had coloured with such lovely hues in her imagination.

This passage starts with Phyllis metaphorically—and hyperbolically—referring to her aunt’s house as “a prison,” which is followed by another hyperbole, as the narrator describes how Phyllis’s “heart died within her” at the idea of leaving her home. The figurative language here helps readers understand how trapped Phyllis feels and how desperate she is to stay with the man she loves.

As Phyllis decides to run away to Germany with Matthäus, Hardy uses more poetic language, referring to Germany as “the country which [Matthäus] had coloured with such lovely hues in her imagination.” Here, Hardy’s lyricism helps readers shift alongside Phyllis from melancholy to hope. Though the mood of the story changes in this passage (and throughout the story), Hardy’s style remains the same—full of evocative language that helps readers stay close to Phyllis’s emotional state.