The Melancholy Hussar of the German Legion

by

Thomas Hardy

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The Garden Wall Symbol Analysis

The Garden Wall Symbol Icon

The wall at the bottom of the garden of Phyllis and Dr. Grove’s house symbolizes the societal and familial restrictions that keep Phyllis and Matthäus Tina from a life of happiness together. The lovers are kept from each other because of their differences in social class and because of Phyllis’s respectable, if unusually drawn-out, engagement to Humphrey. Though these barriers are intangible, they are made concrete by the garden wall, which stands between them every time they see each other, except on the night of their escape. Until that night, physical contact between the lovers only happens when Tina presses Phyllis’s hand—an act made riskier by the possibility of someone seeing Matthäus Tina’s shadow against the wall.   

When Phyllis’s father, wary of Phyllis’s trysts with the German soldier, commands her never to venture past the garden wall without his permission, the wall becomes a symbol of his control over her. It’s no longer simply a wall between two fields—it’s now the wall that imprisons Phyllis and keeps her from reaching what her heart desires.

However, Hardy implies that the garden wall is perhaps not as sturdy as it might appear—it is built out of rubble without any mortar holding it together, and has many small nooks for Phyllis’s toes to grip as she climbs it. Its fragility and its ability to be climbed suggest that the societal and familial restrictions it symbolizes are similarly fragile, and not altogether insurmountable.

The Garden Wall Quotes in The Melancholy Hussar of the German Legion

The The Melancholy Hussar of the German Legion quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Garden Wall. 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

Ever since her childhood it had been Phyllis’s pleasure to clamber up this fence and sit on the top—a feat not so difficult as it may seem, the walls in this district being built of rubble, without mortar, so that there were plenty of crevices for small toes.

Related Characters: Narrator (speaker), Phyllis Grove
Related Symbols: The Garden Wall
Page Number: 7
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 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:
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The Garden Wall Symbol Timeline in The Melancholy Hussar of the German Legion

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Garden Wall 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
...that neighbors Phyllis’s garden, and she 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... (full context)
Love vs. Societal Expectations Theme Icon
...eyes […] so blue”—out of her mind. So, the next day, she waits by the wall at the same time. This time, the soldier seems to expect her there. When he... (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 is far from fluent in English, Phyllis... (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
...man, and that the 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... (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... (full context)
Part 5
Love vs. Societal Expectations Theme Icon
Secrecy, Rumor, and Storytelling Theme Icon
...down to the bottom of the garden, where she used to meet Tina at the wall. She notices that the grass near the wall has been flattened by her habit, and... (full context)
Love vs. Societal Expectations Theme Icon
While at the garden wall, Phyllis hears unusual noises coming from the military camp. She is shocked to see the... (full context)
Captivity, Restriction, and Escape Theme Icon
Secrecy, Rumor, and Storytelling Theme Icon
Loyalty Theme Icon
...sound of gunfire, rushes out into the garden where he finds Phyllis lying against the wall, unmoving. Phyllis is taken indoors, but remains unconscious for a long time and is not... (full context)