The Melancholy Hussar of the German Legion


Thomas Hardy

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The Melancholy Hussar of the German Legion Themes

Themes and Colors
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
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Melancholy Hussar of the German Legion, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Captivity, Restriction, and Escape

Phyllis, a solitary young woman who lives in the English countryside, and Matthäus Tina, a German Hussar camped near Phyllis’s home, both find themselves in situations of captivity that cause them to resent and resist their circumstances, to unhappy or even disastrous ends. Phyllis lives in the countryside with her father, Dr. Grove, as his tendency towards solitary meditation has reduced their financial means, and living in a town is no longer…

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Love vs. Societal Expectations

Throughout the story, Phyllis’s own feelings of attraction and desire are constantly at odds with what is expected of her by society. When she becomes engaged to Humphrey, who is from a respectable family and a higher social class, it’s “as if she were going to be taken to heaven” in others’ eyes—despite Humphrey’s inherent, almost indescribable dullness. The lack of romance in this match is clear, and dramatically contrasts with Phyllis’s feelings…

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Gender, Rank, and Power

While Phyllis has very little power over her circumstances, the story demonstrates that the men around her wield more power over theirs. On the rare occasions when Phyllis is able to make a decision about the path of her life, she is still restricted by her overbearing father, her lack of connection, her lack of money, and her status as a woman. When she hears the rumors about Humphrey’s lack of loyalty to her…

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Secrecy, Rumor, and Storytelling

“The Melancholy Hussar” is set 90 years earlier, and the narrator is retelling a version of it that Phyllis told him 20 years ago, when he was 15 years old. Phyllis also tells the narrator that she wishes for her story to be kept a secret until she is “dead, buried, and forgotten.” Furthermore, throughout the story, secrecy and rumor affect many of the decisions Phyllis makes. It is a rumor about Humphrey that causes…

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Phyllis, Humphrey, and Matthäus Tina each struggle with loyalty throughout the story, and their decisions about where they place their loyalty are ultimately what decide their fate. Phyllis is loyal to Humphrey for the first year of their engagement, but when she hears that Humphrey may not be honoring the engagement in the same way, her loyalty to him weakens, and she allows herself to think of Matthäus Tina as her lover. But…

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