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Drummer Hodge - Thomas Hardy

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"The main purpose of the poem 'Drummer Hodge' is to provide the memorial the soldier himself never received." To what extent do you agree with this view?

Just from observing the title the reader can already grasp that the poem is about a very young drummer boy in the army who would've been rather innocent and quite unknowing about what he was entering into. Hardy uses a lot of techniques to make the reader feel sympathy for the young boy as he appears to be forgotten about after death with no sense of formality or ritual to his burial. This poem also bring to light, the side of war which isn’t thought about as much and it shows that war isn’t always about fighting and killing but sometimes about remembering.

From just the second word of the poem, Hardy pulls on the reader's heart strings as he uses the verb "throw". This word connotes a very careless and heartless action which seems to be played out with little or no respect. Considering the person is clearly a young child, not only does it make the action appear violent, but it also gives a sense that there is no real formality or ritual about his death, he is just being thrown into a pit to be forgotten about for eternity. The reader evokes more sympathy a few lines later, "That breaks the veldt around." This makes it appear to be very lonely and isolated, as the buried boy is the only break in the landscape for miles around. It further emphasises the idea that this young boy has been left and forgotten about away from civilisation with no real or proper burial and therefore it can be seen that the poem will act as a forever lasting memorial of the boy's life.

The second stanza begins to emphasise the foreignness of the boy and continues to pull on the heart strings of the reader with words such as "Young" and "never knew". The latter of the two shows that the boy died in ignorance and causes the reader to feel sympathetic as the young boy helplessly died in a foreign territory. The idea of foreignness is further emphasised by the juxtaposition of "Wessex" and "Karoo". Having one of these words directly above the other, symbolising the North Hemisphere and the South Hemisphere, creates a contrast which shows just how out of place he really is. Hardy once again emphasises how out of place the boy is, "Strange stars." This implies two different things, firstly it continues the theme and idea of the boy's foreignness and unknowing of the environment, but also by the use of sibilance it adds to a slight droned and melancholic feel of the poem.

The beginning of the third stanza seems to signify a change implied by the word "yet". The poem now starts to reflect on Drummer Hodge's everlasting impact on the environment shown by the words "Will Hodge for ever be." This seems to start a more upbeat side to the poem which is helped by the enjambment of the lines which quickens the line speed. Despite his foreignness being shown once again by the juxtaposition of "Northern" and "Southern" it is used in a rather more positive sense and it implies he has left a physical mark on the landscape in the form of a tree. This suggests that he is going to be transformed; that he is part of the change and most importantly that there will be life as a result of his death. In addition, although he is in this unknown land his has become part of it and owns it emphasised by the fact that the stars are described as being his, "His stars eternally." As the last line of the poem it shows that the stars now belong to him and that this is his new hometown for eternity.

The structure of the poem is also very important to possibly acting as a memorial for the boy. Each stanza is marked with a Roman Numeral which not only gives a sense of formality about the boy's death that he never appropriately got but it also shows that his life wasn't pointless or wasted and that he will be remembered almost forever, maybe not in the form of a headstone but more in the form of a poem.

The way that the poem is written, I very much agree that the poem acts as the memorial Drummer Hodge never had. The structure brings a formality to the death and Hardy evokes a lot of sympathy from the reader for Drummer Hodge and plays very much on the reader’s emotions. At the turning point in the poem, Hardy makes sure that it isn’t sad and gloomy all the way through but makes it rather more cheerful, suggesting to the reader that the boy has left his mark on the landscape physically, even though it might be very isolated, he is still there in his new hometown with his surroundings and ‘his’ stars.…...

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