The Convergence of the Twainby Thomas Hardy Revision and essay preparation
Introduction • Consider how to write a generalised introduction that you could include in any essay on the poem • What elements must you include for an effective introduction? • 2 minutes to discuss with a partner
Introduction • “‘The Convergence of the Twain’ is a poem written by Thomas Hardy in the aftermath of the Titanic disaster. In the first five stanzas, the poet imagines the great ship lying at the bottom of the ocean. He then explains that as the ship was being built, its fate was already being determined: the iceberg that would destroy it was also taking shape in the North Atlantic. The inevitable collision between the two takes place in the final two stanzas.”
Introduction (cont.) • This is a nice succinct summary of what happens in the poem and, connected with some reference to the specific question posed, would be a very effective beginning to an essay about the poem.
Themes • Can we remember the main themes considered in the poem? • Suggestions… • An ironic condemnation of human vanity perhaps? • A comment on the Victorian preoccupation with technological advancement: ‘the Pride of Life that planned her’
Themes 2 • What about ‘the Immanent Will’? What does this mean? • The poem seems to view Fate as the power behind all things. • What could you quote from the poem to support this idea?
Techniques • Irony – The contrasts of the opening stanzas emphasise the ironic end of the Titanic: ‘grotesque, slimed, dumb, indifferent’ sharply contrasted with ‘Jewels in joy designed/To ravish the sensuous mind’ • Juxtaposition – the irony is supported by this technique of ramming contrasts sharply into one another…other examples??
Techniques 2 • Alliteration – ‘bleared and black and blind’ the dull thud of the alliterative ‘b’ sound mirrors the muted darkness of the deep. ‘consummation comes’ a juddering effect which mirrors the shock and unpleasantness of the crash • Counterpoint – the poem is clearly divided into two main sections. The first, describing the opulence of the ship juxtaposed with the ‘grotesqueness’ of the depths is balanced with its ironic counterpoint, the iceberg being formed. The ship’s ominous opposite!
Techniques 3 • Word Choice – The counterpoint, irony and juxtaposition is eminently supported by strong and vivid word choice. The ship is described as ‘opulent’, designed to ‘ravish’. It’s ‘gilded’. When the iceberg is introduced, the tone noticeably shifts. This is evidenced in the menacing word choice: ‘sinsiter’, ‘dissociate’, ‘shadowy silent’.
Techniques 4 • The ambiguous nature of the poem’s themes and ideas is reflected in the double meanings of some of the word choice too: • ‘smart’- stylish, fashionable’ and ‘stinging, painful’ • ‘bent’ on collision; ‘bent’ can mean either ‘determined, self-willed’ or ‘directed by an external force’. • ‘paths coincident’; coincident can mean ‘occurring together’ (brought about by individual actions) or ‘in agreement’ (indicating an underlying unity or plan). • anon’ which can mean ‘soon’ or ‘in unity’
Techniques 5 • Extended Metaphor - marriage is alluded to throughout the last five stanzas. In stanza seven the iceberg is described as a ‘sinister mate’. The poem goes on to predict their ‘intimate welding’, a rather aggressive and unpleasant play on the word ‘wedding’. The ship and the iceberg are then described as ‘twin halves of one august event’ which achieve ‘consummation’. If there is a link between the Immanent Will and human actions, then the title of the poem signifies not just the collision of two things but the catastrophic union of vanity and fate.
Techniques 6 • Metrical features – The rhythmic precision of the poem has a dual purpose: • It emulates the perfectionism of the ships engineering and therefore represents the vanity which built the Titanic, the human vanity literally alluded to. • It also represents the unstoppable nature of the ship moving through the waves, of the waves crashing softly against the hull. • This forward movement is rapidly stopped by the caesura of ‘Now!’ effectively mimicking the inevitable collision. • The word ‘jars’ as well as it’s literal meaning also ‘jars’ with the rhyming scheme of ‘hears’ and ‘hemispheres’
Ambiguity • Did human beings bring this disaster on themselves through there terrible vanity, somehow angering the forces of fate, or was the sinking of the ship the result of Necessity, or was it simple coincidence? It seems that the poem maybe raising the question of whether human beings make their own history or whether it is shaped by external forces. The poem is ambiguous.
Essay Questions • How can you now mould your knowledge of the poem to fit with the questions posed? Choose a poem in which there is a noticeable change of mood at one or more than one point in the poem. Show how the poet conveys the change of mood and discuss the importance of the change to the central idea of the poem.
Essay Questions 2 • Choose a poem in which there is a sinister atmosphere or person or place. Show how the poet evokes this sinister quality and discuss how it adds to your appreciation of the poem.
Essay Questions 3 • Choose a poem in which contrast is important in developing theme. Explore the poet’s use of contrast and show why it is important in developing a key theme of the poem.