When Phyllis, the protagonist, says goodbye to Matthäus Tina, she makes the "melancholy hussar" fittingly melancholy once again. It would not be appropriate for the rest of the story to become happy, and for Matthäus to realize all his dreams of romance and freedom in the Fatherland. This passage, although in sentiment painful for both Matthäus and the reader (as well, of course, as Phyllis), is absolutely necessary to Hardy's working out of the tragic plot. In terms of the plot, this passage marks the turning-point. Phyllis believes that she is doing the right thing by determining to to follow through with her commitment to her so-called fiancˇ (who has actually married someone else), but in fact, as we find out later, her decision proves fatal for Matthäus and his friend Christop, since they are caught and executed as deserters. This passage is necessary for the progression and denouement of their story. The passage also exemplifies Hardy's style--in this short story, as for example, in his novel The Return of the Native, his diction is pessimistic in tone and his view of life fundamentally ironic in his presentation of the "melancholy" hussar. This passage saddens not only Matthäus and Phyllis, but most importantly the reader.


Victorian Web Thomas Hardy Discussion questions

Last modified 29 April 2004