Tuesday, September 28, 2010

"The Oxen" by Thomas Hardy

The tone of this poetic piece was more dismal because it centered around concepts of skepticism and loss of hope. Furthermore, there were also significant allusions to Jesus's birth and the Christian faith within the context of the poem. As a child, the speaker was told by an "Elder" that the oxen would kneel to Jesus at midnight on Christmas Eve because they knew that the child in the manger was special and worthy of respect. Since he was young, he never considered doubting such a wise and trusted individual, but as he grew up he began to lose his belief and become skeptical. Without realizing it, this is what happens to many people as they grow in understanding of the world around them. Eventually, many of their childhood beliefs slip away and are replaced with ones based on concrete facts. Likewise, Hardy linked this theme of the loss of hope in childish superstitions to the general idea of the loss of Christian faith during the time it was written. People had begun to stop believing in God and were questioning the meaing of life. This led to a weaker foundation in the Christian faith altogether. Near the end, Hardy concluded the poem on a much more hopeful note than he began it with. He revealed to the reader that he hoped that one day he would have reason to regain his childhood belief (or regain faith if taken literally) of the oxen kneeling to Jesus on Christmas Eve. He "hoped it might be so" that they in fact truly did kneel in real life. I think that this hope also parallels the speaker's idea of the Christian faith. Along with hoping for the superstition to be correct, he was also hoping for society to regain their belief in God.

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