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A Wife in London vs Manhunt – Passing of Time 


Both poems A wife in London and The Manhunt evoke the theme of time passing to emphasise their more dominant themes. Both authors achieve this in different ways mainly by varying the flow of the syntax and utilizing emotive language to evoke imagery of the effects of war. Unlike some of the other poems, these demonstrate the psychological effects on not just the soldiers, but their loved ones as well. 


Thomas Hardy presents us with an anonymous Wife waiting for her husband to return in  the ominous London streets. “Tawny vapour” presents us with the image of a slow moving fog. The imagery of the fog moving slowly demonstrates time passing representing that her life is meaningless without her husband. The passing of time is further evoked in the imagery of the Waning taper, a diminishing candle. This elicits the idea that time is passing slowly as to notice a candle getting smaller she must just be sat alone for a long time as it diminishes very slowly. This could be symbolic of the light of her life coming closer to disappearing. 


The Partial oxymoron of ‘glimmers cold’ also communicates the effects of war. Glimmer is a verb normally describing positive light and the fact it is glimmering cold shows that it is going out and not igniting which is ironic and similar to the whole poem, it is ironic in the sense that it is bitter sweet, we hear of all his hopes and dreams to be reunited with his wife after find out that her husband has died , like the way we find out the lamp has gone out after it has glimmered. 


The long syllables in the first stanza “tawny” and “waning” also elicit the slow passing of time and the present tense evokes the feeling of the story unfolding in front of us which makes it more emotional and as if we are in the same time as her. 


The pace is then juxtaposed by the next stanza with the short syllables and the adjective ‘flashed’ demonstrating the new energy and speed of the poem which emphasises the severity of the news. The change in pace shows that time is moving faster for her emulating how overwhelmed she is feeling by the devastating news of her husband’s death. 

The onomatopoeia of the knock cracking smartly indicates the lack of sensitivity from the government and highlights the brutality of war, as if it is a casual occurrence. Time passing is further demonstrated in the second stanza, because it talks of the next day and the fog hanging thicker showing that her grief has worsened. 


Also, the light-hearted short syllabled alliteration of “brake and burn” contrasts to the devastation we are made aware of in the second stanza it also sounds energetic and fast moving which generates sympathy for the woman and a level of enmity for the war and its pitiless nature. 


The Manhunt also shows the devastating effects of war using the passing of time to highlight it. Repetition of ‘only then’ shows it is a slow process of her trying to rediscover and reconnect with her husband as he battles with PTSD from the Bosnian war. The poem is initially structured in rhyming couplets. Then the poem loses its rhyme scheme which reflects the struggle of her journey to reconnect with him. It is almost as if time passes slower when the rhyme scheme is lost.  Simon Armitage also deploys a semantic field of faulty things used for travel to contrast with the very slow progress she is making to find him as time passes “parachute silk of his punctured lung” “fractured rudder” A parachute or a boat do not work when they are broken, demonstrating how long it is taking her to reconnect with him. Furthermore, the “metaphor foetus of metal” suggests that his pain will be with him for the rest of time and that he can’t escape it. The amount of desperation and inexorable effort the woman has put into this man and the length of time it has taken her to even come close to reconnecting with him serve to emphasise the lasting and scaring effects of warfare. 

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