The speaker reflects back to a particular moment in their life when they realized that the love had died between them and the person they were in a relationship with. They consider what this moment has meant to them since.

Ideas and Themes:

  • Death
  • Memory/ Nature

Structure:

  • The first 3 stanzas are a specific memory, but time jumps to the final stanza when love is reflected in general.
  • The poem ends where it began with an image of a pond. The cyclical structure shows how he’s been repeatedly hurt since that first day. Experiences will always lie with him.

Form:

  • Written from man’s point of view addressing a past lover
  • First and last lines of each stanza rhyme reflecting how a past memory returns to him
  • The indented final line of each stanza slows down the pace by creating a pause- this hints at his sadness of the relationship failing and not working out his way

Language:

  • “We stood by a pond that winter day”– Lack of physical movement in “stood” contributes to the lifeless atmosphere. “Winter” reflects the cold emotions between them.
  • “Sun was white as though chidden by God”– Sun has been drained of color reflects how love was drained from their relationship. “Chidden” possibly shows how God has scolded the sun which adds to the bleak mood and hints narrator always sees the negatives in life.
  • “Starving Sod”- Alliteration and personification emphasize imagery of suffering. Lifeless ground presents the dyeing relationship.
  • “Eyes that rove, over” Enjambment shows how eyes move over his face. The words sound similar which shows the boredom she felt in the relationship
  • “Tedious riddles…Words played…which lost” Game imagery shows how relationships are supposed to fun and challenging but their one isn’t
  • “Smile on your mouth was the deadest thing”. Oxymoron shows lack of feeling and emotion
  • “Alive enough to have the strength to die”– shows how she let the relationship die.
  • “Like an ominous bird fly away…” Bird flying away shows how the relationship ended. Ellipses represent a time when the relationship ended
  • “God curst sun”– change from “chidden” to “curst” sounds more violent showing increasing bitterness towards his lover and to love as a whole
  • “Greyish leaves”. Leaves are grey because they are rotting as their love did.
Cite this article as: William Anderson (Schoolworkhelper Editorial Team), "‘Neutral Tones’ by Thomas Hardy: Analysis," in SchoolWorkHelper, 2019, https://schoolworkhelper.net/neutral-tones-by-thomas-hardy-analysis/.

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