Death and Isolation Thomas Hardy’s Poem the Five Students

May 6, 2021 by Essay Writer

Poem, The Five Students


In the poem, “The Five Students,” Thomas Hardy uses his experience to examine his life and that of his four friends. He does not refer to the friends by their names but uses their skin complexions to describe them. The five are in pursuit of their goals, but Hardy portrays all to have failed at last. The poet combines elements such as alliteration, repetition, patterns, imagery and unclear ending to support his central ideas of isolation, death, and failure of five students that did not succeed in realizing their goals as discussed below.


The poem’s central idea touches on the death and isolation of five characters that failed to achieve their life goals. The five do not face their end at the same but exit the stage at different times. Hardy portrays the life of these five as a journey and their end is a sign of changes in seasons. Based on the poem’s title, one can detect isolation as the characters get isolated soon after the beginning of their journey when one character, ‘dark He’ is isolated from the group. Hardy ends the second stanza by asserting that only four of them are left in the group “but one elsewhere” (12). Based on the title of the poem, the audience can intend to investigate what happens to the five students and as a result, discover the themes of isolation and failure. As noted above, the poet uses various poetic elements to explore the poem’s central idea. The combination of these elements tells the beginning and the end of the life journey of the five students. Hardy manages to skillfully combine these elements to leave no doubt about the intention of the poem.


The first significant pattern in this poem can be seen in the point of view. Based on the author’s reference to ‘I,’ one can see that the poem is narrated from the first person point of view. In this case, the writer is the narrator of the poem. As such, the audience expects that the author sees all the experiences for the story to be complete. This expectation makes the story incomplete in the eyes of the audience since the narrator does not witness all the experiences in the story.

Choice of Words and Phrases

The poet uses alliteration and assonance as sound patterns in his work. For instance, the first and the second line in the first stanza repeats the ‘s’ sound as an indication of alliteration. The fifth line in the first stanza has a repetition of vowels to build assonance. The phrases, ‘fair she,’ ‘dark she,’ and ‘fair he’ build assonance in the poem. This repetition is useful in describing the characters in the poem especially after each is isolated from the group.


The poem uses repetition to show the frequency of events that occur as the five students embark on their life journey. The repetition of ‘he’ and ‘she’ aims at showing the students left as the journey progresses. Also, the repetition of ‘we’ shows the changes in events during the journey. In the first stanza, Hardy says; “we stride” (4). In the second stanza, he says; “we are on our urgent way” (11). The repetition, in this case, shows the changes in events.


Hardy employs imagery of landscapes to show how time and seasons pass as the students go on with their life journey. For instance, in the second stanza, Hardy writes that “the greens are sobered” (9). This line shows the image of a landscape where the green vegetation appears dull to show that the day is sunny and as such, depicts changes in time. In the fourth stanza, Hardy refers to the falling of leaves and the way they are eaten by earthworms to show how time changes from green vegetation to dry leaves. Just like the landscape changes, so do the students in the journey and the falling of leaves portray the death of sojourners.

Heavy Pauses

The poet creates heavy pauses in the poem to depict something unpleasant has happened in the course of the journey. As the journey progresses, one member disappears from the stage. Hardy ‘eliminates’ one student in each stanza until two of them are left, himself and ‘fair She.’ Hardy uses dashes and ellipses to portray pauses. For instance, in the second stanza, Hardy writes; “we are on our urgent way_” (10). The dash portrays a long pause before Hardy announces that one member is isolated from them and only four have remained. In the last stanza, the ellipses in line five show a long pause before Hardy announces that all members have left except the narrator.

Unusual Syntax

Hardy uses unusual syntax when he says, “fallen one more” (Hardy 18). He also uses ‘heretofore’ as syntax in the poem. This move shows Hardy’s understanding of poetic language where he feels at liberty to use unusual syntax.

Unclear Ending

The unclear ending of the poem communicates the themes of isolation and failure as the main ideas of the poem. The audience cannot tell what happened to Hardy after he observed the last event of the journey. With this unclear ending, both Hardy and the audience are isolated from the events at the end of the journey.


Hardy employs various poetic tools to emphasize the poem’s central ideas of isolation, death, lapse of time and loss. These tools form a pattern that builds the poem to communicate its meaning to the audience. The poem is narrated from the first person point of view and employs imagery, repetition and heavy pauses, unusual syntax and unclear ending to build its themes.

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