Failure can be seen as the deterioration or decay of something with former strength, and has connotations of the underperformance of something great and expected. Human error, an extension of human nature, can be interpreted as the situation where humans are given control over a process, and after ignorance and poor decision making, errors can occur. There are many different viewpoints on the purpose of Hardy’s poem, however it seems clear in The Convergence of the Twain and in his other poems, he focuses on human error and failure as defined above.
Hardy highlights the Titanic’s failure by contrasting its magnificent features to its dismal doom. The ship’s positive aura of ‘jewels in joy designed’ is quickly negated as Hardy describes them lying ‘lightless’ on the seabed with ‘their sparkles bleared and black and blind’. The connotations of its ‘jewels’ being the pinnacle of the Titanic’s glory heightens the juxtaposition to the vivid image of them lying dead, with the ‘sea-worm’ crawling over the ship suggesting it is left there to rot.
Hardy uses this contrast to criticise the failure of the Titanic, showing the reader how the great and “unsinkable ship” was left under the ‘rhythmic’ tides of the ocean. Hardy, however, goes further to blame the sinking on human ignorance as the even the ‘dim moon-faced fishes’ question ‘what does this vaingloriousness down here? ‘. The way Hardy depicts even the ‘dim’ ranks of nature recognising it was ‘human vanity’ that caused such poor engineering shows how obvious the human error has become.
It is some critics’ opinion that Hardy means to express his feelings that the sinking of the Titanic was inevitable and out of human control with the ‘Immanent Will’ creating a ‘sinister mate’ in the iceberg that ‘no mortal eye could see’. However, it cannot be ignored that Hardy writes ‘as the smart ship grew’ so did ‘the Iceberg too’; this is a clear image that the failure was due to human error – as they grew more vain in building its extravagance, the chance for failure became greater.
By showing that the growth of the ship and the iceberg were linked epitomises Hardy’s views that the Titanic’s sinking was down to human ignorance and the error of judgement in realising it was a step too far for Victorian engineering. Failure is also depicted in The Darkling Thrush by the deterioration of nature and his insignificance in not being able to stop it.
Hardy use of personification throughout the poem as ‘the wind his death-lament’ and when ‘Frost was spectre-gray’ highlights his depressing tone that the world is failing around him yet he can only observe. Hardy’s emphasis that ‘every spirit’ and ‘all mankind’ seemed ‘fervourless as I’ suggests that it is human’s lack of passion for their surroundings which has caused ‘the ancient pulse of germ and birth’ to become ‘hard and dry’. Throughout the poem, Hardy dwarfs any positive imagery with negatives as ‘an aged thrush’ is described to be ‘frail, gaunt and small’.
It may be argued that Hardy wants to present his affinity for nature, showing his attention to detail as ‘the tangled bine-stems scored they sky’ as he notices the ‘blast-beruffled plume’ of the thrush. However, it seems the last line of the poem is poignant and negates any previous recognition of nature as he tells ‘I was unaware’. Hardy may have chosen to do this to emphasise his sense of being in the dark and his failure in being able to change the crumbling nature around him.
It is clear he feels this deterioration is a key message he needs to convey, with the zeitgeist of disliking industrialisation proving to himself that ‘all mankind’ need to realise the human error. In conclusion, it seems that Hardy feels strongly that key failures such as Titanic’s sinking and the decay of nature are due to vanity and error of judgement or the ignorance in not realising the scale of change. His criticism on society’s failures through failure and human error seem a fundamental them throughout his poems.