The Three Strangers Essay, Research Paper
In a remote shepherd?s cottage in the hills of England, a celebration of a baby?s birth unto Christ takes place. With nineteen or so players, including the shepherd and his wife, a band that refuses to stop playing, and most importantly three influential strangers, a life lesson is learned the hard way. With open arms three unknown entities are allowed into the shepherd?s home at a time when food is plenty and the mead is flowing. The band plays, the players dance, two strangers entertain and one abruptly runs away as if seeing a ghost, but the players pay no mind. The party is, however, cut short by the sound of a distant horn, the symbol of escape. A criminal destined to be put to death the following day has escaped the warden and is on the loose among the hills of the herdsmen. One of the strangers, conveniently the executioner scheduled for the next day, riles up the men for a full fledged search for the culprit, whom everyone at the party assumes is the third stranger, who upon crossing the threshold, caught a glimpse of the executioner and therefore ran away. The male players take up staffs to search the grounds, yet the two remaining strangers are able to slip away after taking a final mug of honey beer, and head off on their own selfish ways. The players eventually apprehend the third stranger and bring him to the warden who informs them that he is in actuality not the offender, but ran off when he recognized the first stranger at the party. Due to the players? assumptions, the first stranger, the actual sheep thief and brother of the third stranger, got away and was never again incarcerated. In Thomas Hardy?s short story ?The Three Strangers? it is communicated that looks can be deceiving when assumptions are made due to personal appearance and actions, through the devises of narrative structure and characterization.
Through the significant omission of the three strangers? personal backgrounds, the reader has no choice but to assume their identities by visual first impressions. By analyzing the information already given about the strangers, it is found that the only bit of direct observation we receive of any of the three strangers? lives is that of, ?My tools are simple ones, a little hempen string and a post where on to swing. For the farmer?s sheep is slain, and the lad who did it ta?en, and on his soul may God ha? mercy?. Therefore, the only other basis of analysis is that of appearance. When the first stranger walked in with boots cracked, pipe having fallen out, and a thick northern accent, despite the shepherds? wife?s initial discontent with the dirty water logged stranger, the players all assumed the mans pipe had fallen out along the dusty road and his clothes were worn out from the long journey. Not giving the slightest bit of background about the uninvited guest or his third counterpart laid the foundation for drawing false conclusions based on the strangers’ actions. When a persons history is unknown they are naturally more susceptible to the prejudices and biases of first impressions. This is clearly illustrated and intentionally set up by Hardy in his omission of the strangers? backgrounds.
When humanity is lacking one?s personal history, false judgements based upon indirect characterization through one?s words or actions often take place. It is said that, ?One?s guilt is measured in guilty actions?. Therefore when the warning horn was blown the action of the first stranger and the executioner?s chumminess when singing a not so cheery tune, was a symbol of innocence on both behalves. For how can anyone assume guilt from one who would just as soon put himself to death or a man who has instantly connected with such a dark and dismal man? It is most often the deceitful actions that go unnoticed. Whereas fear or terror, as seen in the third stranger, produce in the minds of others, a silent admission of guilt. By running away after looking in the direction of the two strange entertainers, the third stranger obviously had something to hide. However, not knowing the relation between the three strangers, led the group of innocent players to fall into the trap of assuming that the action of guilt was proof enough of the criminal history of the third stranger. Thomas Hardy has not only the players believing in the guilt of the third party, but forces the readers by using rhetorical devices, to also believe that the guilty action is a proof of guilt.
Hardy effectively uses characterization and narrative structure to develop the theme, that making assumptions based on personal appearances and actions are often deceiving when there is no past history to go by and the only piece of information available to gather is based upon personal first impressions. In the real world this idea that looks can be deceiving can be cross-applied. It was put best in the movie Goodfellas, ?Never assume. Don?t make an ass out of u and me.? There are always going to be times where assumptions are made that end in tragedy, disaster, or in embarrassing mistakes, such as the one made my the herdsmen. How many times has someone neglectfully said, ? I never saw it coming, he seemed so normal?, or ?She was the last person I expected to jump, she seemed so happy.? To avoid this kind of disaster mankind must learn to never make assumptions, never jump to any conclusions, and always get to know someone?s true self. Remember, looks are often deceiving when no one ever bothers to look past them.