by Tony Connor
Elegy for Alfred Hubbard is the speech of a man eulogizing a dead plumber. The poem is an exercise in tone, as Connor slyly shifts the language from reverent to sarcastic.
Tone in Elegy for Alfred Hubbard Edit
The feeling of reverance for a person after his death often fades with the realization of his flaws and mistakes. This transformation of sentiment is mirrored in Tony Conner's poem Elegy for Alfred Hubbard, especially as the tone of the poem shifts from light-hearted tribute to sarcastic criticism.
Connor begins his poem as someone would a eulogy: "The old plumber... no other like him." He is full of praise for his feats and skill. He recounts Hubbard's "techniques" and "theories." But, the eulogizer lets slip that Hubbard's "rules of thumb" were "often wrong," the first sign of his human flaws. Connor loses his reverance, as a more and more sarcastic, ironic tone begins to issue. Soon Hubbard is far from perfect: his talk is hard to follow, a gate unmended is a testament to his broken promises, and, as angels sing him to rest, "a cellar starts to flood."
Though Hubbard is at first presented as a good man, the irony of the phrase "no other like him" (l. 5) becomes apparent when the tone slowly shifts from reverance to sarcastic and even sardonic recollection of his many wrongdoings. Finally, the eulogizer states that a woman, when she is not surprised to find Connor gone from his home, seeks "Thwaite, who's a better worker" (l. 47). So, by "no other like him," the author means that Hubbard was shiftess and incompetant, leaving jobs unfinished while never starting others. Still more irony is present when the reader realizes that Hubbard is a typical human being, imperfect with his unfinished work; but he is presented in a dark light by the eulogizer, to whom is entrusted the respectful recounting of his life.
The tone in Tony Connor's Elegy for Alfred Hubbard, a reflection of general human sentiment for the dead, slides from reverant to sarcastic and downright insulting as blind posthumous respect fades to bitterness.