An Analysis of Hood’s “The Bridge of Sighs”
The poem counterpart of the Bridge of Sighs became popular in 1844. It is composed of 18 stanzas, each consisting of three to seven lines. It was written by Thomas Hood, which talks about the suicide of a young lady in London. Allegedly, this woman is homeless and so she jumped of the Waterloo Bridge to meet her death. Some scholars interpret the cause of her death as something related to pregnancy matters. Time passed and a number of illustrations were made to reveal the interpretation of the book. The most famous ones were that of the Victorian era. Evidently, the theme of the poem is about the suicide of women in London during those times. It was probably written to put more focus on giving attention to these suicides since it was claimed that men are more likely to kill themselves compared to women. It was also written two weeks after Mary Furley’s suicide attempt. She was a 40-year old woman with children, but no husband. Her money has been stolen, so she attempted to kill herself and her children through drowning. Because of that, one of the children died and she was accused of murder. This, of course, gained the public’s attention and soon after, many poems and stories were written in relation to female suicide.
Originally, the Bridge of Sighs is a bridge situated in the heart of Venice, Italy. It is made up of lime stones and stone bars, built in the 1600s and originally designed by Antonio Continio. Truth is, this bridge actually connects the prisoners to the interrogation room in the Doge’s Palace. It is the last view they see before they are bound to their cells for imprisonment. After some time, the name “Bridge of Sighs” soon became associated with a lot of other bridges in the world. Hence, people became a little confused. There were those bridges in Europe and North and South America, which adapted the name and called their bridges as such. In literature, it also became one of the favourite subjects of most authors. Some of them were Richard Russo, Jane Lane, Steven Dones, Olen Steinhauer, and of course, Thomas Hood. The first four wrote it in novel form, but Hood wrote his in the usage of a poem.
As mentioned earlier, Hood wrote the poem two weeks after the death of Mary Furley who was convicted of murder for killing her own child. It was reported that she tried to kill her children and attempted suicide as well, to escape from the unfortunate tricks of poverty. Though the poem does not mention anything about Furley or her endeavours, many believed that she was the inspiration of the poem. Some scholars said, however, that it was the rampant female suicide during those times which gave Hood the urge to write something about it. Moreover, regarded as one of the humorous poets, everyone was stunned when he shifted his way of writing into attacking contemporary poverty. During the last days of his life, he focused on writing about the events in the life of a poor man. This was evident on his other poems as well such as, “The Song of the Shirt,” and “The Song of the Labourer.”
In relation to Furley’s case, even if nothing was mentioned, was the suicide success of the woman referred to in the poem. Many believe that she threw herself out of the bridge because she was thrown out of her home. In the words of Hood, though in figurative form, she described the woman’s death and physical aspects with so much details – that even in her death, she seemed so beautiful and gentle; hence, she had to be taken out of the river with so much care and tender. Relative to poverty, critics say that the suicide of the woman probably was the result of her fear of entering the world outside. Since she did not know what to do when she was thrown out of her home, she resorted to simpler ways instead, which is to end her life. And so, with this in mind, she ended up jumping off the Waterloo Bridge.
The Bridge of Sighs is actually a depressing poem. It entices the feeling of guilt and regret. If you will think about it, the suicide could have been prevented if people only gave so much more attention and if they become more understanding. In relation to the world today, many depressed people seem to find the solutions to their problems through suicide. In times like these, the society should learn how to help these kinds of people instead of pushing them even more to do something that would lead to their suicidal attempts. For instance, the woman in the poem, the suicide could have been prevented if only her family tried to understood what her problems were, whether it be the pregnancy or not. Hood clearly was trying to teach the world that we can prevent such circumstances only if we listen and understand.