"Tom's Garland" responds to demostrations by the unemployed and the poor in London in the latter 1880s. Hopkins's response is mediated by a conception of society as a commonwealth, a notion he elaborated in his sermons, and by contemporary representations of poverty, which assumed the demonstrators could be divided into two groups, those willing to work and the merely shiftless. Hopkins's poem represents both groups as excluded from the commonwealth; it distinguishes them from each other, and both from the employed working class, by several means, including the formal: Tom, representative of the employed, appears in the inner sonnet, the willing unemployed in the first coda, the shiftless in the second. Hopkins relies upon a metaphor of the commonwealth as body to suggest that Tom, the foot of the society, is justly performing his natural function, although Hopkins in other writings demonstrates that he knew this conclusion was untenable. The poem therefore must establish by rhetorical and tropological means that the working class is happy with its position in the commonwealth. The poem's essential move in establishing this judgment is a trope of suspension, based in a relation between Tom's physical actions and mental acts of judgment-a fundamental Hopkinsian figure. Contrary to Hopkins's self-understanding of this relation as mimetic, it is best analyzed on the model of mathematical functions. This analysis reveals that the judgment is not grounded mimetically in Tom's happiness but in Hopkins's class beliefs.
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