Ted Hughes’ Use of Animal Imagery
Write a critical note on the use of animal imagery for symbolic purposes in the poetry of The Hughes.
The time has been lapsed but the style of depiction is not different than the past. It was the time when Aesop used animals, for the purpose of conveying a message to his readers. The trend is still followed by number of writers but with a little improvement in it. Animal imagery is still favourite of many writers. Ted Hughes is one of the famous writers among the lovers of animals. Symbolic significance of animal imagery has been developed but the purpose remained unchanged. There are a lot of animal lovers but Ted Hughes is prominent among them. His work is remarkable because of the use of animal imageries. It is not only animal imagery, due to which Ted Hughes is considered as greatest poet of every era but also its symbolic representation. In fact, every single image, used by the poet, is praise worthy and has unique message or meaning attached to it. He, closely observes animals and depicts a truthful and vivid picture, which is extraordinarily amazing. He has wide collection of animal imageries; starting from fishes and ending at foxes. Scroll the list of animal imagery, made by Ted Hughes, and you will be amazed by seeing the largest animal imagery list in the history of literature. Beside Ted Hughes, D. H. Lawrence was also a great animal lover but Hughes observation was different from him in every sense. Hughes starts a poem by illustrating a simple image of an animal and then thematically explains his subject through the technique of symbolism. He does not only create images of animals but also uses them as metaphors in order to clear his point of view to the readers. Take any poem of this writer and you will see the skillful interpretation of animal imagery with the combination of symbolism.
If we talk about animal imagery and ignore the reference of “The thought fox” then it is totally unjustified. Name of the poem is self explanatory and needs no elucidation. Symbolically, the fox is signified as a thought. The process of writing a poem has been described by the poet in this poem but with the usage of a fox’s imagery. In the poem, the poet tries to explain that how an idea invades in the mind of the poet. For this purpose, he uses the image of a fox. He compares the idea with the fox; the idea come into the mind like a fox enters in the forest. The beautiful presentation of fox’s imagery is reproduced as under;
“Cold, delicately as the dark snow
A fox’s nose touches twig, leaf;
Two eyes serve a movement, that now
And again now, and now, and now”
At the end, he writes:
“Till, with a sudden sharp hot stink of fox
It enters the dark hole of the head.
The window is starless still; the clock ticks,
The page is printed”.
The reason of reproducing above said lines is to clear that apparently the fox is an animal and wondering in the forest but it is not as simple as described. The fox is a thought, which suddenly comes in the mind of a poet and leaves its footprints in form of words. Ultimately “The page is printed” suggests that the poet has successfully written a poem. Here, we cannot underestimate the talent and powerful imagination of the poet. The animal imagery is not only the key factor in success of Ted Hughes but in addition to it, symbolic meanings have also their own importance.
Variety of animals glorifies the poetry of Ted Hughes. Not even a single poem of Ted Hughes is free from animal imagery. The animals are not exaggerative nor they are imaginative but real and always make sense. Moreover, every animal serves a purpose and symbolically refers something to the readers. To explain; another poem, which is worth mentioning is “That Morning”. In this poem, the poet, with his friend, went for fishing, where he saw salmons. For those, who don’t know about salmon; it is a food fish. Nevertheless, the poet creates imagery of a fish to elucidate the thematic concept of violence. It is not wrong to say that two prominent ingredients of Ted Hughes’s poetry are violence and his treatment with the animals.
“Full Moon and Little Frieda” also contains two main symbolic animal imageries. One of them is dog and second one is cow. Animals do not serve only the purpose of symbolism but also naturally adores the poem. In order to understand animal imagery in Hughes’s poems, a good intelligence is always required because it always symbolically explains something.
The subject of violence, savagery, barbarism and death along with destruction is put in plain words by the poet but it is through animal imagery. Even the vital matters like death, destruction and violence are discussed vide frequently usage of animal imagery.
Ted Hughes also ridicule the humans through animal imagery. He very closely observes animals and eventually understands their psyche. It helps him to perfectly explain a topic to his readers. If Ted Hughes aims to give a moral lesson to his readers then again it is through animal imagery. He has wide collection of animals to use in his poems. Hawk, thrush, fox, jaguar, crow, cat, mouse, bull, pig etc. are frequently discussed in his poems. His childhood experience with the animals supports him to write a superb poem. Animals are not only used as metaphors; they sometimes become characters in the poems and morally suggest what to do and what not to do for the welfare of humanity. It is hallmark of Hughes’s poetic genius that he uses Hawk to represent dictatorship. Similarly, crow sometimes is degraded and sometimes it is glorified. Animal’s territory is the favourite world of Ted Hughes to write upon. In short, no poet has observed and used animals in poetry more truthfully and accurately than Ted Hughes.