How does Hughes convey his response to pike in the poem?
Hughes’ responses to the pike include admiration, curiosity, respect, fear and horror. He shows this through use of description, similes and metaphors. During the poem his fear of the pike increases from section to section.
He describes the pike as “perfect”, “stunned by their own grandeur”, showing his respect for them. In this, the first, stanza he shows his admiration and fear of the pike with the phrase “They dance on the surface among the flies”. This metaphorical phrase shows admiration through “dance on the surface”, which shows beauty and grace of movement but it shows fear through “among the flies” as this can be taken to mean that the pike are ‘the lords of the flies’ which means devil; the word ‘tigering’ evokes a sense of beauty and fear at the same time, much like the tiger. In the first stanza he also shows his fear of them by saying that they are “killers from the egg: the malevolent aged grin”, this phrase coupled with the next line shows the pike as devilish killers, who have no choice in the fact that they kill, yet take pride in knowing that they have killed; pike are horrifying, destructive and fearful monsters.
This is a preview of the whole essay
Their “malevolent aged grin” coupled with “hooked clamp and fangs/Not to be changed at this date” conjure the image of a terrifying, emotionless killing machine with a permanent glum expression, that will not let go of its prey once it has sunk its teeth in. The “aged grin” gives the pike an appearance of inborn wisdom. “In ponds, under the heat-struck lily pads—”, the pike’s evil behaviour is demonstrated by its choice to hide in shadows under lily-pads. This associates the pike with darkness, a common factor amongst predatory creatures. “Of submarine delicacy and horror./A hundred feet long in their world.”
“Gloom of their stillness:”
“The gills kneading quietly, and the pectorals”
These show the pike as being very silent; able to sneak up and ambush their prey. These egotistical predators are much like the dangerous and beauteous submarine gliding silently through the water.
In the second section of the poem, stanza 5 – 6 and a half, a truly vivid illustration of the pike’s behaviour is demonstrated where we see that there were three pike in a tank who, although were being fed enough food(fry), started to eat each other. This is emphasised by “With a sag belly and the grin it was born with” which shows that the pike seems to enjoy and is proud of the fact that it has killed and eaten its brethren. Hughes uses this to show how horrifically uncaring and evil pike are, even towards their own kind; this is the first glimpse we have of the violent nature of the pike; yet this may not be a true glimpse of their nature but rather an evasive and illusory glimpse, caused by the pike being trapped in a tank .
In the third section, stanza 6 and a half – 7, the pike’s full-scale craving for violence is brought closer still to the reader. There is no longer a glass wall to protect us from the pike as in the previous section. Two large pike are caught and tied up to dry out in the sun. One of the pike is “jammed past its gills down the other’s gullet”. In order to prevent us from mistakenly assuming that the violence exhibited by the pike “kept behind glass” was a result of their captivity, Hughes establishes the presence of the same savagery manifested in the wild. This also shows desire for supremacy which could be interpreted as causing one pike to kill another in the only way it knows how, this is similar to human nature and shows that a pike is willing to step on anyone and anything that gets in the way of it becoming top of the food chain.
In the fourth section, stanza 8 – 11, we see how dangerous the pike have become, as the persona, who used to keep pet pike, is now frightened of them. We know this from “That past nightfall I dared not cast”, which shows his fear of what the pike might do to him if he couldn’t see them. This is emphasised by a human belief that with darkness evil becomes more powerful; in this case the evils of the pike. This last section also gives the pike a mythic quality “Pike too immense to stir, so immense and old”. It also produces an air of fear and suspense, which is shown through “Darkness beneath night’s darkness had freed, /That rose slowly towards me watching”. The suspenseful and fearful feelings, at the end, make the reader feel that, one of these monster pike could come up at any time and kill him.