How does Ted Hughes convey the ruthless power and violence in animals through the poems “Pike” and “Hawk Roosting”?

Authors Avatar
How does Ted Hughes convey the ruthless power and violence in animals through the poems "Pike" and "Hawk Roosting"?

Animals are living things that we see in our everyday lives yet we don't seem to give them any importance. Very few people give them the respect they deserve. The poems I am going to compare are based on animals. The animals are given human qualities, which are done purposely by Ted Hughes to make us realize what we really are. Very few poets have chosen animals to take the lead roles in their poems. Ted Hughes is one of those few poets who have taken animals to play the lead role in his poems. Many of Ted Hughes poems have their subjects on predatory animals and birds. The latent feeling of violence and power in untamed creatures fascinated Hughes. In his poems, animals and birds are not decorative or incidental but central symbols of vitality.

"Pike" and "Hawk Roosting" are the two poems of Ted Hughes, which I am going to compare. These two poems convey the theme of violence and power very clearly. The selfishness and self-centered attitude of the animals is another prominent theme in the play. These themes are brought out in various ways and various lines. Both animals, the "Hawk" and the "Pike" make it very clear that they want to be the dominant creatures in their respected habitat.

Ted Hughes always has most of the most of the poems he writes with the name of the animal as the title. He tries to convey messages through his title but few can understand the titles' meaning without first reading the poem. The title of the first poem that is "Pike" is very straightforward. Through the title we know that the poem is based on a pike, which is a fish and on its life. But to understand the real meaning of the poem we have to read the first stanza of the poem. The repetition of the word "pike" in the very first line shows us the importance the pike gives to himself. We now know that the poem is going to be on the pike's lust for power and the path it will take to achieve it.

The title of the second poem I am doing is "Hawk Roosting. It is quite a good title. It deceives the reader because when we first read the title we get an impression that it is going to be a poem about a hawk that is resting. We are completely unprepared for what is going to be present in the poem. The title prepares us for a still life study of the bird that is supposed to be one of the most feared predatory birds in flight. But only after we read the poem we realize that the title has a different meaning. The hawk is only pretending to be asleep or at rest so that it could try to catch its prey by surprise. This shows us how devious and intellectual the hawk can be. The title is very deceptive and is able to surprise the reader. "Hawk Roosting" is a more interesting title than "Pike" which is very straightforward.

In the first stanza of the poem "Pike" we see that the poet shows us the description of the Pike.

"Perfect, Pike in all parts, green triggering gold.

Killers from the egg: the malevolent aged grin."

The first line reveals to us the beauty of the pike. We now think that the pike is a good and beautiful fish. But that image is broken from our minds when we read the next line. This line "killers from the egg" completely changes our judgment towards the pike. We question ourselves, how could such a beautiful creature be so ruthless? We get the answer from the phrase "Killers from the egg". Then the word "malevolent" also makes us feel ill of the pike just, as the pike likes to injury to others. The image of the good and beautiful fish is completely destroyed by the sudden contrast, and we are filled with the image of a ruthless murderer.

Ted Hughes applies the same method in "Hawk Roosting". From the title we get a picture of a hawk resting which is posing no threat to other animals. But when we read the last three lines of the first stanza this image we built up of the hawk suddenly changes.

"In action, no falsifying dream

Between my hooked head and hooked feet:

Or in sleep rehearse perfect kills and eats."

These words are a complete contrast of what we understood from the title. We see that the hawk has "no falsifying dream." The hawk must have a lot of mental power to keep false dreams away from his mind. This gives us the image that the hawk is a strong bird not only physically but also mentally strong as well. The hawk's "hooked head and hooked feet" symbolize the hawk's lust for power. The repletion of the word "hooked" emphasizes the deadly nature of the hawk showing that from top to bottom the hawk is completely filled with violence. The hawk also makes it clear of knowing what he wants even in his sleep. In sleep the hawk practiced "perfect kills and eats". This shows us that the hawk's mind is completely preoccupied with the thoughts of killing other animals. The first line "I sit in the top of the wood" shows us that the hawk is symbolizing the power that it has over the surroundings.
Join now!

The hawk and pike both have physical power. They use these powers to the full extent. The pike's life is "subdued to instruments", it's "jaws hooked clamp and fangs." These lines show the killing instruments the pike has. Just as the hawk has a "hooked head and hooked feet" so to the pike has hooked jaws. These jaws are very handy in killing other pikes because pikes eat only other pikes. The fangs of the pike are so important to him that you can say that it was created just to kill. The hawk also uses its "hooked ...

This is a preview of the whole essay