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    The Theme of Violence in the Poem Hawk Roosting by Ted Hughes Essay

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    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, Pike ted hughes. 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. 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 head and hooked feet” to kill its prey. The word hooked has a very forceful sound. The hawk uses its “hooked head” to kill its prey. The “hooked feet” are not only used to kill but to maintain its glory. “My feet are locked upon the rough bark. ” This line very clearly portrays that the hawk has power over its surroundings. We see that the hawk is keeping everything under him. Through the words “rough bark” we see that even though the bark is tough to go through the hawk can easily penetrate through it.

    This is a sort of warning to show that any animal, which tries to oppose the hawk, will have to face the wrath of the hawk, something that can be very painful. We see that both animals use their killing instruments to the full capacity in order to maintain power and glory. In the poem “Pike” we see that the pike kills its own kind so that it can survive without any threat to its power. “Three were kept behind glass, Suddenly there were two, finally one. ” These lines tell us that the pikes fought against each other so that in the end only the strongest will emerge as the winner.

    We see here that it is turning out to be the survival of the fittest. Only the best can live. The line “kept behind glass” refers to the pikes being kept in an aquarium. The aquarium is supposed to be a small world where there is little to gain and everything to lose. But the pike still kills the other two without any remorse. We see the pike’s self-centered attitude. The poet gives us an even more vivid picture of the pike’s brutality through the following phrase. “One jammed passed its gill down the other’s gullet The outside eyes stared. ” These lines reveal to us the cruelty of the pike.

    The pike was slowly learning that in killing others he was slowly killing himself. The first line gives us a picture that the pike was squeezing the other pike down its own throat. Though the pike was choking to death, it wanted to kill the other pike and then die so that it would have the satisfaction of victory even though it might have died a few seconds later. This shows us that the pike has no feelings not for itself and not for others as well. In “Hawk Roosting” Ted Hughes uses forceful words such as “tearing”, “death”, etc. the cruelty of the hawk is brought out in the poem.

    The poem is a very strong one. The cruelty the two animals bring out in each poem is shown from the description of the way they kill. But in “Hawk Roosting” the killing is more effective and realistic because it is the hawk’s own narration we are witnessing. This enables us to get a clearer picture of the cruelty the hawk shows. We know the hawk’s procedure of killing through the quote: “My manners are tearing off heads- The allotment of death For one path of my flight is direct Through the bones of the living. ” These lines clearly and vividly bring out the violent way in which the hawk kills its prey.

    The word “manners” has a different meaning. It helps to intensify the cruelty of the hawk. “Manners” is a word that is used only to the good qualities of a person or in this case an animal. But in this case the word “manners” is used to bring out the cruelty of the hawk. The violence and cruelty of the hawk is further emphasized through the lines “one path of my flight is direct through the bones of the living. ” These lines show us that when the hawk wants to kill it will kill without making mistakes. It is like torturing its prey because once you drive through the flesh the prey won’t die immediately.

    It will be a slow and painful death. It will not give its prey a chance to escape. In these four lines the way the hawk kills is very powerfully emphasized. There is the use of alliteration by the repetition of the letter “t”. This can be showed through the words “tearing”, “allotment”, “death”, “path”, “flight”, and “direct”. The repetition of the letter “t” makes the character of the hawk seem more powerful. The words show that the hawk is an unmerciful and ruthless creature. Both animals the pike and the hawk show that they have no remorse at all while killing other animals.

    The poet Ted Hughes has brought out the lack of remorse the animals feel in each poem in a different way. In “Pike” the pike shows no remorse for killing fellow pikes because from birth itself it has been doing this and if it was killing from birth then it would not know the meaning of remorse. Whereas in “Hawk Roosting” the hawk feels that it has the right to kill other animals and if it has the right to kill other animals then it should not feel any remorse. In “Pike” the lack of remorse is brought out through these lines. “With a sag belly and grin it was born with. And indeed they spare nobody. ”

    These lines show us that the lack of remorse is a part of the pike. It is like the pike has a gene, which prevents it from showing any remorse. The pike is grinning because it has killed another pike. So the pike is mocking the other pike for not being able to defend itself. The poet shows us that the pike may be powerful mentally as well because the grin could have been an outward appearance just to attack its victim. The line “And indeed they spare nobody” show us the cruelty the pike has and the way it kills any fish of its own species because it is afraid of losing its powerful position as leader of the place it lives in. his shows us that the pike is afraid of losing its position so he is not all powerful and fearless.

    The pike may lose its position anytime without even noticing it but this does not happen in the poem. It also shows that the pike is jealous because it is not willing to share its leadership with any other fish. In “Pike” the lack of remorse of killing others is shown directly but in “Hawk Roosting” the hawk’s lack of remorse is brought out by the hawk’s impression that it was born with the right to kill. So the hawk can kill anyone and anything and if it has the right then why show remorse.

    This is meaningless because if anyone was given the right to kill he/she would go on killing and there would be no way of stopping them because they have the right to kill. The hawk reveals his right to kill through the lines: “I kill where I please because it is all mine. No arguments assert my right. ” These lines show the impression the hawk has. This is the reason why the hawk kills without mercy. The fact that no arguments can declare his rights shows that the hawk has a lot of power with nothing more powerful than it not even Creation. We know this when the hawk says, “Now I hold Creation in my foot.

    The hawk’s violent power is not subject to any check or hesitation. The one path of the hawk’s flight is “through the bones of the living. ” It is like an arrow or a bullet that destroys when leaving the weapon. Might is right and the hawk needs no arguments to justify its actions. The lines make the hawk’s philosophy of life very clear. Other creatures must die in order for it to live. The tone in both poems is very effective in bringing out the major themes, which are power and violence. The major role the tone plays is in the way the poems are being narrated.

    In “Pike” the narration of the poem is being portrayed by the poet and not by the pike. The poet may have been observing pikes before writing the poem and upon learning that pikes resemble humans in their violent nature he found a way to write the poem. He is comparing the pike to humans. In “Hawk Roosting” however the hawk itself is the speaker of the poem. It gives us the feeling that the hawk is speaking directly to us which is a very good technique used by the poet because the hawk itself is telling us that it has become like us, it has the same lust for power which, we have.

    Its monologue of plain, forceful words matches the arrogant frankness of the speaker. The hawk is arrogant because it is blowing its own trumpet on how powerful it is and on its right to kill. In one stanza we see the poet keeps three pikes behind glass. They are in an aquarium. “Three we kept behind glass, Jungled in the weed: three inches, four, And four and a half: fed fry to them. Suddenly there were two. Finally one. ” The pike that is the character of the poem is three inches long. The other two pikes are bigger than it.

    The fact that the poet mentioned the size of the pikes clearly indicate that the poet was struck by the fact that the pike was able to kill and eat both the other pikes in quick succession. He is stunned by the fact that the smallest of the pikes would commit such a cruel thing as eating two other pikes bigger than itself. This shows us that size doesn’t matter. Even small people may be strong enough to overcome and kill a person who is bigger. So the poet is trying to tell us never to rely on outward appearances. In “Hawk Roosting” the tone can more easily be recognized because the hawk himself is the speaker.

    The poem is in the form of an interior monologue so the tone can be more easily recognized through certain lines, which are there in the poem. “It took the whole of Creation To produce my foot, my each feather: Now I hold Creation in my foot. ” We can easily make out the arrogant tone of the hawk through these lines. The hawk says that it took the whole of Creation to produce his foot and feathers yet instead of being grateful and being under the patronage of Creation for making him so beautiful, the hawk takes it for granted. The hawk thinks that Creation was there only to create him. The hawks gloating tone is pronounced in this stanza.

    Creation has produced its feet and feathers but instead of showing gratitude, the hawk gloats over its seeming ability to dominate Creation itself. In the fourth stanza the hawk arrogantly senses that in flight Creation revolves for it “because it is all mine”. Creation is only a killing ground for the hawk and like the air and sun simply exist as a tool that the hawk will use just to fulfill its destiny. But what the hawk does not know is that just as Creation created the hawk it can reduce to him to nothing as well but instead Creation let him get on with his life. The arrogant tone of the hawk is brought out through these lines as well.

    The convenience of the high trees! The air’s buoyancy and the sun’s ray Are advantage to me And the earth’s face upward for my inspection. ” In this stanza there is a change in emphasis from the hawk itself to its surroundings. The hawk does not take pleasure in “the high trees”, “the air’s buoyancy”, or “the sun’s ray”. They are there for the hawk’s “convenience” and “advantage”. Even the scene spread before the hawk is subject to the cold word “inspection”. This last line shows that the earth is under the inspection of the hawk because the hawk wants it to stay loyal to him.

    Then arrogance is shown in killing through the line: “I kill where I please because it is all mine. ” The arrogance of the hawk is visible here where the hawk says that it can kill wherever it wants to. The hawk shows its arrogance because it feels that the earth is just a hunting ground for him. The tone of “Hawk Roosting” is arrogant. The arrogant tone gives is the picture of a bird sitting on the highest tree at the top and overlooking everything below him. He acts like he is a God who rules these creatures and can take their life whenever he pleases. Both poems were used to bring out the bad characteristics of human beings.

    People have always had the lust to have power and glory. Even now people still compete against each other to be the best and sometimes may go to any extent to be the best. They are even willing to break the rules not caring who they hurt as long as they are most powerful just as the hawk and pike want to be. The outer appearance of a person is what makes other people think either good or ill about him/her. A good looking and seemingly nice person may be cruel and malicious on the inside and a sinister looking man who is seemingly bad may have a good heart.

    Many people have been misjudged in this particular way. It is only when we know a person really well do we realize his inner personality and we still may be mistaken. In “Pike” and “Hawk Roosting” we witness two beautiful creatures on the outside but who are evil and violent on the inside. Both creatures like man show that they can deceive. The hawk appears to be asleep when he isn’t and the pike has a grin on its face, which is a contrast to his real personality. There are people who are like this. They put on a fake outward appearance and then when you least expect it they stab you in the back.

    Another characteristic the hawk brings out that we humans have too is the tendency to take everything for granted. This is seen in “Hawk Roosting” where the hawk takes everything for granted. The poem tells how the hawk takes its body parts for granted just as we do. The hawk says, “It took the whole of Creation to produce my foot, to produce my each feather”. Like the hawk we feel that just because we have all our body parts we are perfect. We take them for granted never once thinking that we may lose one of these parts some time or another. Not only do we take our body for granted but we take our life as well.

    Everyday we wake up thinking that it is just another day but we must be happy because we are alive. But one thing is that we can lose this life anytime. Creation created us and if it wants to it can destroy us. The hawk also takes its life for granted. He feels he was created to rule over others, which is our thought too. We like the idea of being superior towards others but we don’t like others to order us. But the most important aspect in human nature that is brought out by the pike and the hawk is on how the animals have so much brutality that they kill anyone who is a threat to its power and glory.

    This pint very clearly describes us humans. Some of us may go to any extent to get what we want. In “Hawk Roosting” the hawk does not care to hide the fact that it will kill or harm other animals and birds because he has the right to kill. No human has the right to kill so I feel the hawk cannot depict the real nature of humans. “Pike” however has the upper hand in depicting man’s cruel nature. In “Pike” we see that he kills two other pike. Only the strongest will survive and only the strongest will have glory. Though most of us will not kill we will go to any extent to remove a person from coming between glory and us.

    If we know that he might achieve glory before us we may harm him in some way to remove the threat. Like R. L. Stevenson showed in “Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde”, “Man is not truly one, but truly two”. This shows that we may have a good attitude to others but we can become evil if we want to. Outward appearances are very deceptive. The strongest pike will only win. This is a direct revelation of man’s nature. Only the strongest, fastest, or smartest can win. There is no other way. Now also we see that men quarrel with each other to share power and glory that we can get in this materialistic world.

    What they don’t realize is that the real riches are in the next world and not this. An example of being materialistic is the fight between India and Pakistan over Kashmir. If they held a plebiscite for people living in it they could vote for the country they want. But this cannot work because either country cannot bear defeat and so they will continue on fighting. This is just our nature. Just as the pike was born to kill so to are some men born in this way. “Pike” and “Hawk Roosting” are two poems, which very vividly displayed the violent nature and cruelty in wild animals.

    Ted Hughes conveys his message very clearly to those who can understand what he meant while writing the poems. Though “Hawk Roosting” used forceful words and was more violent”, Pike” still was the poem, which brought out the bad characteristics of man very well. Ted Hughes is a very good poet who wrote his poems really well. Though the poems have been written and people have read them they still don’t understand the message he is trying to convey or they do understand but don’t bother t o listen to it. The hawk and pike are two animals known for their violence and Ted Hughes portrays this violence very well in his poems.

    This essay was written by a fellow student. You may use it as a guide or sample for writing your own paper, but remember to cite it correctly. Don’t submit it as your own as it will be considered plagiarism.

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    The Theme of Violence in the Poem Hawk Roosting by Ted Hughes Essay. (2017, Oct 21). Retrieved from

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