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    Ted Hughes’s examination at the womb door Essay

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    1. Explain the use of the term “womb-door”. The word “womb door” at first seems to have very sexual connotations. The voice of God’s nightmare gestates and begins to acquire a physical state. But before it is born, there is yet a trial that the embryo has to go through. This is the embryo’s examination at the womb door, a final assessment that the crow must undergo before being born and before entering the world. Womb door signifies the point of crossing into the physical world- a gate where all souls shall gather before they step into life.

    In my opinion, examination at womb door reminds me of the promise that all souls make to God before coming into the world that He- God is their creator and they shall return to Him. In our poem, however, the crow is a clever embryo and the examination that follows is a unique one. 2. What effect is created by the repetition of the word “Death”? There is a lot of emphasis on the word Death. This emphasis is brought out by putting the word in italics, placing it a few spaces away from the normal sentence and by making it the only answer that the Crow gives throughout the poem.

    It is repeated sixteen times by the Crow emphasizing that Death is indeed the ultimate reality of life. The time and place of our death is decided even before we are born and that, in a way, makes death a stronger aspect than life itself. It also gives a very ominous- death, the ultimate fear of all mankind, and sacrilegious tone to the poem- the crow, a small bird, being insolent in front of God by insisting that it is owned by Death (Who owns these scrawny little feet? Death. Who owns these unspeakable guts? Death.

    ) and hence suggesting that God’s nightmare (the voice-hand from which the figure of crow gestated) had been Death, thus, creating a very blasphemous implication. 3. Based on Hughes’s own opinion regarding the examiner, comment on the type of questions being asked. God is curious to see what the voice-hand will ferment and holds an examination at the womb door- before it is to be born. Now the examiner being God, the tone of the questions is very authoritative which I think is deliberate on the part of the poet in order to establish God’s authority. The questions are short, precise and to-the-point.

    There are a lot of Wh- questions which usually demand a short one worded response. The use of words like scrawny, bristly scorched-looking, unspeakable, messy, questionable and wicked associated to crow’s physical aspects suggest God’s dislike for the creature born out of His nightmare. 4. Why at the end does Crow feel that he is stronger than Death? Alan Garner put forward a very interesting theory in his book, The Guizer. He says that if we can name the various emotions found in each one of us like the Queen, Hero, Child, Father etc then the emotion that rules all of us is of the Fool.

    For the Fool is the advocate of uncertainty: he is at once creator and destroyer, bringer of help and harm. Garner has called him Guizer. Guizer is the proper word for an actor in a miming play. He is comical, grotesque, stupid, cunning and ambiguous. In the light of this we can see startling similarity between Hughes’s Crow and the Fool. In Crow, Hughes not only redefined God, he adopted Biblical language and style. Crow was subjected to teaching and to tests, he was meant to learn humanity and wholeness, to develop a soul.

    My personal opinion is that Crow is the mockery of human soul in a sense because God created humans and He created their souls. However, Crow is begot as a challenge to God by His nightmare. So, Crow is the anti of human soul. The human soul is created by God and owns everything to Him; our life, brains, talents, destiny, fate etc. But Crow is the creation of God’s nightmare and hence owes his scrawny little feet, bristly scorched-looking face, still-working lungs, unspeakable guts, questionable brains, messy blood and wicked little tongue to God’s nightmare, which in my opinion is Death1.

    God questions the Crow as to who owns him and he replies, Death. God asks him about the owner of the Earth and the Universe and Crow still replies Death because Death is the only reality that Crow knows. And in the end Crow calls himself stronger than Death. Since the ultimate end to human life is death then Crow, being the anti of humans, is stronger than death. Human life ends with death but the crow has been fermented out of Death2. So conclusively, we can say that the reason Crow might think himself stronger than death is because his beginnings are from death itself. 5. Consider the arrangement of the lines.

    What impression is created by the physical shape of the poem? The physical shape of the poem is very interesting. If we divide the poem into two halves then the left half has a morphological symmetry while the right half has lexical symmetry with the repetition of the word Death. The questions are long and the answers abrupt and only single worded. All the stanzas talk about different aspects. The first stanza questions the physical aspects of the Crow, the second talks about trial, third questions the Crow about the owner of Earth and Universe while the second last talks about emotions: hope, will, love.

    The poem seems to be formed around the catechism3 format. The first part of the poem mentions various parts of the Crow the scrawny feet, guts, brains, muscles etc and towards the end of the poem we get an amalgamation of the body parts when the Crow says Me. In the first part of the poem, Death is only mentioned in the Crow’s replies. However, in the last part the word Death is part of a question (But who is stronger than Death? ). In the beginning the sentences are comparatively longer however the last verse consists of only two words (Pass, Crow.)

    “Crow is Everyman who will not acknowledge that everything he most hates and fears – The Black Beast – is within him” – Sagar 1 The relation been already made in the answer to Question 2. 2 As already mentioned before in answer to Question 2. 3 Catechisms are doctrinal manuals often in the form of questions followed by answers to be memorized, a format that has been used in non-religious or secular contexts as well.

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