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The Jaguar Essay, Research Paper

?The Jaguar?, by Ted Hughes is about a trip that Hughes made to the zoo. In the poem, he attempts to convey his views human behaviour by relating it to animals in the zoo and by using his diverse lexical choice he excellently depicts the scene.

The first two verses begin with Hughes talking about the apathy, inactivity and harmlessness of the animals in the zoo he is visiting. He implies his disapproval of these things by using phrases such as;

?The apes yawn, and adore their fleas in the sun?

Hughes suggests that these apes he has encountered had become so bored that their grooming of each other was almost a religion. It was merely a way of giving the apes something to do. He continues this idea of disapproval by then going to describe the parrots as they:

?shriek as if they were on fire, or strut

Like cheap tarts to attract the stroller with the nut.?

This furthermore suggests Hughes disapproval of these animals being brought to a level where they will show off just to get food and attention.

In the second verse, Hughes goes on to comment on the many cages in the zoo, and how he walks past them all believing them to be empty, only to discover that the cages in fact harbour sleeping animals who have decided to just sleep during the day instead of impressing the zoo visitors.

?The boa-constrictor?s coil

Is a fossil. Cage after cage seems empty, or

Stinks of sleepers from the breathing straw?

Hughes?s appropriate and skilful use of metaphorical language becomes apparent as he compares the boa constrictor a fossil. In this way, he shows what he sees before him as the coiled up snake literally looks like a fossil. But, metaphorically, he is suggesting that the snake is almost dead, like a fossil. He feels cheated, and talks about how these animals could be painted on a nursery wall. In saying this, he is suggesting that these animals are so harmless that they remind him of the cartoon animals painted on a nursery wall: all softened up, and not ferocious looking.

The final three verses of the poem show?s Hughes sudden change of heart towards the animals in captivity, and he begins to contrast what he has said previously to this newfound interest: the jaguar.

To signal his change of tone, Hughes begins the third verse with a simple ?But? going on to describe a passer by as he runs to the surrounded cage. Interested, he follows, and observes the crowd as they stand, staring, and ?mesmerized?. By using the word mesmerized, Hughes makes apparent the influence this active Jaguar has on the crowd around his cage.

??at a jaguar hurrying enraged

Through prison darkness after the drills of his eyes?

By using enraged, Hughes makes the reader aware of how angry the jaguar actually is. In using this, he is suggesting that the jaguar is much more than just fairly annoyed, and emphasises the extent of his anger. The ?prison darkness after the drills of his eyes? suggests that he is so annoyed that the jaguar has lost all other reason, and is concentrating on his anger at being captive, and relentless need to be free. The ?prison darkness? further enforces the idea that he is being held captive, and his anger at this.

The reason the crowd are mesmerized by this scene is the jaguar?s rage as he paces back and forth around the cage.

?On a short fierce fuse?

Suggesting that the jaguar could explode in a complete fit of rage.

?He spins from the bars, but there?s no cage to him?

The jaguar cannot seem to fully accept his captivity, and in the 5th and final verse Hughes sums up why this is apparently so.

In the final verse, Hughes sums up his feelings for the jaguar, by describing what I thought was pity for the jaguar.

?More than a visionary to his cell:

His stride is wildernesses of freedom:

The world rolls under the long thrust of his heel

Over the cage floor the horizons come.?

This, the final verse, depicts the jaguar?s apparent lack of physical restrictions and how in mind he is still back in his natural habitat. The jaguar genuinely believes that he can someday escape his captors, and return to the jungle. Hughes admires this, and through this poem I believe he has tried to convey his own idea of human behaviour. Through the boring animals who could be compared to the ordinary working population, Hughes depicts something that is unable to break the bonds of his captors. In the jaguar, Hughes sees a freed mind, someone who has managed to look beyond his shackles and free himself. He suggests that physical restrictions are not what keep many people from achieving what they want, but moreover it is the mental restrictions that keep us from reaching our goals.

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