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In Richard Eberhart’s poem “The Groundhog”, the author uses his expertise in language to contrast life and death in nature. With diction and contrasting imagery the author discloses his idea that the world is in constant change. Changes in which things eventually decompose, or disappear, but also, at the same time saying that nature will renew itself.

The groundhog’s “senseless change” shows the irrational but ordered controlling force of nature as it decays and changes. The authors returning visits embody the change in the groundhog. In Eberhart’s four visits the groundhog changes. From a “seething cauldron”, becoming a “bony sodden hulk”, to only become “bones bleaching”, and “only a little hair”. The last visit “there is no sign of the groundhog”.

The author feels so emotional over the continuing changes of the groundhog because he resents change. It makes him feel that he is not in control over himself and what is going on. Eberhart treats it as if he is losing a tradition in his life, not feeling comfortable about life. The author “capped a withered heart” because that is his way of taking control of his life.

Eberhart uses wonderful, artistic diction to illustrate contrasting imagery. He contrasts “golden fields” with “the groundhog lying dead”, and “vigorous summer” and “dead lay he”. The result of these comparisons creates the picture of a hot and calm summer day in a peaceful field with a dead groundhog. The mental picture created can be one of sadness and dismay that on such a wonderful day, such a horrible thing could happen. The frightening picture is amplified by “inspecting close his maggots’ might”.

The author goes on further to contrast in the imagery by showing how he appreciates the groundhog and it’s slow decay. He inspects the body up close, but “half with loathing” of the dead creature, it’s smell, and disgusting appearance, and yet with a “strange love”, he shows how he strangely likes the animal and starts to care about the changes that it is going through, to renew nature.

A change has happened to the author, the original concern for “keeping reverence for knowledge” has conflicted with an attempt “for control, to be still, to quell the passion of the blood.” Eberhart caps his heart with his hand because he no longer has the appreciation for the groundhog as he did, but that now he has an awareness of life.


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