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“Relic” By Ted Hughes Essay

Although nature may be seen as a beautiful way in which different living creatures coexist, Ted Hughes however sees this differently. In the poem Relic he writes about how the creatures in the sea use each other as a means to their end. In this poem, the persona has found a jawbone on the sea shore amongst other bones of dead sea creatures. This sends the persona in deep thought and is made to wonder where it has come from and what it passed from. These predators that live in the “deeps” have to live from eating other creatures in order to survive. This is seen in the phrase, “camaraderie does not hold”. These creatures that feed on others in order to ensure their survival however are eaten by other creatures and where before they were victimisers, they have now fallen victim to others. The sea is portrayed as a continuous cycle where life is halted by death and this can be seen by the action of the jawbone to “continue the beginning”.

The idea that life is recycled is also evoked through the use of the long endless lines. These extended lines keep the poem flowing in the sense of a cycle and also in rhythm. Another way, in which the idea of continuity is highlighted, is the fact that this poem evolves the whole cycle in one stanza. The rhythm in this poem is not achieved through a fixed meter, but by repetition. This is also done by the extensive use of monosyllabic words which increases the pace of the poem.

The alliteration in “broken by the breakers” and the use of consonance help the reader to visualise the atmosphere at the beach were the jawbone was found, that is hearing the waves splashing with words like “flip” and “gnawn”. The tone exposes the fact that the sea is not a friendly place to be in and even the creatures that prey on other creatures, therefore are on top of the food chain, also become “Jaws eat and are finished and the jawbone comes to the beach” as they also become part of this recycling process. “Time in the sea eats its tail” and “indigestibles” are thrown away. Whatever the sea can’t make use of is disposed of which is an efficient way to help the other sea creatures to survive. The bones become a reminder of an animal which has served its purpose in the sea.

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