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The Tiger and the Pig: Comparing two poems Essay

TASK

After taking part in a discussion in class about two poems. William Blake’s’ ‘The Tiger’ published in 1794 and ‘View of a Pig’ by Ted Hughes published in the 1960’s.

Question 1

How do the poets’ attitudes to their respective animals differ? Firstly I think that in Hughes’ ‘View of a Pig’, it seems the poet has a kind of morbid fascination with the carcass of the animal. This is derived from the fact that there is a theme of deadness repeated throughout the poem. He seems fascinated with the ‘deadness’ of the pig. ‘Set in death, seemed not just dead’, ‘It was too dead’ and ‘too deadly factual’. Such strong imagery of nothingness felt towards the pig. In ‘The Tiger’ by Blake, the poet has more of an idealised view but an intrigue towards the tiger. This is shown by the echo of questions throughout the poem. This makes his wonder and interest clear. He also has the upmost respect for The Tiger, ‘what immortal hand or eye, Could frame thy fearful symmetry?’ Here I believe the poet is asking what kind of ‘Being’ created him, God or the Devil? They have created something so fearful and yet so beautiful. Again this is in contrast to The Pig in Hughes’ poem. The poet says ‘It was not a figure of fun, ‘Too dead to pity.’ The Pig in his mind has become meaningless. I believe he has no feelings at all towards The Pig. Whereas Hughes is in total awe of The Tiger, this magical, fire like animal.

Question 2

What words/phrases do the poets use to suggest the power or lack of that their animals possess? In Hughes ‘View of a Pig’, ‘like a sack of wheat. I thumped it…’ Shows a solid, (shown with the sack of wheat) disrespect for The Pig who can no longer fight back. The ‘lifeless’ lump of meat, no longer an animal or something to be respected. Poundage of lard and pork.’ This again reinforcing that The Pig is no longer an animal, a living creature. He is now just food, part of the food chain and at the bottom of that chain. He is powerless. In ‘The Tiger’, again the opposite is apparent. I think the most telling of sentences is in the first stanza which sets the quizzical almost childlike awe and fervour which the poet holds The Tiger in, ‘…burning bright’. This repeated again in the final stanza substantiates the poets’ belief in the power of the tiger, the ‘fire’ in his eyes. Words such as ‘hammer’, ‘furnace’ and ‘anvil’ are used conjuring a visual of a blacksmith, tough, working hard to form this strong beast, metal connotations giving the sense of vitality and hardness.

Question 3

What do you think each of the poets’ likes about his particular animal? I think that in ‘The Tiger’ I wouldn’t just say that he likes The Tiger. I would go as far to say he reveres it, he loves everything about the animal, its mystery and strength. Again, referring to the repetition of questions throughout the poem, sentences such as, ‘On what wings dare he aspire? What hand dare seize the fire?’ gives The Tiger a stylised godlike essence. Was he made in Heaven or Hell? ‘What immortal hand or eye, Could frame thy fearful symmetry’, is another allusion to its etherealness but also shows his adoration for the perfect ‘symmetry’ of the beast.

The Pig in Hughes poem again shows the juxtaposition of the feeling of the two poets towards their respective animals. With diction such as ‘bulk’ used and not body, ‘its weight oppressed me’ showing the trouble this ‘thing’ is causing him. ‘The trouble of cutting it up!’ This shows an exclamation of utter contempt for dealing with The Pig. I think the most telling of words used in Hughes poem for his feelings towards The Pig is summed up with this one word, ‘doorstep’. To me this shows that The Pig is nothing more than something to be walked upon. Something inanimate, something only to be used for said person’s desire. This gives very strong imagery of disgust felt towards the pig, something ‘below’ the poet.

In summary I think that both these poems are very different in the views and feeling depicted towards the poets’ respective animals. This is obvious from beginning to end in both poems.


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