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In the poem, “The Hunting Snake”, Judith Wright tries to convey her feelings about a snake that she comes across while walking in the wilderness. While she is conveying her feelings about the snake, she is simultaneously breaking a common misconception that most people have about snakes. Wright is able to do this through her commanding power over the language that vividly brings out exactly what the she feels about the snake and nature.
Throughout the poem, Wright tries to bring out both the snake’s sinister side and its moral side.
She does this by, when describing the snake, using adjectives that push forward both sides of the snake’s nature. For example, in the first stanza, she describes the snake as “the great black snake”. By calling it ‘great’, Wright is trying to show how powerful and magnificent the snake is, while at the same time also how it has an ominous side to it. Similarly, she describes the snake as “cold, dark and splendid” in the fourth stanza.
There also may be a slight biblical reference in the second stanza, when she states that the snake moved through the “parting grass”. This may be a reference to Moses parting the sea, which could cause people to infer that she may feel that the snake is almost holy.
Again in the second stanza, Judith Wright states that the snake “quested through the parting grass”. Along with what might be a biblical reference, the word ‘quested’ may mean that she is describing the snake as heroic, as quests are journeys or adventures that are normally undertaken by heroes or protagonists.
Also in the second stanza is the line “glazed his curves of diamond scale”. The word diamond’ used in this context shows how the poet believes the snake to be almost valuable, just like a diamond. Also, the word ‘scale’ creates a link between snakes and their reptilian ancestors, the dragons. Dragons are mythical creatures and are always held in high regards. This shows what Judith Wright really feels about the snake, and how it is not the cold blooded killer that people usually believe it to be.
Using all of this, Wright is trying to break the belief that people have that snakes are vicious killers. Snakes do not harm humans unless they are attacked first. So, Wright is saying that if humans and animals were to live together in a symbiotic relationship, the harmoniousness of it would allow for a tranquil environment where all species could thrive. As Judith Wright is an activist for the rights of the indigenous people of Australia, the snake could be a metaphor for the Aboriginal people of Australia. The snake hunting for its food could actually be the indigenous people of Australia hunting for their meal. The entire poem, in my opinion, could be an extended metaphor for how all kinds of people can live symbiotically, if no one was to provoke the other first.
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