Ted Hughes’ poem ‘The jaguar’ describes a group of animals living in a zoo, caged and sedentary, being stared at by onlookers, as well as one animal in particular: the jaguar. In this poem, we see how certain animals have let their cage define them, and have grown into almost inanimate objects whereas the panther, symbol of power and greatness, has not let itself be confined to the realm of his cage and instead uses his vision, his mind, to escape the entrapment.
Hughes paints an extremely vivid description of the sedentary and monotonous life of caged animals in a zoo in order to promote a strong contrast to the energy and liveliness of the jaguar. We are told that ‘the apes yawn’, the tiger and lion are ‘fatigued with indolence’ and that the ‘boa-constrictor’s coil is a fossil’, all which encourage the reader to think of stillness, boredom and lethargy. We imagine slow moving animals in their cages, all sleepy, uninterested and still. Hughes’s uses words such as ´boredom´, ´sleepers´ and ´fatigued’ in order to accentuate this image. The third verse, however, presents a change in descriptive language when we are presented with descriptions of the jaguar. Suddenly, a shift in mood and energy is perceptible as the feline is described as ‘hurrying enraged’ through his cage ‘on a short fierce fuse’. The jaguar is described as spinning, pacing and wild, all which accentuate this sudden change of atmosphere: ‘the bang of blood’ and the panther’s ‘stride’ all highlight the contrast to the still, sedentary animals around it. This contrast is further accentuated by the descriptions if the crowd: the visitors to the zoo are described as ‘run[ning] past’ the cages containing the animals described earlier on in the poem in order to observe the jaguar. We are told that ‘the crowd stands, stares, mesmerized’ by the majestic animal, which is a strong contrast to their indifference to the other animals. The other cages seem ‘empty’ to the onlookers while they are able to...
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