Hunting Snake vs the Cockroach

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Discuss the following poems, Hunting Snake and The Cockroach, commenting in particular on the ways in which the poets depict their respective creatures.

The poems ‘Hunting Snake’ by Judith Wright and ‘The Cockroach’ by Kevin Halligan are both very metaphorical in their comparisons between creatures and humanity. Both poems are about animals in an undisturbed environment and their subsequent interaction with human beings, and a language feature that is common in both poems is an extended metaphor.

The ambiguity of the title in ‘Hunting Snake’ is quite important. It is impossible to differentiate from the title alone whether it is the snake being hunted, or if it is the snake which is doing the hunting. Similarly, the title of “The Cockroach” gives no further details to the poem apart from the obvious fact that a cockroach will feature prominently. This allows the reader a greater range of interpretation

Both poems can be seen as representations of humanity. Judith Wright was born in Australia and held an intense fascination of the countryside and the indigenous Aboriginal people. It is perhaps no coincidence, then, that her poem may hint at aspects of Australian life. The black snake could be seen to represent the Aboriginal people, whilst the people who see this snake may represent the English colonisers who came to inhabit Australia. They both fear and revere the snake - not only do they appreciate its dangerous beauty, but at the same time they treat it as a wild animal. This is a potential metaphor for the racial divide between the Aboriginals and Englishmen which still exists to a limited extent even today.

Meanwhile, ‘The Cockroach’ explores human nature - first hinted in the fact that the cockroach is described as being “giant”. This idea is then developed through personification - the verbs “trace”, “jog” and “circle” are all normally associated with human behaviours. These actions could be a metaphor for the restlessness of human nature....
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