Jaguar's Critical Analysis

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"The Jaguar" is about a trip that Hughes made to the zoo. In the poem, he describes the animals in a zoo and their behaviour. It compares the apes, parrots, tiger, lion and a boa constrictor to the jaguar, which is an animal that lives differently to the others in the way that it views its life. The poem begins by describing the apes 'yawning' and 'adoring their fleas', and the fact that they are in the sun adds to the sleepy air. I think this line was deliberately chosen to convey the monotonous lull of everyday life in the zoo and set a drowsy mood. The second line has a rather different tone; it tells of the parrots that 'shriek as if on fire'. Parrots do shrieks, so this is literal, but it gives a connotation of pain or perhaps boredom. Also, they strut themselves like cheap tarts so that visitors of the zoo will feed them, which indicates that they are losing their dignity to food. Line three speaks of the tiger and lion, which are apparently "fatigued with indolence". Once again, suggesting the tone of sleepiness and possibly boredom, and the idleness of the animals. The animals are tired, and in the wild they would probably be more likely to be hunting rather than lazing about in the middle of the day.

The second stanza repeats again the same monotonous lull of the animals, this time a boa constrictor. The word "sun" is used again, so the warm, drowsy image returns, so are the animals. The following lines describe the boa-constrictor which has a coil in its tail, which supposedly "is a fossil". The end of the second line of stanza two is: "cage after cage seems empty" which signifies the monotonous appearance of the cages, which hold very little activity as all the animals in there are barely moving. Basically, the animals are dull and not a very piquant sight for visitors. The next line uses the alliteration "stinks of sleepers" which doesn't really means that the sleepers literally stink, just that there is a strong 'scent' of sleepiness in the air,...
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