Poem Analysis: Hedgehog & Night of the Armadillo

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  • Topic: Mammal, Armadillo, Armour
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  • Published : November 15, 2012
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A Tale of Two Mammals: The Analysis of How to Make it in Society

Connected by the delicate branches of the tree that sprouted from the constantly expanding lineage of the Mammalian family, the hedgehog and the armadillo are also separated by millions of years of evolution. The choice in animals for the poems did not fall under the laws of natural selection, they were hand selected to represent the separate, yet connected underlying messages. Paul Muldoon, author of “Hedgehog”, and Yusef Komunyakaa, author of “Night of the Armadillo”, both declare society as a negative parasitic being. Both mammalian protagonists bear suits of armor that barely suppress the impending offensive physical/social forces, all the meanwhile representing the average man due to the small figure compared to the overwhelming size of society, while the relation comes from not one excerpt of each poem, yet each line is an ingredient in preparing one single message. The authors argue that society is a cancerous force that contorts itself to reach under the shells of individuals, yet when approached by conformity-resistant armored personalities, it attacks and isolates the target.

“The snail moves like a
Hovercraft, held up by a
Rubber cushion of itself,
Sharing its secret

With the hedgehog. The hedgehog
Shares its secret with no one.
We say, Hedgehog, come out
Of yourself and we will love you.

We mean no harm. We want
Only to listen to what
You have to say. We want
Your answers to our questions.

The hedgehog gives nothing
Away, keeping itself to itself.
We wonder what a hedgehog
Has to hide, why it so distrusts.

We forget the god
under this crown of thorns.
We forget that never again
will a god trust in the world”
In this poem, the snail stands for the conformists who have given into the cancerous ways of society. The spineless invertebrates are the bottom feeders of the world - the lower, more common species of the animal hierarchy. The author uses a mollusk to display the disposability of the common conformed individual. The snail may have the protection of a shell, but he must leave that behind to slowly spread his secrets. On the other hand, the hedgehog represents much more than the snail. It is vastly more rare and exotic, and is hailed supreme as the Mammalia family presides over the Mollusk with the addition of the strength that lies in its backbone, intelligence, and the warm oxygenated blood pumping through its body. Given its advantages over the Mollusk, its Achilles heel is that the hedgehog is vastly outnumbered by the heavy populated snail. The hedgehog is the goodness in human kind, its integrity. Honorably, the animal keeps to its ties by not sharing it’s secrets with society. An ominous commentary then begins toward the hedgehog, and the collected voice of society calls out to the noble creature requesting the vermin to lower his shields in return for the love of his peers. Society begs and begs to extract the requested information with the promise of safety. The voice keeps calling out to the uninterested individual, trying to establish any connection it can until the desire became too great. “We want / Your answers to our questions” (11-12), requests turn to demands and society begins to take the offensive on the tank of the animal kingdom. This evolution of communication, passive to aggressive, is underlying proof of the liquid goal society has to seep into armor of the unsuspecting average man. Yielding his integrity over the curiosity of society, the hedgehog finds trust only in itself. This refusal at the moral level shows the strength and integrity the hedgehog has. While the hedgehog is the goodness in people, society views this negatively, as keeping to himself must be a reason for the vermin to be hiding something, even though the hedgehog is the lone light in the dark. The voice’s transition from a positive outtake to a negative one is shown when he labels the hedgehog...
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