The Bull Moose

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Alden Nowlan (1933 – 1983), in 1962, wrote the Canadian poem "The Bull Moose." At first read, the poem seems to be about a wild male moose that, while looking for a place to die, has wandered into a small town. Upon discovering this wild creature, the townspeople torment it and eventually, when the moose shows signs of strength, they kill it. Nowlan, however, combines contrasting imagery, symbolism, and mythological aspects to illuminate his overall theme of how far humanity has fallen from nature and how hollow our ideas of progress have become. "The Bull Moose" is full of contrasting images that support the overall theme. The first stanza begins with the moose coming down from the mountain "lurching through forests," and "stumbling through… swamps" (2-3). This gives the reader the overall impression of overwhelming freedom. The moose has no limits until the image changes drastically when the moose was "stopped at last by a pole-fenced pasture" (5). The fenced pasture no doubt is representative of the limits of civilization and Nowlan is making an effort to show the sharp contrast between nature and civilization. Soon the townspeople arrive, representative of civilized life. These people do not seem to understand what the Bull Moose is. They seem to think that it is like one of their own domesticated animals, "like an old tolerant collie" (14). Soon "cars lined the road" and the "children teased [the moose]" (11-12). This is image is also in sharp contrast to the image the raw nature is free and majestic. In addition to contrasting imagery, Nowlan uses symbolism to convey his theme to readers. The prevailing symbols present are the moose, the fenced pasture, and the townspeople. The interaction of these symbols is how the reader can understand the theme. The poem begins with the moose as a symbol of nature. The moose has enormous strength as he lurches "through forests of white spruce and cedar" (2). However, when the moose encounters the...
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