The "Echo" in "Penitence"

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At the end of the poem the author hears an “echo.” What is this echo?
The “echo” within the poem “Penitence” by John Burnside can be inturpreted many different ways depending on the perspective that you approach poem from. Some may look at the “echo” as simply the deer being reincarnated in his imagination. Others see the “echo” as the voices of those who have passed. Still many people look at the “echo” and think about the natural world around us. All of these ideas are correct, their really is no wrong answer, every person’s perspective on life is different. Some people think literally, some look at the world abstractly. Life is how you take and perceive it not how you make it.

Many people look at the poem literally and just think of the “echo” as the dead dear. This is true if you read the poem as it is written. Yes, the gruesome memory of the deer is the echo if you don’t look beyond the original meaning. Almost any reader will pick up on this theme immediately, especially if the reader only casually reads the poem once. The more you dig into this poem and look at the author’s emotional experience, the more you realize this theme is only the surface of many other more personal and emotional themes.

Upon further review many readers will start to look at the “echo” as the author trying to bring the deer back to life in his imagination. This theme is confirmed by looking at line 43 where John Burnside says “my own flesh in the body of the deer.” This points to the fact that Burnside is trying to bring the deer back to life by replacing the dead rotten flesh of the deer with his own, in a sense walking in the deer’s shoes. This is good strong evidence that Burnside is remorseful and often thinks about what the deer’s life would have been like if he had not killed the helpless creature. This theme is a very strong and justifiable theme present in “Penitence” but still does not relate this story with previous life experiences.

A more abstract interpretation...
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