Unicorn Response (the Once and Future King)

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Throughout The Once and Future King, T.H. White utilizes symbolism to illustrate and emphasis major themes in the novel as well as to shed light on major characters. The passage in chapter 7 of Book II: The Queen of Air and Darkness containing the unicorn hunt represents many themes in the novel. The use of a unicorn itself symbolizes purity and beauty; unicorns are “graceful… [dainty]” and “glorious” (253) creatures. Unicorns identify so much with all things pure that they will only lay their head down on the lap of a virgin. The color of unicorns, white, is also often synonymous with purity. The stark contrast between the pureness of the creature and the careless slaughter, coupled with the imagery of the blood against its pure white hair illustrates violence and cruelty. As many events in The Once and Future King allude to war and violence, this passage also relates to war. T.H. White shows repeatedly his disdain for war in this novel, while the idea of war is glorified by many, rarely do people understand the reality of it. War involves much bloodshed and death and this passage truly demonstrates the grimness of war.

A second theme present in the passage pertains to the theme of women being deceitful. Meg has the job of luring the unicorn to lay on her lap and even as the Orkney brothers begin to slaughter it, she “[takes] its horn in one hand… the unicorn [could] not seem able to move from the soft grip of her” (259). Although the Orkney brothers are actively killing the unicorn, White makes a point of emphasizing Meg’s entrapment of the unicorn. Furthermore, the entire purpose of capturing the unicorn in the first place was to impress Morgause due to her constant neglect of her sons. Even after the unicorn was killed and its head was taken back to the castle, Morgause still did not notice her son’s efforts of impressing her. Finally when she did find out about the unicorn, she “had them whipped for it” (263). These female characters represent White’s...
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