Many poets compare animals to feelings or objects (whether tangible or intangible), because it is easy for a person to comprehend what an author is actually feeling through everyday comparisons to animals (i.e a lion symbolizes pride or courage). For example: In the poem “A Noiseless Patient Spider” by author Walt Whitman, he compares his soul to the spider, “ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing, seeking the / spheres that connect them...”. Linda Pastan uses this animal-to-feeling metaphor in her poem “Anger” by comparing her anger to a common household pet, a dog.
Many images come to my mind when I read this poem on a literal level. A lot of them are actually more personal than not. I have gone through many therapy sessions throughout my childhood and then more throughout my teenage years, having a bottled up (or as Pastan says “caged up”) anger inside of me constantly, trying to find a way to finally release it without hurting others or myself. So in a sense, this poem “hits it home” with me. My first thought was that she was actually talking to herself, like having a fight in her own mind about either letting her anger loose or keeping it in. I then thought since the first lines of the actual poem are “You tell me / That it's alright...” it sounds as if she is talking to a second person, actually having a conversation, or argument, with them. However after reading it through a few more times, I began to think that it was both of these, both an internal and external struggle going. Throughout the whole poem, she explains this whole ugly, detestable, belligerent thing that she seems to be frustrated to be holding on to it. I believe that the actual argument reaches its climax when she insults the second person saying,” Ah, you think you know so much / you whose anger is a pet dog / its canines dull with disuse.” , and it reaches its end when she finally decides, although frustrated with it, to just hold it in.
She goes through the rest of the poem using both the first and the second person pronouns, referencing both herself and the other person in the poem. She actually compares herself to the other person, by saying that they are both opposites.
I read this poem over in many different ways. I've had to analyze it intensely to actually understand even a deeper meaning to it, rather than the literal meaning to it. This poem, I believe, can relate to all of us as human beings. We all have feelings of anger sometime or another, and at the same time we all debate with ourselves, as well as other people, to let it out or not. I know personally I have struggled with this many times. Like Linda Pastan I have compared not just my anger, but all anger in general, to an animal. I know about holding so much anger that it seems like a “rabid thing”. I believe not only is she scared to “let it out” not only because she might not only hurt someone else, but herself as well. It's pretty obvious that she holds a reluctance towards the other person, but she also does not hold herself as a very strong person, because she doesn't think that she can actually “tame” her own anger.
The central metaphor in the the poem is a very obvious one, she is comparing anger to a dog. I believe she does this, because in a person's mind an animal such as a dog, compares very well to different feelings. A dog is a very good animal to compare with anger, because, like anger, it can be either tame or wild, depending on how you “train” it and/or how a person is naturally. She says,” But mine is a rabid thing, sharpening its teeth / on my very bones.” This leaves a very strong feeling in the minds of readers. It's obvious that her anger is not controllable and that fact that she says that it sharpens its teeth on her bones, shows that it's also wearing away at her. On the other hand she has this to say about the other person,” you whose anger is a pet dog / its canines dull with disuse.” This is also a very strong line, because it says a lot about how she feels about them, but shows how the person is as well. Throughout the whole poem she uses a lot of very strong vocabulary, building up the central metaphor. Lines 4 and 5 of the poem,” though it may claw someone, / even bite.”, line 8 to line 10,” But loose it may / turn on me, maul / my face, draw blood.”, and lines 14 and 15,”But mine is a rabid thing, sharpening its teeth / on my very bones.” shows how she feels about her own anger, and I believe it is both hate and fear at the same time. Line 11 to line 13,” Ah, you think you know so much, / you whose anger is a pet dog, / its canines dull with disuse.” shows more of her personality, her sarcasm. It also shows that she holds some anger towards the second person.
The poem Anger by Linda Pastan holds much truth about about a human's personality, not just her own. The fact that she references both sides of anger, both mild and extreme, shows that she knows that both sides exist, just as different people exist with many types of anger. Many people, including me, can read this poem and relate to it just as I have.