“The Jaguar” by Ted Hughes evocatively embraces the imprisonment of zoo animals within the human world of civilization. More specifically of an extraordinary jaguar. Hughes beautifully uses a variety of poetic techniques such as onomatopoeia, enjambment, sensory images, similes, and alliteration to illustrate the contrast between the stoic existence of the other animals and the untameable spirit of the jaguar. The poem truly manifests the greatness of this wild creature and wonderfully demonstrates how the freedom within one so powerful can never be destroyed.
As the poem begins, we are introduced to several animals in the zoo, all doing different things:
“The apes yawn and adore their fleas in the sun.
The parrots shriek as if they were on fire, or strut
Like cheap tarts to attract the stroller with the
Fatigued with indolence, tiger and lion”
This stanza immediately sets out an aural image to the reader of parrots shrieking. The simile “as if they were on fire” gives us a very vivid image of how loud and insistent the sound is. The parrots have to screech to invite attention to themselves and they specifically screech at the strollers with nuts. The parrots “strut like cheap tarts” which shows how desperate these birds are to have people stare and observe them. “Fatigued with indolence, tiger and lion” this line portrays how these supposedly great fierce creatures lack any life or emotion. Hughes couples up “fatigued” and “indolence” with “tiger” and “lion” to clearly contradict their natural behaviour. This line is also an enjambment with the first line of the second stanza:
“Lie still as the sun
The boa-constrictor’s coil
Is a fossil. Cage after cage seems empty, or
Stinks of sleepers from the breathing straw.
It might be painted on a nursery wall.”
The alliteration of “Lion” and “Lie” cleverly stresses the sense of laziness throughout the zoo. The boa constrictor is a large, heavy-bodied species of snake....
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