May 2, 2014
A Barred Owl/ The History Teacher
The poems A Barred Owl by Richard Wilbur and The History Teacher by Billy Collins are two deeply contrasting pieces that share a common basic idea. These authors introduced two differing approaches on adults’ attempts on how to calm a child’s curiosity and illegitimate fears. While Wilbur uses rhyme and juxtapositions soothe the sleeping child out of her fears by “domesticat[ing]” them, Collins offers under-played false information for his students by using simple diction in attempt to shield them from the ugly truth that the real world has offered from years past.
The adults portrayed in Wilbur’s “A Barred Owl” attempt to keep their young child’s innocence as Wilbur keeps the tone relatively childish with the use of elementary style rhymes. The “warping night” and its “boom” combined with her “darkened room” leave the girl in a state of restless instability. Her caring parents suggest her fear is merely a “forest bird” speaking to her, asking a simple question. This section is peculiar due to the indirect answer of the parents. Yes they mention what the noise truly was but they fail to tell the child that the bird is in fact an owl. Possibly due to the fact that the connotation that enters throughout literary history when an owl is used is rather dark and falsely hints to the association to death. The second stanza of the poem further explains this as the owl is depicted in “stealthy flight” with sinking “claws” that lurks in the darkness. What is curious about this poem is the connection between the two ideas of an owl, where the parents explain the question being asked by the owl as “Who cooks for you?” the idea in general with an owl is the owl seen acting its prey and “eat[ing] raw” the helpless creature to the bone. The juxtaposition being used here fully contrasts these two ideas; however, the adults do successfully make their point to the innocent child. In Collin’s “The...
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