Q&A: Describe the relationship between the snake and the persona with close reference to the poem (The Snake by D. H. Lawrence). Use evidence from the text.

Describe the relationship between the snake and the persona with close reference to the poem (The Snake by D. H. Lawrence). Use evidence from the text.

For Malaysian Form 6 Students

A snake is a feared animal by men. This slithery creature can hurt and even kill a human. Men are normally taught to fear the snake or even kill it if it gets too close to humans. However, in the poem by D. H. Lawrence’s “Snake,” the persona is in a limbo whether to kill the snake or let it live, despite the snake being in the persona’s territory.

In the poem, the persona had just made his way to the water-trough in the morning only to come across a snake in there before him. Instead of killing the intruder like what other normal men do, he chose to observe the snake and its beauty. The persona was mesmerised by the looks and the motion of the snake drinking the water from the trough, judging from the amounts of detail the persona had wrote about it as demonstrated in stanza 2: “he reached down from a fissure… …softly drank through his straight gums, into his slack long body,” and also in stanza 4: “he lifted his head from his drinking, as cattle do; and flickered his two-forked tongue from his lips, and missed a moment.” These lines by the persona showed that the persona was enjoying the snake’s presence and accepted the snake as a beautiful animal instead of a vicious predator.

However, the persona’s thoughts did fluctuate throughout the poem. Humans are taught to protect themselves, to chase away or kill predators if they get into man-territory, but the persona had pushed away what he had learnt, because he did not think the snake would be dangerous. This line: “The voice of my education said to me, he (snake) must be killed,” signified that deep in his mind, the thought of killing the snake existed. This line: “And voices in me said, if you were a man, you would take a stick and break him (snake) now, and finish him off,” further taunted the persona to kill the snake. This was what the persona had learnt in society – predators should be killed, snakes are vicious animals.

Nevertheless, the persona then admitted his liking for the snake, as in this line of his poem, “… confess how I liked him (snake).” The persona also admitted that the snake’s presence had made him feel honoured like in line: “Was is cowardice… I felt so honoured.” The persona felt honoured because he believed the snake’s presence was special as the snake could have visited other homes or water-troughs, but decided to visit the persona’s water-trough in particular as in line: “And truly I was… …that he (snake) should seek my hospitality.” The snake’s presence had also made the persona feel like a king as in line: “For he seemed to me again like a king,

Like a king in exile, uncrowned in the underworld,

Now due to be crowned again.” This showed that the persona felt powerful because of the snake’s visit, also meaning that out of many other individuals’ trough to go to, the snake had chosen the persona’s water-trough, and this made the persona feel that even a vicious animal like the snake had chosen his water-trough instead, is an honour to the persona.

After closely observing the snake for some time, his thoughts taunted him again. This time, his mind gives in, the persona threw a log towards the already fleeing snake, but immediately regretted his actions as in line: “… I picked up a clumsy log, and threw it at the water-trough… and immediately I regretted it…” The persona came to his senses again and thought about his hasty actions. In a matter of fact, the persona did admit his action was a mean act and was disgusted of himself as demonstrated in line: “I thought how paltry, how vulgar, what a mean act!

I despised myself…” Also, the persona blamed his education for his action as in line: “… voices of my accursed human education,” too. But despite throwing the log towards the snake, he thought about whether the stick actually injured his “snake-friend” but assumed not. “I think it did not hit him (snake)…” means that the persona was aware of the snake and still had feelings for the snake, a hope of the stick not hitting the snake.

The relationship between the persona and the snake was special, because the persona did what most men would not do, that is to observe the snake despite the snake being in close proximity to man-territory. His admiration for the snake also changed his perspective of education, and throughout the poem, he blamed his education that snakes must be killed. In this poem, it was the persona’s curiosity in the snake which eventually let the snake leave, alive, and how the bond between the snake and persona bloomed.


I would love to hear your thoughts about this piece, so be sure to leave a comment down below. Thank you.
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