Q & A: Man and animals are connected. Discuss with reference to 2 poems of your choice.

Q: Man and animals are connected. Discuss with reference to 2 poems of your choice.

For Malaysian Form 6 Students


Q: Man and animals are connected. Discuss with reference to 2 poems of your choice.
Snake – D H Lawrence
The Magpies – Judith Wright

Man and animals are connected because they are all part of the same ecosystem. In Snake by D H Lawrence, the relationship between man and animals is explored through the persona’s experience with a snake; while in The Magpies by Judith Wright, the duality of human nature is shown through the duality of the magpies. These poems show that man and animals are connected in more ways than one.

D H Lawrence’s Snake explores the relationship between man and snake. A snake comes to the persona’ water trough to drink water. To the snake, this is a normal thing to do, as shown in “He lifted his head from his drinking, as cattle do, And looked at me, as drinking cattle do.” However, this stirs up mixed emotions in the persona. On one hand, the persona feels honored that the snake has chosen his water trough to drink at, and stares as he waits for the snake to have its fill, showing that man and animals can live in harmony. On the other hand, “The voice of my education said to me, He must be killed”, the persona feels torn because society has taught him to kill snake as it is venomous, and a threat to man’s safety. This shows us another side of the connnection between man and snake as prey and predator.

This prey-pedator relationship goes both ways; snakes are generally venomous, which causes fear in man. However the realationship in the poem shows that it can be vice versa as well. The snake has come to the trough to drink, and after drinking, it slithers away back into the earth, meaning no harm. The persona, on the other hand, out of bravado, picks up a “clumsy log” and throws it at the leaving snake, attempting to kill it but only succeeding in scaring it away “in undignified haste”. This is a result of the superiority man feels towards animals due to their education and the norms of society. Nature is not subject to this, only attacking when threatened, instead of foreseeing a threat where there is none. The persona comes to realize this, and regrets his actions, even showing empathy for the snake in “I think it did not hit him”, returning the original connnection of co-existence.

In The Magpies by Judith Wright, magpies are likened to human. “They look like certain gentlemen who seem most nonchalant and wise” Magpies and men alike take pride in their appearance, often striving to preen themselves to create a favourable image, like the cutout of “nonchalant and wise”. However, magpies and humans would do anything for survival, showing their greed and throwing aside their wise visage, as shown in “until their meal is served – and then what clashing beaks, what greedy eyes!” The punctuation of a dash highlights the stark contrast between the two sides of the magpies, just as it is shocking when the two faces of human nature are revealed.

The Magpies further describe another connection between man and animals, that of gratitude. The Magpies are shown as beings which are grateful for what they have at the end of the day, in “Their greed is brief; their joy is long. For each is born with such a throat, as thanks his God with every note.” The greed for gains to survive does not outlive their joy in living life, which is caused for gratitude to God as nature’s creator. On the flip side, the persona has not heard any man “throw back his head in such a song of grace and praise”. This reveals how man, as compared to animals, let greed drive them instead of the simple joys in life.

In conclusion, man and animals are inevitably connected, be it in their relationship with one another or their inner nature. However, man falls short as they are more materialistic and feel superior to animals, shortcomings which affect their relationship with nature’s other creations.

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