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"Pike" is one of Ted Hughes' well-known poems. It was first published in 1959, and later on in 1970 in the volume called Lupercal. The poem Is known as an animal poem. It deals with the destructive instinct in the pike in particular and the violent and horrific destructive element in animals or nature in general and discuss about critical appreciation of pike.
critical appreciation of pike

As the title shows the poem is about the Pike. The pike is a kind of fish that may grow very large with the increase of its age. It is a carnivorous species that hunts other fishes for its food. It acquires this destructive nature from its very birth. The poem brings into focus the violence and horror involved in the struggle for survival. 

The poem begins with a description of some small pikes. They are only three inches long, perfect in proportion having a mixed colour of green and yellow. Their perfect shape and beautiful colour do not hide the fact that they are "killers from the egg" because an inherent grin in their mouths reflects their inborn killing nature. They seem to be complacent of their magnificent nature. They move very smoothly under water but always carry with them the horror of killing. Whether they remain still in water or lie on waterbed, they reflect their destructive nature acquired genetically.

The speaker and  friends (may be family members) filled a glass jar with water and weed, and kept three pikes in it. The pikes were three, four, and four and a half inches long. They fed the fish with young fish. But the pikes tried to kill each other. First, one was missing, and then two were missing. It is understood that the strongest of them ate up the missing two, because the survivor's stomach was swollen. The pike, in fact, spares nobody.

On another occasion the speaker observed that two dead pikes, each weighing six pounds and more than two feet long, were lying dead in the willow herb. One of them plunged its sharp teeth on the lower part of the throat of the other. During their death, their eyes became wide open reflecting the horror of the killers.

Still on another occasion the speaker had similar experience of the pike. He went to an old pond managed by a monastery to catch fish. There were pikes of huge size. The speaker tried to catch them with a fishing line. It was evening. He felt horror because of the size and killing nature of the pikes. He was so afraid that he felt his hair on his head became frozen. He was overpowered by an image of darkness approaching towards him. The poem ends with the threat of the violence and horror inherent in nature.

The theme of the poem has gradually been developed to its climax at the end of the poem. The first stanza introduces the small pikes to suggest that the violent killing nature of this species is inborn, even "from the egg". Whether the pike remains small or becomes large, whether it moves quietly or remains still, its hook like jaws and the permanent grin suggest its killing nature. Then, from the fifth stanza, the poet develops the idea of violence and horror through anecdotes. In the first and second anecdotes the strongest pike ate up its weaker companions, thus, emphasising once again the elemental horror in the fish. The last four stanzas depict another event of primitive horror suggested by the immense size, the prevalent darkness and the freezing cold. The horror reaches its climax in the last two lines, which present an image of thick darkness walking like a giant threatening death and destruction. In this last stanza, the poet passes on from the violence of the pike to the horror of destruction dormant in nature.

The poem consists of eleven stanzas, each comprising of four lines The lines are not of regular metres. The shortest line is of only five. Syllables while the longest is of eleven syllables. The lines very  according to the meaning they suggest. In other words the poet has used here free verse form that matches the meaning. The weight or importance of the meaning takes a longer line as in "Pike too immense to stir, so immense and old". But when the meaning is simple and suggests quietness, it becomes small as the line, "Gloom of their stillness". There is no rhyme of any kind in this poem since dealing with violence and horror would have not matched any.

"Pike" is very rich in figures of speech. There are frequent uses of similes, metaphors and hyperboles. The figures are functional and they convey the desired meanings very effectively. For instance, the simile, "as deep as England" suggests the uncertainty of the prehistoric era of England. There is another simile, "as a vice locks". It adds mystery to the uncertain depth of the pond indicating horror and fear. The poet has used several metaphors. Some of them are: "killers from the eggs", "submarine delicacy", "same iron in this eye", etc. The pikes have been implicitly compared to the killers. Their movement has been compared to the silent, smooth movement of submarine suggesting the destructive nature inherent in the pikes. The eyes of the dead pikes have been compared to iron suggesting the weapon of killers, desire of killing and also the horror of death. Similarly, the hyperboles used in this poem are very effective. The simile "as deep as England" is also an example of hyperbole because it exaggerates the mystery of the pond. The line "Pike too immense to stir, so immense and old" is another hyperbole that exaggerates the size of the pikes implying the horror central to the poem.

Many of the figures of speech of "Pike" present vivid pictures. These word-pictures "known" as imagery are concrete in nature and convey the intended meanings. Some of them are: "green tigering the gold", "The jaws' hooked clamp and fangs", "Pike too immense to stir", "The outside eye stared", "iron in this eye", "the hair frozen on my head" and the most vivid one in the last two lines-

"Darkness beneath night's darkness had freed,That rose slowly towards me, watching."

All these images have been very carefully chosen to suggest the destructive instinct of the pike. These images help the poet continue the theme of horror and violence. The poet has also used colour imagery in this poem. He has used "green" "gold", "emerald", "silhouette", "amber" and "darkness" to suggest the dauntless, sanguinary nature of the pike. Similarly, the word "grin" presents repeatedly a vivid image of sharp teeth of the pike to imply its killing nature and the violence involved in it. So the imagery in this poem has very effectively been used to contribute to the theme of violence, danger and death caused by the pike and Nature.


Unknown said...

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It's really so much essential & important for my exam preparation. Tnx for sharing this. !!

Unknown said...

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Anonymous said...

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