Last Updated 07 Jul 2020

Analysis of Hawk Roosting

Category Hawk Roosting
Essay type Analysis
Words 1467 (5 pages)
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Analysis of “Hawk Roosting” Hawk Roosting is a poem written by Ted Hughes (1930-1998). Hughes was a British poet who often described the destructive aspects of animal life, survival instincts and the brutality of nature. His poem Hawk Roosting deals with the themes evil, power and human nature told from the point of view of a hawk. This poem therefore coheres with Hughes’ other work. In my analysis I will be focusing on a characterization of the first person and what this hawk symbolizes.

I will also be mentioning the message of the poem and end the analysis with a contextualization, where I also will be answering and commenting on the two following questions; “Is man fundamentally evil or good or do we all posses both elements? ” and “What triggers evil? What prevents it from surfacing? ” I would like to start my analysis with a characterization of the main character and the symbol of that character. This poem is told in first person through the eyes of a hawk.

We are not told directly in the text that it is a hawk but we know this partially because of the title of the poem “Hawk Roosting” and somewhat because of the description we are given of the main character (the I). We are informed in stanza 1 that the main character is sitting on the top of the wood[1], which could indicate a bird or a rodent (i. e. squirrel or chipmunk) of some sort. The main character also has a hooked head and feet, which still could insinuate both bird and rodent. The reader is however convinced that it is a bird by use of the sentence;”The air’s buoyancy…” which tells us that it can fly thus it is a bird.

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If not for the title one could still assume it was a bird of prey as we are told that it kills[2]. Hughes uses the simple present tense to describe what the hawk is doing; “I sit, I kill”[3] with the effect that we understand that this is what the hawk does every day and that it is not an unordinary circumstance but a regular situation. A hawk is a bird of prey, a predator, a majestic bird and it is at the top of its food chain. It has the power “I kill where I please because it is all mine”[4], and it sees itself as perfect because it is the final product of evolution “It took the whole of creation to produce my foot, my each feather”[5].

The hawk is nature at its purest intent because there are no lies or arguments in this poem there is simply the truth about the nature of the hawk. Hughes points this out firstly by using the sentence “No falsifying dream”[6] and secondly by the sentence “There is no sophistry in my body”[7]. When people dream it is often of a consorted reality where anything can happen, because it is your imagination. A dream is often something you desire or can’t face in the real life, so one lives it through in a dream. A dream therefore consorts your reality or falsifies it.

This Hawk does not dream of things that are not real. It only dreams about specific things that are a part of its reality. Sophistry is false reasoning intending to deceive. The hawk therefore only tells the truth and explains reality and how things are, no arguments just facts. The hawk knows what it is and is content with that. I believe that the hawk represents the truth behind human nature. How humans deep down are instinctive creatures and that there is a primitive evil in all of us. I believe this because the hawk is like us at the top of the food chain, the ultimate creation and it is driven by power.

The only difference really is that the hawk is excused of committing evil deeds because it is its nature and it is therefore acceptable. Humans on the other hand have morals, ethics and a society which holds these norms in place and an act of evil is therefore unforgivable and non relatable. In stanza 6, line 2 the hawk also states that nothing has changed. I think this is referring to the true nature of humanity, which is to a certain extent evil, and how it has always been a part of the human kind and it will always be a part of us. Even though humanity has become better over time (e. the Middle Ages) it is only due to societies with norms, rules and values which without, one would quicker descend into evil. I believe the message of this poem is that the nature of humankind never changes and evil is a part of us, just waiting below the surface, where if pressured, we will show our true nature. I would like to end off my analysis with a contextualization and a comment to the mentioned questions. I thing this poem has a lot in common with the article “Bad or Mad”. In “Bad or Mad” it is discussed what defines evil where they distinguish between natural and moral evil. Moral evil is defined as the evil humans do, by hoice, knowing that they are doing wrong; and natural evil is the bad things that just happen such as natural catastrophes. I would like to widen the term natural evil to comprehend the evil acts of animals as well. The hawk is an animal and kills because it must to survive and it would therefore belong to the natural evil. However, the hawk is a symbol of the natural/instinctive evil that is in all mankind, which is harder to define. If man commits evil acts we see it as moral evil, because they have chosen to do so out of lust, fascination or even for fun in some cases. On some level the humans are exactly like the hawk.

If you took away society and said every man/woman for themselves, you would have chaos and people would do whatever it took to survive. I have thereby already answered the question; “What triggers evil? What prevents it from surfacing? ” I agree with Hughes’ opinion that we all have evil inside of us but it would be defined as natural evil or the will to survive which one would not necessarily depict as evil but simply the human nature. To point it out I believe that this so called evil is triggered if you are threatened or as a result of the fear of losing your life or a loved one etc. This answer is one side of it.

Another thing that has been seen to trigger a certain level of evil is power. The hawk as mentioned also symbolizes exactly that. The Zimbardo experiment is an example of power taking over and of course the lack of a society with norms which I believe is one of the main reasons that why evil does not normally surface. In murder cases where the plaintive committed the act out of grief or rage (emotions) they are penalized less because most people can relate to it and you are not fundamentally evil as for a planned murder where you could get into a more black and white conversation about good and evil.

As for the question; “Is man fundamentally evil or good or do we all posses both elements? ” I have to some extent discussed this but I will lay it out further. I believe that everyone has the capacity to commit evil acts if they are pushed to their furthest limits and boundaries but I would not like to think of myself as a cynic and say that man is fundamentally evil. I believe that we posses both elements and that we are capable of both.

I think that is one of the main differences when one talks about evil in for example animals and humans. The fact that we understand evil because we understand compassion, love and are capable of empathy whereas animals act on pure instinct. You can therefore not define evil or claim that something is evil if it does not have the capability of righteousness and goodness. Your language is very convuluted in places and sometimes thus also a bit difficult to follow see orange sentence.

Do not use contractions. 12. ----------------------- [1] Stanza 1, line 1; “I sit in the top of the wood . . . “ [2] Stanza 1, line 4;”Or in sleep rehearse perfect kills and eat” and stanza 3, line 2; “I kill where I please”. [3] Stanza 1, line 1; “I sit in the top of the wood” and stanza 4, line 2; “I kill where I please” [4] Stanza 4, line 2. [5] Stanza 3, line 2-3. [6] Stanza 1, line 2. [7] Stanza 4, line 3.

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