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“The Panther” Imagery

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  • Pages: 2
  • Word count: 460
  • Category: Poems

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Rilke uses an array of imagery techniques in his poem “The Panther” to help the reader arrive at a sense of theme. Rilke employs personification in the first line of the poem to help evoke an ironic tone upon the reader. For example, in this line Rilke personifies the fact that the panther’s vision “cannot hold anything else” but the bars he sees right in front of him. This adds a paradoxical element to the poem because the personification functions as a means to limit the panther instead of giving him “typical” humanlike qualities. In the second stanza, Rilke extends this image of the powerful panther being limited and isolated by the bars; Rilke writes, “As he paces in cramped circles…” (5). Rilke then employs a smile in the next line where he compares the movement of the panther to a “ritual dance”. This image brought forth broadens this motif of subjugation from solely a panther to the lifestyle of people in general. In addition, this linkage to a “ritual dance,” although ambiguous, could possibly be an allusion to a specific group in history. In the final line of the second stanza, Rilke employs paradoxical language and personification when he writes, “in which a mighty will stands paralyzed” (8).

This line creates a paradox in the sense that while the panther may be full of life and power, he is unable to use any of this power because he is paralyzed behind these bars. The use of personification in this line has a similar effect to the first line of the poem because they both evoke an ironic tone. In both lines, Rilke paradoxically personifies the fact that the panther is paralyzed to reiterate the notion that he is completely subjugated. In the final stanza of “The Panther,” Rilke uses synecdoche when he writes “pupils” but most likely is referring to the entire eye of the panther of even the panther itself. Moreover, in this line, the use of personification functions to create a sense of life for the panther since the “curtain” of his eye is being “lifted”.

This use of personification immediately draws the reader into the final line of the poem since he or she wants to see what will happen when the panther views this “image”. However, Rilke uses an anticlimactic element in the ending of the poem by stating that the image “plunges into the heart and is gone” (12). Overall, the use of imagery in “The Panther” helps create a sense of theme for the poem. The main theme of the poem is that humans, both voluntarily and involuntarily, can be subjugated to lifestyles that remove their very sense of being and instead put them in a state of paralysis.

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