What does the Jaguar represent in Ted Hughes’s poem “TheJaguar”?
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Ted Hughes is one of the most famous names in the contemporary world of poetry. He is called the animal poet, because many of his poems describe animals and represent human beings by using animal imagery. Animal kingdom is his private mythology. He has an extraordinary way of looking into life. He exposes human follies, anger, and hatred through the animal kingdom. His themes are explored by means of image, myth and symbol.
The Jaguar is a poem about a fierce animal from the image of which Ted Hughes unearths something about human nature. On the surface, the poem is an animal poem which reminds us of the wrath and violence of the Jaguar. It is a symbolic poem about an animal which is fiercely energetic. Here the poet reveals his thoughts through a sight of a zoo. The animals like the apes, the parrots and even the snakes, tigers and lion seemed to be quite content with their present situation. These animals as they accepted imprisonment, rest in somnolence. For instance, the apes ravel in yawning and adoring their fleas in the sun. The parrots are uttering loud cries or moving about proudly as to attract the attention of the spectators and get nuts from them. The tiger and the lion looked tired and lazy as they lie motionless in the sunlight. In fact, all of these animals are fatigued with indolence. As a result, the zoo looks like a multicolored picture painted on a nursery wall by the very students of the nursery. Even the boa-constrictor seems to have lost its strength and velocity and lies like an ancient fossil.
In fact, the zoo is an artificial place where the animals being removed form their natural habitation, are put in cage after cage. Since the animals are taken from their natural habitation, they are deprived of the greenery and expansion of woods. A spectator in a zoo can detect some of their presence only from the smell of the sleeping animals.
But, in front of the cage of the Jaguar the situation is different. The crowd stands still as if hypnotized by some kind of extra terrestrial magical force. Inside the cage the jaguar strives majestically. His eyes seem to be ‘blind in fire’. He spins from the bars with wrath and ferocity. Even the person who is attracted to this cage behaves as a child at a dream. The jaguar is in a state of rage and its eyes seem to be a drilling machine which can drill a hole into the darkness of the imprisonment. The blood in the brain of the Jaguar seems to have deadened consciousness concerning the spectators. His blood runs through his veins so forcefully that all other sights and sounds are obliterated.
In this poem the Jaguar represents the oppressed soul of mankind which amidst all odds knows not to surrender. He could be caged within the four walls of a cell but his mind will create another world of freedom and beauty beyond the reach of the oppressors. As we look back at the human history of progress we find that there are always people who have never been contended with their condition; they are revolutionists and have changed the face of the world. These spirited beings like Prometheus never have accepted defeat or the curbing of their freedom. Woes and pangs of life have never been able to subdue their spirit of freedom. “Man could be destroyed but not be defeated” – this dictum is applicable to these heroes of history who have defeated the negative forces of time and universe.
The cage is the symbol of the world. We are all imprisoned in it. In this world different sorts of people appear at our sight. There are some ordinary people who have nothing to offer to this world. They live just for the sake of the living and pass the days away like the apes, parrots or lions. They are thoughtless, motionless, inactive and therefore considered to be dead.
But all the fingers of a hand are not equal. The world passes some extra-ordinary sons with their great revolutionary souls who do not know what is defeat or surrender. The spirit of Jaguar is the representative of these few people. They are not confined within the world though they are imprisoned in it. They have got unlimited will. So, they defy the limitation of the world. Everyman is free inside; as a result, these people can travel anywhere through anything at any moment and there remains no boundary towards their freedom. They dream of a happy and abundant life – a life free from disease, sufferings and sorrows. They not only dream but also challenge. They are vigorous and deliberately try to make some changes and they contribute labor to the welfare of the world. They possess free soul – more powerful than the mind of a visionary that travel the world beyond world beyond horizons.
We again find that the Jaguar is not mentally tied up by his bondage; ‘there is no cage to him’. His field of vision is so extensive that despite being surrounded by iron bars, in his imagination he strides along the path of the world. He may be caged objectively but subjectively he is unshackled and free. His power to transcend the hostile situation as well as the chalk circle drawn around him by restriction could never be circumscribed. In Ted Hughes poem The Jaguar, the Jaguar stands for all the visionaries of the world who have kept alive the desire for freedom in every other man for ages.