How is poem "The frog and the nightingale" symbolic of a modern society where the untalented commercial and crafty people dominate the gifted people?

2 Answers | Add Yours

creativethinking's profile pic

creativethinking | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Assistant Educator

Posted on

I'll start by referring to a term coined by an eNotes editor who answered a summarizing question about "The Frog and the Nightingale." This particular editor called the frog's management of talent a "Bog Idol" of sorts (of course making a nod toward the pop culture phenomenon American Idol). The show is perhaps the epitome of what modern society considers stardom--a "regular person" comes to share his or her gift, then gets judged singing songs already made famous by other people, imitating a sound that has been predetermined and standardized by the music industry. Their involvement in the show makes these performers cogs in the multi-billion dollar franchise that American Idol and other spinoff shows represent ( True creativity, experimentation, and the avant-garde are often rejected on this mainstream playing field that reflects commercial artists not only in music but other art forms as well.

So where does the nightingale fit into all of this. Well, she is an example of natural and unique talent. We could definitely qualify her as "gifted" when she sings her natural song: "And the whole admiring bog/ Stared towards the sumac, rapt/ And, when she had ended, clapped." But when the frog, arguably a symbol of corporate power and greed, offers to "train" the nightingale, she falls into several traps set by this untalented commercial amphibian. Here's a list:

*Starstruck by celebrity, honoring it above her natural talent: The nightingale blindly follows the frog's instruction, trying to sound more and more like him.

*A victim of instantaneous fame: an instant sensation, the nightingale is instructed to cater to her fans at all costs, even if it means overworking herself. She eventually finds no joy in singing, but works only for the applause she is addicted to.

*Becomes a marketable commodity rather than an artist: the frog instructs her, "You must make your public happier:/ Give them something sharper, snappier./ We must aim for better billings./ You still owe me sixty shillings.”

All of this reminds me of the ideas proposed by Malcolm McLaren in his TED talk "Authentic Creativity vs. Karaoke Culture." (See link below.) Just like the nightingale, many authentically talented artists become overlooked or mainstreamed because of modern societal expectations. "The Frog and the Nightingale" is a cautionary tale.

We’ve answered 317,697 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question