What characteristics of the hawk are shown in the poem "Hawk Roosting" by Ted Hughes?


Ted Hughes

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Ted Hughes's poem "Hawk Roosting"  provides an excellent basis for analysis of poetic voice and persona. The poem is a dramatic monologue spoken by a non-human voice—a powerful antidote to anyone who believes all poems are direct autobiographical statements from the author’s life.

A lesser poet might have settled merely for the basic situation of the poem—the world seen from the hawk’s perspective. Hughes explores the deeper implications of his subject. Using human language, he tries to articulate how alien the hawk’s worldview is to our own. The effect is quietly astonishing.

When writers treat animals as their subjects, they often become sentimental. They project human emotions and values—often childish ones—on the animals and overly dramatize these situations, especially the vulnerability of creatures in nature. The resulting stories are often compelling stories, but tell us more about the author than the animals because they completely humanize their subjects. Hughes instead emphasizes how differently a hawk might view existence. “Hawk Roosting” reveals a predator’s perspective—merciless, efficient, and utterly self-assured.

The hawk sits “in the top of the wood” both literally and metaphorically. It rests on the top of the food chain: “I kill where I please because it is all mine.” Perfectly adapted to its ecological niche, it also sees the world finely suited to its own needs, “The convenience of the high trees!”

The poem disturbs senses not only for its celebration of predation but also suggests how many of our own assumptions about the world depend upon our own view from a human standpoint.

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