The Bat-Poet Essay - Critical Essays

Randall Jarrell


The most apparent theme of The Bat-Poet is the value of looking at life from a different point of view. This theme is developed through contrasts between the bat-poet and the mockingbird, who represent different kinds of poets, and between the chipmunk and the other bats, who represent different kinds of audiences. Although the story is about poetry, The Bat-Poet is ultimately concerned with the nature of life and how one should live it. The attitudes toward poetry of the animals in the story represent various ways of relating to life and to others.

The mockingbird substitutes poetry for life. An egotist, he feels superior to the other creatures, whom he either drives out of his territory or ignores completely. All that he wants is to listen to the sound of his own voice singing his own songs. Although he enjoys being praised, he is not interested in knowing and communicating with others. The bat-poet, on the other hand, is curious about life. He wants to know what happens in the daytime. He wants to know the other animals and to communicate with them. He writes poems not for himself but to please others, to warn them against danger, and to show them things that they do not know, even about themselves.

The difference between the mockingbird and the bat-poet is reflected in their attitudes about form and content. The mockingbird imposes form on content; this parallels his domination of the other birds and animals. For the bat-poet, on the other hand, form is a result of content. In...

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