Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

In the modern fable “Hook,” Walter Van Tilburg Clark develops two converging themes that foreshadow more recent writers, such as Edward Abbey, who decry thoughtless human intrusion into an increasingly defiled western landscape. Clark is not an environmentalist in the modern sense of one who supports a cause rooted primarily in an understanding of ecological checks and balances. Rather, he is concerned with the relationship between the development of aesthetic and moral sensibilities.

When flight frees Hook from his microcosmic life of dust and scurrying insects, he ascends over a vibrantly beautiful landscape, transformed by the sweep and range of his vision. At the zenith of Hook’s life, the hawk and nature, fused in rhythmic harmony, play out the essential patterns of life, the flow of seasons, birth and death, prey and predator. His flights across the hills and valleys are visual rhapsodies in celebration of nature’s beauty. Hook looks down from the sky on a world of which he is an integral part and cries out with fierce joy. Only the farmer’s plot of cultivated land strikes a note of visual discord.

The Japanese farmer who effects Hook’s destruction is earthbound. Stooped over hoe and plow, his vision is reminiscent of the fledgling Hook’s. The hawk that soars above fails to stir the farmer’s spirit, to inspire a sense of awe for the sheer beauty of a raptor in flight. The farmer sees only an unwanted threat to his...

(The entire section is 487 words.)