Analyze the use and the effectiveness of fearful tone and structure in "Pike" , how do they create an atmosphere of terror and awe?

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Kristen Lentz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the poem "Pike," Ted Hughes effectively utilizes a fearful tone and structure to create an atmosphere of terror and awe. 

The structure of the poem successfully introduces the pike as a predator to be feared.  The first seven stanzas focus on the characterization of the fish, figuratively likening it to a tiger in line two, and a fanged relentless monster "with a sag belly and the grin it was born with [a]nd indeed they spare nobody" (21-22).  These first seven stanzas set the fearful tone by showing the many ferocious attributes of the pike.  The imagery of the pike, waiting in the deep waters, still and ready to attack creates an atmosphere of terror and awe, even before the end of the poem in which the speaker actively attempts to catch one by fishing. 

The last four stanzas in the structure of the poem intensify the mood of terror and awe by focusing on the speaker's emotions in fishing on the banks of the deep monastery pond.  The speaker's fearful tone stems from his knowledge of the fish, both knowing and respecting the fish as both prey and rival.  The final lines of the poem further the suspenseful anticipation:

Darkness beneath night's darkness had freed,
That rose slowly toward me, watching" (43-44).

Here the two predators, the fisherman and the lethal fish, watch the other, ready to strike, waiting.  The ambiguous ending of the poem only increases the intense atmosphere of terror and awe, because the reader is left wondering what happens, with the imagery of the watching, waiting eyes rising from the darkness.