Discuss animal imagery in "Hawk Roosting" by Ted Hughes.

Ted Hughes's poem "Hawk Roosting" is replete with animal imagery. In the very first stanza we can vividly see the hawk "sit in the top of the wood" like some kind of king or dominant creature. We are also shown parts of its body when Hughes tells of its "hooked head and hooked feet." More so, the animalness of preying, hunting, and killing are all quite vivid. "My manners are tearing off heads," writes Hughes.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

"Hawk Roosting" is filled with animal imagery. The very first stanza of Ted Hughes's poem provides us with a vivid depiction of the hawk in the title. We see the hawk "sit in the top of the wood." We also see its "hooked head and hooked feet".

In the next stanza, Hughes declares, "The convenience of the high trees!" This expands the image of the hawk, letting us know where it is in nature. We have a hawk sitting on top of a tree as if it was its throne. We might even say that the animal imagery mixes with themes of domination and power. When Hughes says "the earth's face upward for my inspection," it's almost as if the earth belongs to the hawk.

In the third and fourth stanza, we have more animal imagery to work with. We see the feathers of the hawk and are told about its lethal nature. "My manners are tearing off heads," writes Hughes.

We can also talk about the animal imagery by talking about how Hughes explicitly eludes human-centric tropes from his portrait of the hawk. "There is no sophistry in my body," writes Hughes. Later, he adds, "No arguments assert my right."

You might want to think about why Hughes introduces these ideas and how their irrelevance to the hawk reinforce the hawk's animality.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Comment on the theme of "Hawk Roosting" by Ted Hughes.

The key theme of this poem is the pride and arrogance of the hawk, which believes itself to be the center of the universe, the product of "the whole of Creation" and now the director of it. In the hawk's mind, every part of the natural kingdom is the way it is in order to provide "advantage to" the hawk; the whole of creation belongs to it ("mine"), and the hawk can decide what lives and what dies ("I kill where I please"). The final stanza of the poem, in particular, underlines the hawk's believe that the world moves at its whim and according to its direction: the hawk asserts that nothing has ever changed in its world under its leadership and that it will keep everything "like this," the way it is.

We can interpret the hawk in this poem as a metaphor for humanity, too. While the poem could be read as simply a commentary on the place of the hawk, the great predator, in nature, the implied criticism of the hawk's arrogant and high-handed treatment of nature (and its belief that it is a godlike figure, with everything, including the sun, "behind" it) could equally be applied to humans. Like the hawk, humanity believes itself to be at the center of creation, with every part of nature serving its purposes. Ultimately, however, this is hubristic—we cannot hope to keep things "like this" and expect to go unchallenged, because nature is not actually ours to command.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Comment on the theme of "Hawk Roosting" by Ted Hughes.

The poem presents a first person narration of the thoughts of this great predator, the hawk. The main theme of the poem is revealed through the self-assured strength...

This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

of themonologue, as the bird asserts its dominance-

 I sit in the top of the wood

Its supreme power –

I hold Creation in my foot

 and its establishment as the centre of its own world.

The main surprise to us as reader is the confidence of the hawk in its belief that it is in control, and controls all. We realise that the bird’s narrative is like our own – so similar in the perceived arrogance of its self-belief. When we consider this view from a bird we are sceptical, mocking even. It is when we begin to realise the parallels with our own egotism that we see it is humanity that is held up as conceited -

 Nothing has changed since I began.My eye has permitted no change.I am going to keep things like this.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Summarize the poem "Hawk Roosting" by Ted Hughes. What is the poem's theme?

"Hawk Roosting" by Ted Hughes is a poem consisting of six four-line stanzas. It is written in free verse and has no regular rhyme pattern. It is written in the first person from the point of view of a hawk.

The hawk character, like many of Hughes' animals, is part of a pantheistic world in which nature, despite its violence and cruelty, possesses a sort of visceral honesty and authenticity. Living is a ceaseless struggle, but the violence of the animals is innocent rather than corrupt, unlike human wars. The hawk reflects:

There is no sophistry in my body:

My manners are tearing off heads -

There is no real narrative arc to the poem, merely the reflections of the hawk as he perches high up in a tree overlooking the world which he regards as his domain. The hawk has almost a god's point of view, seeing the world as subject to his whim and himself as the arbiter of life and death. When he is awake, he perches, soars, and kills, and when asleep dreams of killing and eating.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Summarize the poem "Hawk Roosting" by Ted Hughes. What is the poem's theme?

Hawk Roosting by Ted Hughes is a poem that speaks of freedom and survival in my opinion. The hawk, in total freedom , sits on a treetop and surveys the world below. The hawk has rehearsed in its mind (while sleeping) its objectives for the day:

Or in sleep rehearse perfect kills and eat.

The focus of the roosting hawk is to survive each day based on its hunting skills and the freedom it enjoys to wander and soar gracefully to achieve its objectives. This hawk has the benefit of a high vantage point to survey its territory and plan its actions. It's as if the hawk is ruler over its domain.

From the viewpoint of the hawk, the reader understands that the hawk is a marvellous creation. Now, the hawk is exerting its influence over some of creation:

Now I hold Creation in my foot

The hawk comes and goes as it desires - and kills at will. The hawk exemplifies the aforementioned freedom and the desire to survive, not letting anything get in its way. The hawk has a laser-like focus on acquiring food for sustenance. This is its primary objective everyday and the hawk desires to continue to live this way - surviving by killing other living creatures - without apology.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What is the message of the poem "Hawk Roosting" by Ted Hughes?

On a literal level, this poem is about a hawk roosting in a tree and reflecting on its body, its predatory powers, and its superiority to other creatures ("I kill where I please because it is all mine").

On a metaphorical level, there are several "messages" or themes that one could take away from this poem. Arguably, the main message here is that we can view the hawk as a symbol for humanity's arrogance, tyranny, and obsession with power and destruction. Thus, the hawk in this poem is like a mirror, reflecting back some of our own less-than-desirable human traits. 

The hawk is rather conceited and believes nature has been designed solely for him. Hughes writes, "The air's buoyancy and the sun's ray / Are of advantage to me; / And the earth's face upward for my inspection." According to the hawk, everything in nature was designed to serve him, and this sentiment speaks to humanity's beliefs regarding its superiority to nature and to other beings.

The poem's final stanza reads, "Nothing has changed since I began. / My eye has permitted no change. I am going to keep things like this." The hawk believes he will always be superior and powerful, that he is in control of whether or not things change, and even perhaps that he is capable of living forever. This speaks to humanity's obsession with cheating both death and the natural cycles of the earth. Just as humans are arrogant and believe themselves to be indestructible and immune to nature and its changes, the hawk also believes itself to be all-powerful.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on