Ted Hughes utilizes effective diction and sinister imagery in the poem "Pike" to create an atmosphere of terror and awe.
From the onset of the first stanza, Hughes characterizes the pike fish as a born predator with the lines:
"Pike in all parts, green tigering the gold.
Killers from the egg: the malevolent aged grin" (2-3).
The imagery of "green tigering the gold" suggests that the pike shares the company of an equally lethal predator, the tiger; both similarly use their camouflage to stalk and hunt their prey. Hughes portrays the pike as "killers from the egg;" again his diction reinforces the idea fo the pike as a predator from birth, and following this image, Hughes focuses on the older pike, the proven, seasoned hunter, with its "malevolent aged grin" (3). These lines and Hughes' carefully chosen imagery construct a respectful and extremely cautious fear of the pike. Hughes goes into more detail of the physical aspects of the pike which intensify the fearful aura surrounding the fish. Particularly "the jaws' hooked clamp and fangs not to be changed at this date" comment on the pike's resolve for lethal force with imagery that suggests a bite that can shred and tear flesh at will. Hughes' poem praises the pike for its ferocity, but the speaker clearly fears the danger the fish represents.
The speaker in the poem is fishing for this type of fish, so he must know and understand what kind of lethal force he is up against. As he casts in the monastery pond for "Pike too immense to stir, so immense and old," even the speaker does not dare take this type of fish for granted, for to do so would be a dangerous mistake. Instead he "silently cast and fished with the hair frozen on [his] head For what might move, for what eye might move" (37-39).
"Pike" is the ultimate predator and prey poem, but Hughes uses such immensely strong and sinister imagery, the pike takes on the role of both predator and prey.