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In this short story, Ted Hughes places man against nature in a conflict that is incredibly strong in the way that it suggests man is alienated by nature. The strongest expression of this conflict is of course in the horse that pursues the man and threatens him, acting in a way that no horse really would, as it hunts the man down and becomes a physical expression of the violence of nature against man. Note how the man thinks about the horse as it becomes clear that the horse is stalking him with the intention of attacking him:
The horse was evidently mad, had an abscess on its brain or something of the sort. Or maybe it was just spiteful. Rain sometimes puts creatures into queer states.
Yet what is so interesting is that when the physical conflict between the horse and the man is over, and the man has escaped the field, the man seems to be shocked and stunned by what has happened. The narrator states that it was as if "some important part had been cut out of his brain" after the conflict. This final sentence of the story strongly suggests that he has lost something important and something that leaves him the poorer for its absence. The story perhaps indicates that the conflict with nature that the man undergoes is something that is actually vitally important to the man and his sense of understanding his place in the world. When he leaves the field, the experience is nothing but a nightmare, something that has "sunk from reality." The man once again ignores the visceral importance of nature. When he was in the field, he learned the true importance of how humans should relate to nature. Now he has left the field, he is free to ignore what he has learned, and he is left poorer and diminished as a result. This is a story that explores the relationship of man and nature, and the way in which it is vital to have a healthy respect and a true understanding of our place as humans in that relationship.
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