Maxine Kumin Questions and Answers

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In the poem "Woodchucks," locate descriptive phrases or lines that could apply to a man just as well as to a woman.

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In Kumin's poem, there are several descriptive phrases or lines that could apply to a man as well as a woman.  The premise of the poem (having to take horrific action) is gender neutral.  The speaker of the poem who is going to eradicate the woodchucks could be a man or a woman.  

The central issue of the individual embracing a means of evil is not locked into a particular gender.  For example, the exposition of the poem which introduces the condition is open to either gender:  "Gassing the woodchucks didn’t turn out right. / The knockout bomb from the Feed and Grain Exchange / was featured as merciful..."  A man or a woman could offer this insight.  The act of "gassing the woodchucks" is a duty discharged to the speaker of the poem who could be a man or a woman.  Another instance where gender is not limited can be seen in the justification of the act of killing:  "The food from our mouths, I said, righteously thrilling / to the feel of the .22, the bullets’ neat noses."  It could be viewed as a man or woman, mother or father, who justifies the need to eliminate the woodchucks.  Kumin creates a reality in which individuals justify the need to take heinous action, a banal rationalization of evil that is not gender limited.  The killing of woodchucks in lines such as "I dropped the mother," and "Another baby next" and "the murderer inside me rose up hard" and "the hawkeye killer came on stage forthwith" show how evil can be embraced.  This embrace can be undertaken by man or woman.  Both genders are shown to be capable of great cruelty and savage treatment of another creature.

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