How is the horse presented in Hughes's "The Rain Horse"?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Certainly, the horse is presented in a rather mysterious and sinister manner in this poetic story. Critics agree that animals are representative of depths of darkness that exist within Hughes himself, and the black horse that charges and strikes out is indicative of some form of the unconsciousness of the young man who plods across the muddy field in anger "for blundering into this mud-trap."

This black figure of a horse that rears up and charges with anarchic energy across the furrows of plowed land may well be, then, a sort of Jungian shadow, born of his sudden impatience with himself that has sent the young man across this field in the bleak and soggy harshness of mud and rain of a northern English countryside.

Coincidentally, there are non-parallels between the actions of the horse and that of the man as the horse runs along the crest and the man runs beneanth it into the woods. Like a horse who stands as though in a stupor in rain, the young man feels suspended from life and time:

The sound of the rain as it rushed and lulled in the wood seemed to seal him in...and gradually he sank into a state of comfort that was all but a trance though the rain beat steadily on his exposed shoulders.

Yet, ironically, the horse stands alert, 

watching him intently, standing perfectly still, its soaked neck and flank shining in the hard light....

The scene becomes a nighmarish one as the horse charges the young man and he must hurl stones at it to keep it at bay, just as his emotions neverly overtake him, the struggles in nature are inherent. Exhausted from his imagination and the inherent struggles, the poet feels as though "something were cracking in his head."

muskanmunir | Student

horse represented his past