What is the author's message in "The Eagle"?

The author's message in "The Eagle" is that those who hold great power, even absolute power, are often lonely and even vulnerable. It is a "lonely" position for the eagle, a symbol for a ruler, because he cannot share it. Further, such a leader will eventually fall "like a thunderbolt" when their reign comes to an end.

Expert Answers

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

The message of "The Eagle" is that being in a position of power, especially a position of absolute power, can be extremely lonely and even dangerous. The eagle itself is a symbol of a person in such a position, personified as possessing "crooked hands," which seems to imply that the figurative leader rose to his position of power through some corrupt means (as "crooked" can mean bent or corrupt). The adjective "crooked" also bears connotations of age, suggesting that the figurative ruler is older. The eagle is "Close to the sun," literally quite high up on a mountain; the leader is figuratively elevated, possessing more power than anyone else over whom he rules. He oversees "lonely lands"; indeed, it is a lonely position for both eagle and leader, because the position requires solitude. One cannot rule absolutely if power is shared.

The "wrinkled sea" literally exists far below the eagle's perch, and it also signifies the "crawl[ing]" and powerless subjects of the leader's power and position. Moreover, "wrinkled," like "crooked," underscores the connotations of agedness. The "mountain walls" literally refers to the mountain on which the eagle "stands" and figuratively evokes the stone keep or castle from which the leader surveys his dominion. "He watches" from this literal and figurative heigh. The eagle dives "like a thunderbolt" to catch his prey, mercilessly and without hesitation, and the leader might do something similar, enacting his justice "like a thunderbolt"—that is, doing so inexorably and with great authority. The word "falls," however, also provides a clue as to his undoing, as most leaders do not simply hand over their power to their successor. Instead, they are often overthrown, ousted from their position by someone even more powerful, and such a "fall" from power can be precipitous indeed.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial