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In the poem "The Snare" by James Stephens, the poet tells of the moment he hears an animal screaming and he guesses it is due to the creature having being caught in a snare or trap. Already, for most decent human beings, this is a distressing thought, but James Stephens takes us further into the story and into his thoughts, those of possible readers and of humanity in general. He goes on to explain how people may feel upon hearing the agonized sound of a helpless creature being hurt by man. The story starts suddenly, as illustrated by the use of an exclamation mark "I hear a sudden cry of pain!" James Stephens tells us it is the sound of a rabbit, and speaks with a tone of certainty suggesting he has heard this sound before and that he may even have dealt with this situation on previous occasions.
Readers can pick up the suggestion also that he is a man of compassion and principle as they can sense his distress from the language he uses, and in his sharing of his sense of powerlessness and futility: "But I cannot tell from where." From this line we also pick up on a sense of urgency and a race against time to find the rabbit.
There is a sense of pathos and poignancy as James Stephens describes to readers the sound of "crying on the frightened air" and the use of the word "crying" reminds us of the utter vulnerability of babies. He continues with the image "wrinkling up his little face," which is likely to distress readers as the language is very emotive.
James Stephens imagines that the cry of pain is so sharp and intense that even the very air is afraid, and then comes the line that tells of the likely effect on readers of his careful and emotive description "making everything afraid." So readers will be afraid for the rabbit, for James Stephens as he is likely to find something very unpleasant, and possibly even for themselves as they begin to think of cruelty and injustice in general.
There is no resolution or closure for the poet, or for readers as the realization dawns that this poem is not going to have a happy ending. James Stephens repeats several lines to add urgency to the tone and to emphasize the hopelessness of his task and of the rabbit's predicament. We leave this gentle and sensitive man still looking for the "Little One."
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