What is the main theme of the poem "The Sea" by J Reeves?

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Jennings Williamson eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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One element of the poem that really strikes me is its mood.  We commonly read poems that depict nature, even the sea itself, as tranquil and calming, or stories (especially movies) about dogs being "man's best friend."  But this poem does something different with both.  The idea that the sea has "clashing teeth and shaggy jaws," that it "gnaws" and "roars" like an angry, hungry animal, is a strikingly original comparison: a metaphor, to be exact, as other commenters have pointed out.  Therefore, the mood is not peaceful, and it is not friendly; instead, it is off-putting, concerning, even frightening.  The unexpected mood draws attention, then, to the idea that even things that seem lovely, things that are most often depicted as beautiful or kind, can still have the power to be destructive and menacing.  Even when the sea is tranquil or the dog is companionable, when either one "lies on the sandy shores," there is still a beast capable of doing real damage underneath that temporary "quiet."

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"The Sea" by James Reeves is rich in imagery and in creative metaphorical relations made between the sea and the idea of a dog. The poem is not, however, rich in theme. In discussing the formal theme of the poem, we can simply point to central comparison made in the poem that identifies the sea as being akin to a dog. 

The sea is a hungry dog, 
Giant and grey.
He rolls on the beach all day.

Formally speaking, the theme of "The Sea" is highly focused on the equivalency between the sea and the idea of a dog. The sea experiences joy and feels forlorn. It is happy and it is lazy, etc. 

To look at the intellectual or semantic themes of the poem, we might assess the poem's comment on the sea as an emotional being. The sea, as a representative of nature (or the...

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