What message does the poem "The Frog and the Nightingale" convey?

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Throughout the poem, Vikram Seth examines the nature of critics and selfish individuals, who benefit from artists' work and talent. The character of the frog manipulates the nightingale by lowering her self-confidence, critiquing her work, telling her lies, and making money off of her talent. The fragile, naive nightingale listens to the frog and attempts to please him by paying for lessons and overexerting herself. The frog is portrayed as a callous, selfish individual, who is only concerned about making a profit. Essentially, Vikram Seth allegorically illustrates how unscrupulous companies, managers, promoters, and critics profit off talented artists in the entertainment and art industries.

Vikram Seth also portrays the importance of creating art for the right reasons. Throughout the poem, the nightingale is continually trying to please the frog and the animal audiences, instead of focusing on her own pleasure and well-being. She concerns herself with the frog's feedback and the reaction of her audience. The nightingale also attempts to sound like the frog and does not stay true to her own voice. At the end of the poem, the frog says, "Well, poor bird - she should have known That your song must be your own." Overall, Vikram Seth's poem examines how talented artists in various industries can be manipulated, and it cautions artists about being true to themselves by not attempting to please everyone else.

Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Do not trust frogs.  In all seriousness, I would say that the issue of blind trust and faith is one of the messages in Seth's poem.  The fact that the nightingale has real talent and skill, yet placed all of her trust in the frog's supposed "wisdom" is what ends up spelling out her own doom.  She never reflects to consider why the frog is being so "nice" to her, and what his agenda might be.  This brings to light the idea that there might be people with ulterior motives or agendas and this has to be scrutinized and analyzed in dealing with them.  The poem is not saying not to trust, but rather to be vigilant enough to be able to assess why people do what they do.  I think that another message that comes out of the poem is that individuals with talent should be able to hear their own voice and embrace their own vision as opposed to being persuaded and influenced by someone else's.  The nightingale's embrace of her own talent was absent and not clearly defined, which ended up causing her to believe the words of the frog and destroying her own voice.