What is peculiarly effective about the expressions "crooked hands" and "close to the sun"?

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bmadnick | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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Tennyson describes the eagle's claws as "crooked hands". This is personification, giving human qualities to nonhuman things. He refers to the eagle's "hands" to tell us that the poem is really about humans. In describing them as "crooked hands", the eagle then symbolizes an older person whose hands have been disfigured by arthritis and old age.

"Close to the sun" is used for two reasons. Tennyson uses hyperbole, or exaggeration, to describe the eagle's power by placing it so high in the air that it is close to the sun. Tennyson also uses this phrase as an allusion, a reference to a famous person, place, or work of literature that the reader should befamiliar with. Here, he's referring to the Greek myth of Icarus where he and his father escape imprisonment by making wax wings. Icarus falls into the sea and drowns when he flies too close to the sun. Tennyson is implying that the eagle is overconfident of its ability, causing it to fall. If the eagle symbolizes human beings, what is Tennyson then saying?

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