Animals in Literature Criticism: Animals In American Literature - Essay

Robert Felgar (essay date 1974)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “‘The Kingdom of the Beast’: The Landscape of Native Son,” in CLA Journal, Vol. 17, March, 1974, pp. 333-37.

[In the following essay, Felgar comments on the animal imagery in Richard Wright's Native Son, finding that it symbolizes the white view of blacks in America.]

When Buckley, the State's Attorney in Native Son, sums up the prosecution's case, he says, “‘Man stepped forward from the kingdom of the beast the moment he felt that he could think and feel in security, knowing that sacred law had taken the place of his gun and knife.’”1 In making the statement, Buckley unknowingly and ironically described from the...

(The entire section is 1782 words.)

Margaret Edwards (essay date 1976)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Play of ‘Downward Comparisons’: Animal Anthropomorphism in the Poems of Robert Frost,” in Frost: Centennial Essays II, edited by Jac Tharpe, University Press of Mississippi, 1976, pp. 236-45.

[In the following essay, Edwards examines the comic elements of Robert Frost's anthropomorphism.]

Robert Frost regarded the writing of poetry itself as a form of play. He says in “The Craft of Poetry,” “I'd as soon write free verse as play tennis with the net down.” He warned his readers: “It takes all sorts of in- and outdoor schooling / To get adapted to my kind of fooling” (p. 470). His kind of fooling was, first of all, poetry itself. His...

(The entire section is 3437 words.)

Lucina P. Gabbard (essay date 1978)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Albee's Seascape: An Adult Fairy Tale,” in Modern Drama, Vol. 21, September, 1978, pp. 307-17.

[In the following essay, Gabbard finds Edward Albee's use of animals in Seascape to symbolize the human struggle to cope with inevitable death.]

Edward Albee's Seascape is obviously not a realistic play. When the two great lizards slide onto the stage, behaving like ordinary married human beings and speaking perfect English, realism is immediately dispelled. Encounters between human beings and talking animals are the stuff of fairy tales. Bruno Bettelheim, in The Uses of Enchantment, describes a fairy tale as a work of art which teaches about...

(The entire section is 4637 words.)

Edward J. Piacentino (essay date 1980)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Patterns of Animal Imagery in Steinbeck's ‘Flight’,” in Studies in Short Fiction, Vol. 17, No. 4, Fall, 1980, pp. 437-43.

[In the following essay, Piacentino agrees with the critical assessment of the animal imagery in John Steinbeck's “Flight.”]

Published initially in The Long Valley (1938), “Flight,” a work that one of Steinbeck's most discerning critics has called a tale of “frustrated young manhood,” a depressing account of an unprepared youth's failure to achieve maturity,”1 has often been regarded as one of John Steinbeck's best stories. Peter Lisca, in his analysis of the story, sees Pepé Torres' flight as...

(The entire section is 3261 words.)

Mary Allen (essay date 1983)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Controlled Creatures: Marianne Moore,” in Animals in American Literature, University of Illinois Press, 1983, pp. 97-114.

[In the following essay, Allen argues that Marianne Moore associated discipline and modesty with freedom in the animals in her poetry.]

Among animals, one has a sense of humor.


The apartment in Brooklyn where Marianne Moore lived for thirty-six years was furnished with minuscule mice of carved ivory, pictures of kangaroos, and an ebony sea horse. A box of wild bird feathers graced the home, and the poet was known to offer eagle down and a bluejay claw to...

(The entire section is 5964 words.)

Stanley Lourdeaux (essay date 1984)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Marianne Moore and a Psychoanalytic Paradigm for the Dissociated Image,” in Twentieth Century Literature, Vol. 30, Summer, 1984, pp. 366-71.

[In the following essay, Lourdeaux finds in Marianne Moore's animal imagery an example of the modernist “dissociated image.”]

A hallmark of modernist poetry is the dissociated image—the evening sky once Eliot has compared it to a patient etherized on a table—as opposed to images with more conventional shared relations of time, or place, or logical type.1 The modernist basis for the reader's intuitive perception of similarity-in-difference, to use Aristotle's criterion for a good metaphor, is a...

(The entire section is 2321 words.)

William Rodney Allen (essay date 1986)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Cage of Matter: The World as Zoo in Flannery O'Connor's Wise-Blood,” in American Literature, Vol. 58, No. 2, May, 1986, pp. 256-70.

[In the following essay, Allen discusses Flannery O'Connor's use of animal imagery to depict her notion of the world as a zoo of misfits in her novel Wise Blood.]

In Flannery O'Connor: The Imagination of Extremity, Frederick Asals observes that Wise Blood “seems to have become the whipping-boy of the O'Connor canon, a mass of faults that reveals the greater expertise of The Violent Bear It Away or the superiority of the stories to both novels.”1 Objections to Wise Blood go...

(The entire section is 5735 words.)

Norman German (essay date 1988)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Imagery in the ‘Battle Royal’ Chapter of Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man,” in CLA Journal, Vol. 31, June, 1988, pp. 394-99.

[In the following essay, German discusses animal imagery as representative of racism and sexism in the first chapter of Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man.]

Chapter one of Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man was initially published as a short story; thus, it has an artistic unity independent of the novel. One of the threads binding the narrative together while reinforcing the theme is the animal imagery. In an interview, Ellison has said,

When you begin to structure literary forms you are...

(The entire section is 2053 words.)

John Hollander (essay date 1997)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Robert Frost and the Renewal of Birds,” in Reading in an Age of Theory, edited by Bridget Gellbert Lyons, Rutgers University Press, 1997, pp. 131-45.

[In the following essay, Hollander discusses Robert Frost's place in “poetic ornithology.”]

Mythologizing a construction of nature's—an animal, plant, geological formation, moment of process—could be seen both as a desecration and a celebration of pragmatically considered fact. When this goes on in poetry—what Frost called “the renewal of words for ever and ever”—it is accompanied and invigorated by a reciprocal mythologizing, as it were, of the very words used in the poetic...

(The entire section is 6939 words.)