What are the themes of D. H. Lawrence's "Bat"?

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D.H. Lawrence's "Bat" explores themes of fear and irrational prejudice. The poem portrays fear of the bat, symbolizing fear of darkness and night. The speaker's fear is triggered upon realizing the creatures overhead are bats, not swallows, reflecting humans' fear of the night and its creatures. The poem also delves into irrational prejudice, showing the speaker's visceral dislike for bats, despite them posing no threat. This animosity, rooted in prejudice rather than reason, is a central theme.

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In the poem "Bat" by D. H. Lawrence, the speaker seems to be exploring themes of fear of the actual animal while also exploring how the bat represents fear of darkness and the night. The speaker originally thinks that the bats that are flying above his head are just swallows. However, the speaker soon realizes that the creatures are indeed bats, and the speaker is suddenly filled with fear, disgust, and a sense of creepiness and apprehension as the bats swoop down closely above his head. Humans are often afraid of the night, and the creatures that become active during the night are often used as symbols for this fear and apprehension. The bats did not incite fear when the speaker thought they were swallows (which are creatures active during the day), but the speaker immediately became fearful once the creatures were determined to be bats—representative of the coming night.

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What is the theme of D.H. Lawrence's "Bat"?

One of the major themes in D.H. Lawrence's "Bat" is irrational prejudice, the fact that our dislikes, even hatreds, are visceral rather than cerebral and can only be described, not explained. Lawrence explores various types of prejudice in his animal poems, notably in what is perhaps his best-known poem, "Snake," when he throws a log at a snake, not because he particularly wants to, but because people generally dislike snakes, and he feels a gesture of hostility is required.

In this poem, the speaker really does seem to loathe bats. He describes their physical appearance in words filled with repulsion:

Creatures that hang themselves up like an old rag, to sleep;
And disgustingly upside down.
Hanging upside down like rows of disgusting old rags
And grinning in their sleep.
Bats!
The quick succession of the adverb "disgustingly" and the adjective "disgusting" emphasizes the strength of the speaker's feelings. The bats have spoiled his quiet evening amidst the beauties of Florence. However, there is no particular reason for his animosity. The bats are doing nothing to threaten him. Indeed, it takes some time for him to realize what they are. At a casual glance, they look like swallows.
Why is a swallow preferable to a bat? The speaker can give no reason except his prejudice, the "uneasy creeping in one's scalp." At the end of the poem, he points out that the Chinese regard the bat as a symbol of happiness and can oppose no argument to this, merely the simple fact that he disagrees with them. For him, the bat is always a disgusting creature, though he cannot say why.
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What is the theme of D.H. Lawrence's "Bat"?

One possible theme you might like to consider is life's nasty little habit of dashing one's expectations. It's evening, and the speaker sits on a terrace in the beautiful city of Florence. He is truly enraptured by the fading sun, the glowing brown hills, and the little green light emerging under the arches of the Ponte Vecchio against the stream of the River Arno.

Yet this scene of tranquility is soon disturbed by a dark cloud of bats swooping down from the sky. At first, the speaker thinks they're just swallows flying later in the day than usual. But to his disgust, he soon realizes that they're those disgusting creatures with wings like bits of umbrella. The whole delightful scene of Florence at evening time has been disrupted and ruined by this unwelcome invasion.

We might see this as a metaphor for life itself, which often promises us beautiful swallows, only to end up giving us bats.

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What is the theme of D.H. Lawrence's "Bat"?

As part of Lawrence's anthology of poems entitled Birds, Beasts, and Flowers, "Bat" seeks to make a statement that shows how the natural world can communicate realities within the human one.  A thematic aspect of this is how Lawrence sees the experience of the bats in his poem reflective of the shift in human consciousness that is an essential part of Modernist thought.  Virginia Woolf describes this essence behind the Modernist movement: “All human relations shifted,” Woolf continued, “and when human relations change there is at the same time a change in religion, conduct, politics, and literature.”   The theme that explores this shifting in human consciousness lies at the essence of Modernism, and is a significant theme in Lawrence's "Bat."

The poem's exposition reveals a beautiful world in which the human being lives. The sun drenched stones of Italy casts an impression both reader and poet alike.  There is a beauty in consciousness, even with the image of "the tired flower of Florence," the feeling one develops is a joy of being in the world. Lawrence accentuates this with the belief that the swallows emerge at night. The poet wonders why the swallows "are flying so late."  It is here in which the shift emerges into something more sinister, more unknown.  The illuminating power of the sun is replaced with the potential malevolence in the night.  This theme of shifting one's being in the world lies at the center of the poem's thematic purpose:  "Bats, and an uneasy creeping in one's scalp/ As the bats swoop overhead."  The uneasiness in consciousness is a reflection of the shift that is intrinsic to Modernism.  Lawrence uses the natural world to evoke realities within human consciousness, seen in lines such as "Little lumps that fly in air and have voices indefinite, wildly vindictive."  The bats come to represent the pain of being in the world, a far cry from the poem's exposition. Lawrence concludes the poem with a description of the bats, "Hanging upside down like rows of disgusting old rags/ And grinning in their sleep."  This adds to the shift in being in the world.  When the poem ends with "Not for me," it is almost a raging at the condition of consciousness, a raging at the shift of being from the light of the swallows that "are gone" and replaced with the pain and fear at the "grinning" of the bats.

With this shift, I think that one of the dominant themes in the poem is how individuals experience a change in consciousness.  Whether one wants to frame this theme as a loss of innocence into experience or the change that Woolf identifies as part of Modernism's essence, Lawrence's "Bat" articulates a fundamental difference in being.  This experience is a part of the human predicament.  Lawrence's poem revels in the theme that juxtaposes happiness with a sense of fear and looming fear that is inescapable in what it means to be a human being.

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