How does Ted Hughes use nature to reflect human nature in the poem "Pike"?

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In "Pike," Ted Hughes's emphasis upon the "legendary depth" of the pond in which the speaker is fishing and the immense age and size of the pike underscore the fact that nature itself is vast. Hughes depicts the speaker first approaching a pond with the intention of bending the pike to his will, as humans always feel we can do, before realizing that it is the ancient pike who are "watching" him.

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In his poem “Pike,” Ted Hughes paints a fascinating portrait of these rather nasty fish. They are born “killers from the egg,” he asserts. They're beautiful with “green tigering the gold,” and they dance on the surface of the water. But they are also predators, and even at three inches long, they present a “malevolent aged grin.” As they grow, these grand pike exhibit both “delicacy and horror.” They lie in wait for their prey, hidden in the debris of leaves, unnoticed until they strike.

The speaker then reflects on how he once kept three pike in a tank. They were small, but soon two of them were dead, killed by the victorious third, which remained, grinning broadly. The speaker, in fact, had watched as that third fish killed its last companion, noting how even in death the eyes of the defeated pike still held their iron hardness.

Finally, the speaker turns his attention to one of his favorite fishing ponds, in which a huge pike lurks, watching the fisherman, too wise to bite at the bait. This pike has survived the struggles and battles of a fish's life. It is not about to fall to a fisherman's hook.

As we read this poem carefully, though, we realize that the poet, for all his attention to detail about the natural world, is not only writing about fish. He is also writing about human beings. We humans, too, tend to be predators from a young age as we strive for what we want whether or not it hurts anyone else. We, too, are grand creatures, but we, too, tend to lie in wait for our prey. Think of all the nasty competitions that happen between two or more people who desire the same prize or the same job.

Like the pike in the tank, they tend to devour each other. The victorious one grins broadly. The others go down fighting, with iron still in their eyes. And eventually, if a person comes out on top enough, he or she becomes like that wise old pike in the pond, too well-versed in the ways of the world to fall for the bait others set. The person watches and waits, knowing when to strike and when to hide. Indeed, Hughes implies, people, too, tend to be motivated by the laws of a brutal nature, often forgetting that they are so much more than pike.

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From the very beginning of this poem, it is clear that Hughes's speaker admires the "perfect" construction of the pike, while also respecting the fact that pike are all "killers" from birth. There is a recognition of the pike's independence: a stunning and enduring part of the natural world, the pike is not only aware of its own "grandeur," but also of its dominance over the world of the lake. As Hughes observes, the pike is "a hundred feet long" in its own daydreams, the master of the lake.

This reflection on the attitude of the pike invites the reader to question how humanity sees itself in relation to the natural world. Given that the speaker has come to this pond in an attempt to dominate it and the creatures in it, feeding fry to the pike which he then hopes to fish, it could be argued that humans, too, imagine ourselves a hundred feet long in terms of our status in the world. But Hughes makes it clear that this is a misconception on our part.
The pike take the fry they are fed, but they do not live as if they are tame. One of the pike consumes another. Meanwhile, the "legendary depth" of the pond and the incredible age of the pike are presented in contrast to the inability of the speaker to bend the pike to his will. Rather than being master of the pond, the speaker recognizes, towards the end of the poem, that it is the pike who is "watching" him. Human nature might encourage us always to imagine ourselves the most important thing in nature, but there is much in nature which is much older and more malevolent than we are.
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The poem "Pike" by Ted Hughes at first appears to be simply a poem about the birth and maturation of pike and a man that fishes in the pond or lake that the fish are living in.  The poem, about midway through, takes on a more menacing tone.  Hughes describes the pike's ferocious desire for survival and excellently describes just how well adapted the pike are to their natural habitat.  Charles Darwin would be proud.  Hughes describes all of this as if it were natural, which it is.  Readers might be horrified at the violence the pike is able to produce in order to survive, but that kind of killing for survival is what is normal for the natural world.  

Hughes uses this normality to comment on human nature.  Hughes portrays the fisherman as an invader to the pike's world, the world of the pond.  The pike isn't afraid of the man.  In fact the fish rises slowly toward the man and watches.  It feels as if Hughes is suggesting that the fish is letting the fisherman know "you're in my world now."  The biggest commentary on human nature through all of this is that humans are not as special as they think.  Mankind is simply a piece of the natural world.  Man has his own niche; he is a part of the natural world, not above it or ruling over it, but subject to all of its beauty and brutality. 

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How do you discuss the violence of nature in "Pike" by Ted Hughes?

In the first stanza, Hughes suggests the violence possessed by pikes:

"Killers from the egg: the malevolent aged grin.
They dance on the surface among the flies."

The word "killers" needs no further explanation. The pike is born with an instinctive desire to kill and "malevolent" suggests that the fish has an inherent evil; it is naturally vicious.

Stanza four further develops the idea of how malignant the pike can be:

"The jaws’ hooked clamp and fangs"

It is clear that the pike's jaws are specially designed: it first "hooks" and then "clamps" down, finally finishing off its prey with its fangs. This tells us that the pike can effectively capture and destroy whatever prey comes within its reach. There is no, or very little chance of, escape. The image of prey trapped in those fearsome jaws is both violent and horrific.

In stanza six, Hughes emphasizes how ruthless pikes are:

"And indeed they spare nobody."

The pikes do not discriminate. They attack and eat whatever they can, cannibalizing even their own kind, as is made clear in stanzas five and seven:

"Three we kept behind glass,

... Suddenly there were two. Finally one" (stanza 5)

"One jammed past its gills down the other’s gullet" (stanza 7)

It is clear throughout the poem that pikes are vicious and terrifying creatures and that they are naturally inclined to be so. These fish are a metaphor for the instinctual violence that exists in nature which is, no matter how frightening, essential for survival. 

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How does Ted Hughes show admiration for the pike  in his poem "Pike"?

Hughes reveals his admiration for the pike in the poem "Pike" through vivid imagery and figurative language.  He contrasts their powerful form and lethal hunting skill with their graceful ability to move through the water.  The poem's beginning line showcases his utter respect for the fish, "three inches long, perfect" (1).  The stripes of the fish are characterized by his word choice "tigering" which likens the fish's subtle camouflage to that of a tiger.  Both the tiger and the pike are powerful predators in their own environment, and Hughes' diction reflects the pike's command of the water.

As the poem continues, Hughes writes of the fish as if they were ancient monsters; the pike in the pond were "Pike too immense to stir, so immense and old" (35).  He speaks of them reverently, tinged with a healthy amount of fear for their powerful jaws and teeth.  Hughes sees the pike as a worthy adversary, one deserving of his respect.

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How does the poem "Pike" by Ted Hughes portray nature?

The overwhelming way in which nature, through the creatue of the pike that this excellent poem focuses on, is presented as a dangerous, scary and terrifying place. The pike itself is depicted as a relentless predator, that will continue to follow its murderous instincts even in death, as the following image shows:

Two, six pounds each, over two feet long 
High and dry and dead in the willow-herb- 

One jammed past its gills down the other's gullet: 
The outside eye stared: as a vice locks- 
The same iron in this eye 
Though its film shrank in death.

This memory that the poet has of coming across two dead pikes, who had fought each other to the last, coupled with his experiment of putting three pikes in a tank and seeing how, one by one, they disappeared until only one remained, "With a sag belly and the grin it was born with," serve to create a menacing, frightening impression of nature. The last few stanzas show how the pike is not only a violent predator in its own world as the poet himself feels almost like an intruder as he fishes for pike:

Owls hushing the floating woods 
Frail on my ear against the dream 
Darkness beneath night's darkness had freed, 
That rose slowly toward me, watching.

He is scared to fish for the pike yet he is unable to stop himself, but all the time he imagines this ancient and ruthless predator watching him and his pathetic attempts to fish with his violent eye. The lingering image of the pike coldly and cooly watching the poet in a calculated way serves to consolidate the presentation of nature as being a violent force of ruthless and calculated predatory instinct.

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