Themes

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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 378

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This poem is a stream of consciousness poem, so it appears to be all over the place. That can throw off some readers and cause knee jerk reactions that believe the poem doesn't have anything useful to say or have anything of thematic importance. That would be a huge oversight to think like that with this poem.

At the core of this poem is a search. The speaker of the poem lets readers know from the very first line that he is searching for what he is. As the poem continues, it should become clear to readers that the speaker is also searching for his place in the world. Man's place in the world is a powerful and long lasting theme. It has been thematically discussed across centuries of literature, and different literary movements are continually moving man's importance around. This poem is a bit unique because at times, it puts the speaker on par with various parts of nature; however, in other places the poet announces that he is "the exact centre."

Another theme present in the poem is a theme of individuality. This can be seen in the number of times that the poet uses the word "I." It appears nearly two dozen times throughout the poem, and it shows readers that the poem's speaker is very much reflecting internally on himself. The poem also conveys a message that the speaker thinks very highly of himself at times. He is free to do whatever he wants whenever he wants.

I’ve no threads
fastening me to anything I can go anywhere
I seem to have been given the freedom
of this place

Finally, I think a third central theme is a theme of perseverance. The poem is all about the speaker searching for his place in the world and trying to discover what he is. For every possible answer that he receives, it is almost always met with another question, yet that is important. Getting an answer only to be met with another question can be incredibly frustrating, but he doesn't give up. He keeps searching, and the poem ends without the speaker having a definitive answer. That doesn't bother him, because he says that he'll keep searching. It's a very hopeful ending.

. . . but I’ll go on looking

Themes and Meanings

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 564

In “Learning to Think,” Ted Hughes wrote of the Wodwo, “I imagine this creature just discovering that it is alive in the world. It does not know what it is and is full of questions. It is quite bewildered to know what is going on. It has a whole string of thoughts, but at the centre of all of themis this creature and its bewilderment.”

The Wodwo is reminiscent of the creatures of Anglo-Saxon mythology, such as the marsh-living monster Grendel in Beowulf (first transcribed c. 1000 c.e.). Hughes’s device of having the reader perceive the world through the Wodwo’s awareness exemplifies his belief that poets have a shamanistic nature. Their small, individualized self is unimportant; they can enter the awareness of another creature at will. The poem gives a glimpse into the very primitive consciousness of the Wodwo. The lines “I’ve no threads/ fastening me to anything I can go anywhere/ I seem to have been given the freedom/ of this place what am I then?” hint that the Wodwo is on the brink of beginning the journey to a human type of self-awareness. Since it is not tied to the earth as are the plants, it has freedom to pursue answers to its endless questions.

The Wodwo exists at a primeval level of evolution. Its powers of reflection are minimal; it can only focus on its immediate environment in the present moment. Everything it encounters—the weeds, the stump, the roots—is chaotic, mysterious, and random. The Wodwo’s bewilderment at why it finds itself picking bark off a rotten stump gives a humorous picture of the Wodwo’s lack of self-awareness. It fails to make the connection between itself and the actions it performs. One may find humor in this episode if one has also caught oneself performing some unintelligent and pointless activity “on automatic pilot,” through no conscious intent.

One can also recognize the pathos of the Wodwo’s confusion as to what constitutes itself. For all it knows, it is the only one of its kind. It has no frame of reference by which to measure or define itself. Its observations that it seems “separate from the ground and not rooted but dropped/ out of nothing casually” and that “I seem to have been given the freedom/ of this place what am I then?” are amusing but at the same time strangely moving in their plain understatement. It shows a being completely unaware of its origin or purpose yet attempting to establish connections with the world around it.

In the midst of the Wodwo’s busy stream of impressions is one moment of stillness: “if I sit still how everything/ stops to watch me I suppose I am the exact centre.” Though on one level this interpretation of perception is amusing in its naïveté, it nevertheless resonates with a profound poetic truth: Many people have had similar feelings when stopping to rest in a forest or in any natural place seldom disturbed by humans.

The power of this poem lies in its ability to take the reader inside the primeval awareness of the Wodwo. As one perceives the world through the Wodwo’s senses, one is taken on an adventure in discovery. Such familiar objects as roots, weeds, and the bed of a river take on the fascination of something seen for the first time.

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