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Literary Analysis Of Irving Layton’s Poem The Bull Calf

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The Bull Calf is a poem that seeks to tackle and also explore a very controversial matter. The writer also shows the innocence of animals which are under human care. The author of this poem explores the death of these animals by bringing in a speaker who is continually haunted by his conscience due to the end of an innocent animal. The poet uses plenty of literary devices to dramatize the poem and also ensure that the theme of the poem and its content is communicated. In simple terms, the poem is about an innocent calf which dies because it cannot produce milk.

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Irving Layton uses the imagery in this poem to enable the reader to understand in the right way the desperation of the situation. For instance, line twenty-two of the poem uses a description where the author says, ‘growing smaller and smaller/till we were only the ponderous mallet/that flicked this bleeding ear.’ The poem is organized in a way that every stanza shows and represents a deterioration of the conditions at hand. The author brings the situation to the climax in the calf’s demise. Irving Layton can make the reader’s emotions to follow the chronological order of the events as they occur in the poem. That is the poem begins by showing little emotions, but the feelings keep on building up, later on, expressing the author’s humane side. In the end, the speaker turns around and excruciatingly sheds tears as it is recorded in the last stanza of the poem. The weeping of the speaker at the end indicates that the author had come into terms with the future, which is full of possibilities that are cut short.

The author uses symbols in the poem; these symbols are meant to strengthen the speaker’s notion, which shows that the calf is just an innocent animal. In this poem, the bull calf signifies the sheer innocence present in any young soul.

Death is also used in the poem to symbolize the abrupt loss of integrity ferociously. The writer also uses illusion which signifies any disaster that would be faced by the calf.

The author blocks the reader’s emotions by referring to the calf as a thing rather than referring to it as an animal or a creature. This happens in the first line of the first stanza of the poem where the author says that ‘this thing could barely stand.’ This line contradicts itself from the entire verse since the rest of the lines in the first stanza have a very positive attitude. The first line signifies that the calf is weak. In contrary, the third and the fourth line of the first stanza shows the glory of the calf, and this hints to royalty. The last line of the first stanza in the poem backs up this information by pointing to Richard the second. The author uses the word us in the fifth line of the first stanza; this creates a good connection between the author and the event.

There is the use of imagery in the sixth line of the poem, whereby the author says, ‘the fierce sunlight tugging the maize from the ground.’ In this case, the sunlight represents hope and promise. Taking Richard the second as the reference in the last line makes the poem to flow better into the next stanza. The reason as to why Richard second is used as a reference in this poem is because Richard was lowered from his position, and this is the same thing that will happen to the calf.

Line ten of the poem states that “no money in bulls calves,” Freeman had said.” This line starts the stanza in a very negative way which contradicts the first stanza of the poem. It is the line that introduces the issue of man and money. This indicates that all human beings run the world of nature simply because of their outlook and money concentration. This signifies the effects of capitalism which is very bad.

Line fourteen and sixteen put the event into perspective, though it appears to be a small event, it is related and compared to the entire world to portray its importance. The first line of the third stanza it is made up of one word ‘struck.’ This word is beneficial, and it also drives the point across. The author puts three periods in a row. This signifies that there is something that will happen, and it will be necessary, but the reader does not have a slight clue whether the thing will be good or bad.

‘Darkening of eyes.’ These are imagery, and it makes the reader understand the effect of the line, idea, or stanza in the poem. The narrator uses symbolism to emphasize the horrible death of the calf. The author also applies the use of simile in line twenty-six of the poem ‘like a block of wood.’ This simile is used by the author to show the harsh treatment that the calf is undergoing by relating it to something else.

The narrator uses the word ‘asleep’ which indicates that the calf is at peace and in a comfortable position. Line thirty-four of the poem shows the inner beauty of the calf as it is dead. These take the reader to the begging of the poem, and this indicates that there is no pride anymore. Line thirty-six, the narrator turns away and weeps (line thirty-six). This line shows narrators emotions; it is a crucial aspect since it refers to the author himself and shows that he is upset by the situation at hand. This line brings about the justification of the entire poem with harsh comparison and also great imagery.

In conclusion, when reading any poem, one must try to find the deep meaning of each line in the poem. It is evident that in this poem, all these events are happening while the author is watching them happen.

09 March 2021

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