The
Jaguar by Ted Hughes describes a mystical creature that is imprisoned in a zoo.
We sense that the persona is unimpressed with all the caged animals, except for
the jaguar, who is powerfully animated. The listeners notice how the poet is
being hypnotised by the majestic power within the tremendously overwhelming jaguar,
who is living within a vision of its natural habitat.

            We are invited to tour the zoo and
it is made clear to us that the poet is conveying a negative impression of the
surroundings. The accustomed mood is one of boredom and indolence. The lion and
tiger are tired of being lazy, and the apes are yawning. The snake is so still,
that it could be referred to as dead as a fossil. Very little life seems to be
going on, and the animals seem to have lost all their natural energy. The only
way you know they are alive, is because the place has a smell to it. The
generic power that the animals at the zoo poses is undermined and the listeners
wonder about the inevitable energy sapping captivity of the Jaguar. The animals
nearly don’t have any animal vitality left, as they have been stripped of their
magnetism.

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            The tone varies at a sudden change
of tone at the Volta, as the poet is about to deliver the last three stanzas. They
are marked by a dramatic change in mood, from the negative tone of the gloomy
first two stanzas, where little life seems to be going on as most of the
animals seem to be sleeping, to suddenly all the attention being drawn to the
more interesting Jaguar, because it is showing signs of its nature. A creature
that has lost none of its fire. People are mesmerised by its vitality. Although
the fact of being physically in a cage, it is not in one mentally. ‘By the bang
of blood in the brain deaf ear.’ This pounding in the Jaguar’s ear, has an
incredibly powerful force of nature. The wildness is in its blood. The
listeners are compelled by its wonderful potential.

            At first, the listener has the
impression that the animals are all weak, up until we get drawn into the
astonishing power the jaguar is exuding. The jaguar has a self-contained force
of nature compared to the rest of the bored, fatigued animals whose energy has
clearly deserted them. What gives a great impact on the listener, is the
jaguar, who is the centre of attention, despite being imprisoned, it’s almost
like a flame of power, that has its own world. The atmosphere of the poem makes
us realise the effect the animals have of being kept in a zoo. They have been
rendered powerless. Wild animals are kept in cages, expected to bring
entertainment to our world, and this poem reminds me of how cruel humans are to
be doing this. The jaguar however, suggests that a creature’s spirit cannot
fully be destroyed by captivity, because of the jaguar, who is absorbed in its
own inner world, burning in an eternal flame of power.

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