TheJaguar 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 forthe jaguar, who is powerfully animated. The listeners notice how the poet isbeing 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 andit is made clear to us that the poet is conveying a negative impression of thesurroundings. The accustomed mood is one of boredom and indolence.
The lion andtiger 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 begoing on, and the animals seem to have lost all their natural energy. The onlyway you know they are alive, is because the place has a smell to it.
Thegeneric power that the animals at the zoo poses is undermined and the listenerswonder about the inevitable energy sapping captivity of the Jaguar. The animalsnearly don’t have any animal vitality left, as they have been stripped of theirmagnetism. The tone varies at a sudden changeof tone at the Volta, as the poet is about to deliver the last three stanzas. Theyare marked by a dramatic change in mood, from the negative tone of the gloomyfirst two stanzas, where little life seems to be going on as most of theanimals seem to be sleeping, to suddenly all the attention being drawn to themore interesting Jaguar, because it is showing signs of its nature. A creaturethat has lost none of its fire.
People are mesmerised by its vitality. Althoughthe fact of being physically in a cage, it is not in one mentally. ‘By the bangof blood in the brain deaf ear.’ This pounding in the Jaguar’s ear, has anincredibly powerful force of nature. The wildness is in its blood. Thelisteners are compelled by its wonderful potential. At first, the listener has theimpression that the animals are all weak, up until we get drawn into theastonishing power the jaguar is exuding.
The jaguar has a self-contained forceof nature compared to the rest of the bored, fatigued animals whose energy hasclearly deserted them. What gives a great impact on the listener, is thejaguar, who is the centre of attention, despite being imprisoned, it’s almostlike a flame of power, that has its own world. The atmosphere of the poem makesus realise the effect the animals have of being kept in a zoo. They have beenrendered powerless. Wild animals are kept in cages, expected to bringentertainment to our world, and this poem reminds me of how cruel humans are tobe doing this. The jaguar however, suggests that a creature’s spirit cannotfully be destroyed by captivity, because of the jaguar, who is absorbed in itsown inner world, burning in an eternal flame of power.