“Dreams of the Animals” by Margaret Atwood represents the nature of animals’ dreams. They mostly dream of other animals “each according to its kind”, moles dream of “mole smells”, and frogs dream of “green and golden/ frogs”. The word “mostly” is used here. Why? That’s because there are exceptions. The poem later states that “certain mice and small rodents/ have nightmares of a huge pink/ shape with five claws descending”.
The word “nightmare” doesn’t only mean a bad dream when sleeping, but also something (as an experience, situation, or object) having the monstrous character of a nightmare or producing a feeling of anxiety or terror, according to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary. Therefore, it might also means that mice and small rodents are afraid of “a huge pink/ shape with five claws descending”. What is “a huge pink/ shape with five claws”? This is a question.
However, the poem continues with red and black striped fish’s and birds’ dreams which are different. The dreams of moles and frogs are simple, but “red and black/ striped fish” and “birds” also dream of something more complex. The fish dream of “defense, attack meaningful/ patterns” and the birds dream of “territories/ enclosed by singing”. Why are their dreams different? Two questions are waiting to be answered. Halfway through the poem, there are “exceptions”.
The silver fox, the armadillo, and the iguana are distinguished from the moles, frogs, fish, and birds by human enclosure. As a result, the fox dreams of violence (“…baby foxes, their necks bitten”), the armadillo live in fear (“its piglet feet pattering”) and “is insane when waking”, and the “royal-eyed” iguana is devalued to dreaming only of sawdust. Likewise, I can make an assumption that “a huge pink/ shape with five claws” is probably a human hand.
The mice and small rodents are afraid of a human hand, because they might be used in laboratory and they know what they will encounter after this pink shape descending. There is also a possibility that the fish and the birds are enclosed as well, as their dreams extending from the range of the other animals’ – the moles’ and the frogs’. In this poem, reading is questioning and assuming. What is the cause of the exceptions? No doubt, it’s human beings.