Literary Analyses

“Under the Vulture-Tree” poem by David Bottoms

David Bottoms’s language in his poem “Under the Vulture-Tree” has a distant solemnity that is both respectful and ironic. The poet’s lavish descriptions of vultures embody these transitions between fear and reverence. The first half of the poem mainly focuses on the darkness of the creature and its inherent, fear-provoking traits. Its “one slow wing beat” conveys a sense of disheartened lethargy and apathetic periodicity. This constant repetition instills the vulture with a foreboding, maniacal reproach. His raw malice is displayed confidently, not hidden. In contrast, the second half of the poem underscores a tone shift from one of cold terror to an almost calming admiration. The languid “pull of the river” highlights the contrastingly soothing qualities of the bird and its majestic yet resigned demeanor. The poet transforms the bird from a caustic, repulsive being to an ironic “transfiguring angel.”


“All the Pretty Horses” by Cormac McCarthy

Cormac McCarthy’s “All the Pretty Horses” describes horses with a diction that is reverent and admiring. The characters of the novel express their own respect for the horses in their actions and in their words. Luis, the “old man with a bad leg,” and his stories about his lifelong appreciation of horses convey a sense of ripened pride for his passion about horses. Luis’s ethereal descriptions of “the souls of horses” reveal his slightly subjective yet earnest ardor for them; his respect for these animals appears to be intrinsic and elevated as opposed to his view on war, which is reflected largely by the lives of his family members that have been lost in it. After the deaths of his father and brother, Luis agreed with the opinion of Huerta that “men believe the cure for war is war.” His aged, experienced soul has obtained a deeper appreciation for horses and a stronger opposition to war.


“HERE, BULLET” poem by Brian Turner

Brian Turner’s language has a mockingly tolerant quality that is almost rebellious but not quite uncontrollable. The speaker’s provocative presentation of the images of the human body suggests a kind of daring irony, an inherent bravery that seems impulsive but accepting of its circumstances. The candid offering of the “aorta’s open valves” and the body’s “bone and gristle and flesh” validates the poem’s explosive pragmatism and the speaker’s courageous acceptance of the bullet. These raw, unspeakable images enhance the speaker’s gravely taunting attitude toward “that insane puncture” wound from the weapon. Despite the bullet’s ability to end the speaker’s existence, he continually prompts the bullet, provoking it as if it understands his derisive words and gestures. The contemptuous efforts of the speaker to direct the course of the bullet are seemingly effectual, regardless of its stance as an inanimate object.


“Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Brontë

The contrasting gothic settings of Jane Eyre reflect how unsure Rochester is toward his romantic relationships, how his desire can be clouded by perceived thoughts and supposed interpretations – of reality, of dreams – during Jane’s time at Thornfield. As Rochester disguises himself as a gypsy fortune-teller, he seems certain that he will marry Blanche Ingram. His attitude toward the “beautiful Miss Ingram” is sincere but it lacks whole-heartedness. Rochester’s full trust in Jane, however, is displayed the morning after Mr. Mason is taken away. A characteristic typical of gothic literature, Rochester leads Jane into the woods, an ideal setting for accessing his true thoughts and beliefs. Nature, to Rochester, is where “all is real, sweet and pure.” Outside of the mansion, he feels more eager to share things with Jane, like his childhood and “higher wishes, [his] purer feelings.” Jane’s attitude toward Rochester also seems to be more accepting as the setting changes from the dusty indoors to the freshness outside.

Whereas Jane’s love for Rochester is haunting and passionate, her love for St. John is idealistic and familial. Rochester poses a forbidden, fresh experience for Jane as she allows herself to compete with Blanche, his supposed fiancée. Despite his potential to exploit her youth and transform her into an entirely different woman, Jane is intrigued by the foreign wonders he presents, some caused by the major difference between their ages. Contrastingly, St. John gives Jane the choice of a stable yet dull relationship. His refined tastes and selflessness entice Jane, although his proposition for marriage instills her with an unfamiliar kind of discomfort. His manipulation of Jane’s morals ultimately leads her to follow Rochester’s saving voice.

While they are both young ladies residing at the Lowood school, Jane and Helen have many defining traits that separate them as characters. Despite their connection over an interest in literature, Helen is clearly more experienced than Jane, more cultured because of her age and curiosities. Her wisdom is contrasted with Jane’s naivety as Jane notes the “cruelty” that Miss Scatcherd expresses toward Helen; Helen simply takes her remark as a constructive disapproval, a “severe” criticism toward her correctable faults. Helen is also quick to admit her own faults, claiming to be “slatternly” and “careless,” whereas Jane is more reluctant to recognize her own flaws. Jane is insatiable and inexperienced, yet not quite ignorant. In contrast to Helen, Jane is much more open-minded. Part of this comes from the fact that she is new to this school experience, and part of it is derived from her young age. Jane wants to believe that she is more willing to take risks; while Helen is compliant and understanding of her punishment, Jane is sure she would “resist” her punishment and act out against the punisher. Jane’s main focus is what she needs to do to please herself, where Helen focuses on bettering herself for the good of others.


“Fragments” poem by Hayden Carruth

Hayden Carruth’s language in his poem “Fragments” has a dreamily exotic tone that is languid but not quite insouciant. The earthly images of objects in the desert evoke a lulling sense of belonging, almost as if the “lovers” themselves are part of the scenery. Their presence was “shaped from the moonlight,” an ephemeral medium for constructing the true wonders of the world. The speaker describes these natural wonders, the “wild zinnia” and “choric saguaros,” with a melodic diction that is deliberately disjointed. As the title suggests, the lines of the poem have thought-provoking separations that potentially change its interpretation. The dash that concludes the poem reiterates the recurring idea that the images in the poem are intentionally incomplete, their missing parts expand the poem’s dream-like qualities.