Hughes’ poem ‘Snowdrop’ is a short poem where the speaker is observing and describing the events in the natural world without any emotional involvement. He is highlighting the greatness of the world but also its cruelty. Read the summary and the messages of the poem below.
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STORY / SUMMARY
At this moment, the world is gripped firmly around the mouse’s heart, which beats slower and is less active as it senses winter. Looking like figurines shaped from metal, weasels and crows move through the darkness outside, disoriented and acting strangely with the dying plants around them. The snowdrop flower has a purpose of pursuing, and she looks ruthless like the star constellations of this winter month, the white petals that form her head seeming so heavy as if they were made from metal.
TASK: Look at the picture of snowdrop flowers, and spend some time researching snowdrops further. They are the first flowers to appear after Winter ends. Write your own thoughts and impressions of this flower – do you think about them in a similar way to Hughes, or differently?
Nature is equally beautiful and brutal. There is a sort of fascination in everything belonging to the natural world, from the perfection of snow to the glimmering of the stars and the immobility of the winter landscape. However, for the animals and plants going through winter, this beauty is life-threatening, and they need to gather all their forces to make it to spring.
Survival of the Fittest. This is an old principle of the natural world, first theorised by Charles Darwin in the 1800s: if an animal is hurt or ill, it is left behind. Survival and the perpetuation of the species are the only goals in a world driven by instinct and without our human communal support structures.
There’s no one to watch out for in the natural world but the distant, cold stars. The animals fight the cold and do their best to avoid death without any exterior help. The cycle of life takes place under an impersonal sky that, for them, doesn’t contain the promise of divine intervention or an explanation for the struggle they go through.
TASK: Research Darwin’s theory of evolution, and his idea of ‘Survival of the Fittest’ in particular. How does this help you understand the poem?
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- Story + Summary
- Speaker + Voice
- Language Feature Analysis
- Form and Structure Analysis
- Attitudes + Messages
- Themes + Deeper Ideas
- Tasks + Exercises
- Possible Essay Questions