Common Assessment Task 2 The Hawk

The text “The Hawk” written by Harold Witt discuses the varying effect of power in nature, and then contrasts this with human society. Witt attempts to symbolically demonstrate this throughout the text with the repeated motif of a „hawk‟ being a transcendent representation of power, and then contrasting this against a supposedly weaker animal, in an attempt to highlight the thematic concept of power in society, and how literally it „preys‟ upon people. Structural concordance in the form of couplets and uniform stanzas are used to imply the near predictable nature of power in reality. The use of the hawk can be interpreted as a purely transcendent representation of power in human society. This is implied by Witt in the phrase “What was a feathered cross in the sky…became what we knew of hawks – a clawed surprise”. This showing that the symbol of power in this situation, the hawk, literally becomes in the audiences mind, associated with all forms of power and predatory menace. Through the idea of the hawk becoming what the audience knows, they immediately associate a certain perspective with it. The purpose of having the hawk as a transcendent symbol, dependant upon out knowledge, allows the symbol of the hawk to relate to whatever knowledge the author has of potentially more powerful dangerous. This is reinforced with the phrase “tilted while we sat still, theoretic thing” Theoretic having internalised, mental conations. This is compounded by the thematic idea of the hawk symbolising power in society, which is repeated as a motif throughout the text in each stanza. The repetition throughout the text of this concept allows for the continued juxtaposition of implicitly weak and strong powers in society. “How meekness hasn‟t a chance under the eye of power” The actual use of the „hawk‟ connotatively implies the dangerous nature of those with more power. This in conjunction with the innocence and weakness conveyed through the phrase „meek‟ is implicit of the weaker literally being prey for the stronger. This highlighting how in human society the varying levels of power in nature, and the effect power has a person, that they can reduce someone weaker then them to literally just the status of prey. Witt uses the concordance in the structure of the poem to a great degree within the test to convey the implied power, and forgone style of natural events. Throughout the text there is a near-continuous use of rhyming couplets. “Tilted while we sat still…. and streaked, bent tense to kill” The constant tempo, and form created by this, in conjunction with every paragraph being exactly four lines long, implies a predictability within the text, and by extension, a seemingly prescribed method of action, one which seemingly cannot be broken. This allows emphasis upon the power of the symbolic representation of the hawk, implying the actions of the most powerful are completely predictable and unstoppable, implying that power in society is predictable, and yet because of its own standing, cannot be stopped. Hyphens function as the only structural feature within the text that breaks the continuous stream of the poem. Used in conjunction with highly modal language to describe the innate natures of the various motif powers displayed. The effect of the hyphen, with is used sparingly throughout the text, is to highlight certain connotative phrases which describe the natures of the various powers in the text. “Became what we knew of hawks - a clawed surprise” The connotative meaning highlighted through the use of hyphens in this phrase, clearly implies the predatory and dangerous nature of the

superior power. This can be contrasted against “Or rabbit hopping in grass – some gentleness” Which clearly implies to harmless, and innocent nature of the rabbit. These transcendent symbols, with their descriptions serve to allow Witt to comment upon the nature of human society, and the various facets that are powerful, and then weak. The finial paragraph of the text becomes highly significant, where; Witt attempts to contrast the preconceptions of natural and human society. This thematic change is shown through “yet we had food for thought when the hawk flapped up again – tenderness hadn‟t been caught. It blended in.” The failure of the hawk on one level is simply indicative of that, there are some things in nature that cannot be harmed, and to a certain degree, all animals have power. Witt plays upon this on multiple levels at this point through highlighting the surprise of the observers on seeing the hawk not succeed. “Yet we had food for thought” the pun on food in this context implies that instead of the hawk being nourished through hunting, it is the watchers, and through extension, the readers of the text, who are receiving the greatest benefit, as their preconceptions are now being reformed. Interestingly, this is the first structural alteration throughout the text. The usage of the full stop before the final line, as well as a hyphen, allows complete emphasis upon “It had blended in” which is highlights the implied power within other animals. Due to their disruption in what was meant to be a predictable course of action (as shown through the structure), it is also symbolic of a disruption in the course of power within naturalistic society. Witt positions the audience to believe in the innate superiority in power of the hawk for the majority of the text, which, as the hawk is merely a theoretic symbolisation of power within human society, becomes symbolic of a change, and shift in the general paradigm of society in relation to power. The use of the hawk creates an even more confronting effect, as up to this point, the audience is positioned to assume that there is no failure in its actions, its malevolence, and hence, no failure in human society. Whitt attempts to highlight the own development and reality of power within human society through thematic changes and structural concurrence throughout the text. This is reinforced through the use the symbolic nature of the „hawk‟, used to represent power within animalistic society, which then contrasts with human society. Through using his symbolism throughout the text, Witt attempts to demonstrate the separation of humanity from nature, and the brutal effect power of one individual having over another can create. Max Schultz

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