Ted Hughes is famous for using animal imagery for the purpose of symbolism in his poetry. Animals serve many functions in his poems. It depends on the species of the animals and what function is to serve. An in-depth critical analysis of “The Thought Fox” shows that it is also one of those poems of Ted Hughes in which he assigns a special meaning to “Fox”. The poem is highly symbolic and reveals the procedure of writing poetry. Ted Hughes is a poet by profession, therefore, critics define this poem as poetic inspiration instead of artistic inspiration.
In general terms, a deeper critical analysis of “The Thought Fox” reflects that it is not specifically about poetry. It is divine guidance for every artist; a process, through which an idea comes into the mind of an artist and its expression in the relevant form. The end of the poem “the page is printed” means the poem is written. It is specifically dedicated to poets. However, there is no doubt that divine guidance for every artist is the same. Ted Hughes imaginatively expresses a method through which an artist shows his talent to the world. Thus, the poem is not only about a poet and is not just related to poetry rather it is relevant to every artist, whether he is a musician, painter or poet.
Critical Analysis of “The Thought Fox”:
Starting lines of the poem demonstrate an image of a person and his surroundings. The poet says that in a lonely room a person, who in this case is the poet himself, is seated. It is dark night. Everything is still and quiet except the sound (tick-tick) of the clock. The person is sitting alone and a blank page is in front of him. Perhaps, it is the darkest night as the stars are not there in the sky. Suddenly, the persona (poet) feels something in the darkness. He sees two moving eyes. Possibly it is a fox, who is wandering. The fox smells a twig but leaves it. After some time, it departs and leaves its footprints on the snow. After a while, an idea in the shape of a poem comes into the mind of the person who fills the page with that idea.
There are certain things that an artist wants when he intends to present his artistic talent. Firstly, he needs a lonely and silent atmosphere. “The Thought Fox” contains a noiseless scene that is a symbol of peace. Ted Hughes wants to say that the mind should be peaceful while writing poetry. In fact, it is the most essential feature. Secondly, the person sitting in the room is lonely. Loneliness is also necessary to focus on the subject of a poem. In solitude, a poet can escape to his imagination. A subject that is required to be explained to the readers should be written with a focused mind. Thirdly, the starless night is a symbol of a blank mind. Meaning thereby the poet’s mind who is going to write the poem is as blank as the paper in front of him.
Then there comes the fox. It is the most important symbol in the whole poem. Something moving in the darkness is actually an idea that suddenly comes into the poet’s mind. Ted Hughes is a lover of animals and in this poem, he symbolizes the fox as an idea that touches the consciousness of the poet.
Symbolically, the fox is signified by a thought. Ted Hughes explains how an idea invades the mind of an artist. He links divine revelation with a fox. It is unclear to us why he shows the procedure of writing poetry only through fox and does not use any other object to express the method of writing poetry. This is how beautifully the poet represents the procedure of writing poetry.
“Cold, delicately as the dark snow
A fox’s nose touches twig, leaf;
Two eyes serve a movement, that now
And again now, and now, and now”
In the end, he writes:
“Till, with a sudden sharp hot stink of fox
It enters the dark hole of the head.
The window is starless still; the clock ticks,
The page is printed”.
Fox is a thought, that suddenly comes into the mind of a poet and leaves its footprints in form of words. Ultimately “The page is printed” suggests that the poet has successfully written a poem. The poem reveals the artistic talent and powerful imagination of the poet. Keith in a critical analysis of “The Thought Fox” writes:-
“The poem has already sets neat prints upon the page in the line before we are told that the fox sets them into the snow. The noun ‘shadow’ has to drag itself across the gap between the lines which separates it from its adjective. And the alliteration of ‘lame’ and ‘lag’ upon a long palatal consonant mimes the meaning to a degree which becomes obvious if we try to find a substitute for either word.”Keith on critical analysis of “The Thought Fox”
The whole poem is symbolic. This poem is a tribute to every artist living in the world. The poet conducts a critical analysis of the procedure of writing poetry and the things which are required for it and then beautifully illustrates them in “The Thought Fox”. He has experience as well as knowledge of writing poetry and through this poem, he shares his own experience with his readers. However, the themes of the poem are universal.
In view of the above critical analysis, it is true that “The Thought Fox” has rightly been acknowledged as one of the most completely realized and artistically satisfying poems.
- “The Thought Fox” has often been acknowledged as one of the most completely realized and artistically satisfying poems. Discuss.
- Write an in-depth critical analysis of “The Thought Fox”.