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Literature

Symbolism of the Caged Skylark by Gerard Manley Hopkins

“The Caged Skylark,” by Gerard Manley Hopkins is an emblematic poem about the life of a caged bird. The poem expresses a bird’s yearning to be free as he struggles to endure every day trapped inside a cage. The poem is meant to be symbolic of a man being s

“The Caged Skylark,” by Gerard Manley Hopkins
is an emblematic poem about the life of a caged bird. The poem expresses a
bird’s yearning to be free as he struggles to endure every day trapped inside a
cage. The poem is meant to be symbolic of a man being separated from his
spirit. The allegorical thematic poet Hopkins, who is a Jesuit Priest, had
written
this poem with the objective to
enlighten its readers with his belief that one can not be truly happy until
their body and spirit are united. Hopkins uses diction, imagery, language, and
symbolism to create a metaphorical story conveying the differences between life
on earth and after death in order to convince his audience of the importance
being yourself and not “separating the spirit from it’s physical body.”


Gerard
Hopkins use of diction throughout “The Caged Skylark” keys into his audiences
emotions. By choosing specific and meaningful words, Hopkins creates a sense of
desperation and tragedy in his poem. He uses negative words such as “labouring”
and “deadly,” which give the poem a depressing atmosphere, further helping the
audience to understand the meaning of the poem and gain a more personal
perspective of the message Hopkins is trying to accomplish. He also includes
words with positive meanings. Because a majority of the poem is negative and
dark feeling these specific words stick out to the reader. Placing words with
positive connotations such as “sweetest” and “rainbow” in a poem that is mostly
negative creates a hopeful feeling for the audience, the readers begin to see
the darkness at the end of the tunnel. These words help Hopkins create the
metaphorical aspect of the poem. By using words of hope Hopkins establishes the
chance of freedom for the caged bird, alluding to the possibility of life after
death.


Hopkins
use of imagery is another literary tool that greatly affects the achievement of
the poems spiritual metaphor. Several moments throughout Hopkins poem he uses
words or phrases that appeal to the human senses. One of the most important
moments in the entire poem uses imagery. This moment is when Hopkins tells of
the man and bird singing a sweet song, he then changes the imagery by saying
they “droop deadly sometimes in their cells.” Though these phrases serve
completely different purposes they both use imagery to help the audience feel
what the bird might be feeling. Hopkins also uses several descriptive words to
show imprisonment. These words include; dull cage, cells, bone-house,
mean-house, and prison. By using multiple words to describe a single aspect
Hopkins constructs a specific image for the readers. Imagery is important in
helping establish the metaphor because it encourages the reader to relate to
what is happening in the story, though the poem appears to be about a bird it
is actually about human beings, which without imagery may not otherwise be
known.


Another
way the Hopkins enhances his poem is the way he uses language. The language
Hopkins uses is difficult to read and even more difficult to interpret. This
type of language gives the poem a “wise” tone, the poem is meant to be
spiritual and the use of challenging language makes the poem almost sound
Biblical. Examples of this would be when Hopkins says, “As a dare-gale skylark
scanted in a dull cage.” This statement, though hard to interpret, actually has
a significant meaning, much like
something one could read in the Bible. Hopkins uses this difficult language as
a technique to make his poem feel more creditable to his audience -- whereas if
he were to use casual language the spiritual intent of his poem might be lost.
Hopkins also includes a reference directly alluding to the Bible when he says,
“...for his bones risen.” This phrase indicates Hopkins belief of life after
death and helps to summarize the theme of his poem.


The
final and possibly most important literary element Hopkins uses in his poem is
the element of symbolism. Nearly every line of “The Caged Skylark” consists of
at least one symbol. The most important symbols being the skylark himself and
his cage. After analyzing the poem it becomes apparent that the bird, the
skylark, is representative of one’s soul, and the cage is representative of a
person’s physical body. When the two are
not united they feel trapped and unhappy. Another major symbol expressed in
Hopkins poem is the rainbow. This is a symbol of hope, it gives an image of
happiness on the other side, meaning after death when the body and soul are
once again united. By including symbolism the audience is able to make
connections between the story of a caged bird and the spiritual meaning Hopkins
was trying to convey.


Through
Hopkins use of diction, imagery, language and symbolism he is successfully able
to communicate his spiritual message that a man cannot achieve happiness until
he and his body are together. Hopkins choices of words in this poem not only
connect to the audiences emotions but also help develop the metaphor between
the caged bird and human beings. The imagery shown throughout the poem also
contribute to the construction of his metaphor and brings the audience to a
more personal level. The language in the poem is another tool that gives the
poem its credibility and further helps achieve the conveyance of his spiritual
message. Finally, Hopkins use of symbolism advances the metaphor and completes
the connections between the story and the spiritual meanings found in the poem.

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