Thursday, May 22, 2008

In the poem The Hunter In The Snow by William Carlos Williams, the speaker analyzes the painting Hunters In the Snow by Pieter Brueghel, and finds the main idea to be a struggling of social class during the period in which this takes place and the coldness of it all. This idea is apparent through the references the speaker makes to the wintry, cold landscape, the foreground “pack” of lower class hunters he describes, the middle class “pattern” of skaters, and the “winter-struck bush” seen in the foreground, symbolizing a twisted mess of things caused by the coldness of humanity. The speaker first states that “The over-all picture is winter/icy mountains/in the background” (1-3). This is an observation of the landscape of this painting, which in its coldness seems to symbolize the human condition of chilled attitudes toward each other. His mention of the “hunt it is toward evening/from the left/sturdy hunters lead in/ their pack”(4-7) sets the mood of the poem, saying that it is now evening, bringing out a darker side to the tone of the poem and the painting. It also brings attention to the lower class hunters coming home from a long day of hunting. Seeing as they are the first beings mentioned in the poem and one of the first figures to attract the eye in the painting, they are the main focus. The speaker’s next intention is to bring attention to “the inn-sign/hanging from a/broken hinge is a stag a crucifix/between his antlers the cold/inn yard is/deserted but for a huge bonfire/ that flares wind-driven tended by/women who cluster/about it”(7-15). These lines set the scene of the lower class women warming around a fire in a deserted inn-yard. The word “deserted” seems to apply to the desertion of the middle-upper class people of the painting/poem. The speaker sees a crucifix hanging above them from the broken inn-sign, seemingly implying their virtue and their inner superiority over the rich “pattern of skaters/”(16). The contrast between the “pattern” of these people and the “pack” of hunters is important because a pattern is basically a set arrangement of designs, many times for purposes of neatness and pretty arrangements, while a pack evokes pictures of closeness and animalistic intentions. Perhaps the speaker is trying to imply that the poor are looked down upon as a group of animals at the time of this painting, while the rich are perfect and beautiful people. Lastly, the painter mentions how “Brueghel the painter/concerned with it all has chosen/ a winter-struck bush for his/foreground to/complete the picture//” (17-21). The speaker is telling us to look at the importance of this bush that is in the foreground of the picture, which is dead center and large, and one of the first things your eye is drawn to. This bush symbolizes the twisted view that humanity placed on social classes, and the coldness of humanity that made this society so gnarled. In conclusion, the people portrayed on the canvas and in the poem place way too much importance on this issue of classes that it divides them, and their ideas of inhumane coldness towards one another turn into a tangled mess. Many innocent people are looked down upon as animalistic because they haven’t any money, even though their virtue might be greater than those beautiful people with a superfluous amount of money.


Caitlin H 5 said...

I really enjoyed this assignment because I absolutely adore analyzing paintings and what they depict. Symbolism is so much fun to decipher. It also gave me practice in learning to look deeper into things than just glancing at them. It is important, I think, to try and find out why something affects you like it does, and what the story behind every figure in a painting really means.

Coacervate said...

I have always been a bit disturbed by this are many. What do you think of the skater who appears to be in a fetal position and, to me, dead or nearly so. People were buried in that position in those days. Is it possible that they are waiting for the ground to soften so they can bury this person?

I enjoy your essays. Thanks!