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Thoughts in a Zoo by Countee Cullen
Transcript of Thoughts in a Zoo by Countee Cullen
By Countee Cullen Countee Cullen can be described as the most representative vioce of the Harlem Renaissance. In 1908, when his grandmother and gaurdian passed, he went to live with Rev. Cullen. His poetry success began in high school, in which he won a city-wide poetry contest. Throughout college, Countee wrote poems published in books by Harper and Brothers. In 1925, he won the Witter Bynner Contest, and in 1926, he traveled to France as a Guggenhiem Fellow. Countee married Yolanda Du Bois in 1928 when he returned from France. They divorced two years later. However, he married his good friend in 1940. Then, six years later, he died of a gastrointestinal disease.
"Countee Cullen." Countee Cullen. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Oct. 2012. <http://www.harvardsquarelibrary.org/poets/cullen.php>. They in their cruel traps, and we in ours,
Survey each other’s rage, and pass the hours
Commiserating each the other’s woe,
To mitigate his own pain’s fiery glow.
Man could but little proffer in exchange
Save that his cages have a larger range.
That lion with his lordly, untamed heart
Has in some man his human counterpart,
Some lofty soul in dreams and visions wrapped,
But in the stifling flesh securely trapped.
Gaunt eagle whose raw pinions stain the bars
That prison you, so men cry for the stars!
Some delve down like the mole far underground,
(Their nature is to burrow, not to bound),
Some, like the snake, with changeless slothful eye,
Stir not, but sleep and smoulder where they lie.
Who is most wretched, these caged ones, or we,
Caught in a vastness beyond our sight to see? The speaker of the poem id obviously human whom has gained wisdom through life. The poem reveals that the speaker has realized that there are many limitations that hold people back, such as the view society ha, that are as apparent until the limits are being pushed. The speaker compares humans to animals in cages, not being able to do as they please. The mood is sadistic and depressing because humans are thought of as being able to anything and everything imaginable, but in the end, humans are being watched and judged by others around them, just like caged animals. The disgust in this poem comes through when the author asks the question, why are humans being compared to our lessor, caged animals, and which of the two is truly worse? Cullen’s Thoughts In A Zoo depicts how humans are similar to caged animals. The meaning of this poem is that humans are trapped just as animals in cages and are not able to see the “vastness beyond”. Humans are just observing other human’s actions, while not being able to see beyond the simple lives that they live. The poem also relates humans’ behaviors and attitudes to the animals trapped in cages in a zoo. “Some delve down like the mole far underground, (Their nature is to burrow, not to bound)”
Some humans are being compared to moles who dig far underground and burrow. This represents how some humans have a nature of never stay in one place. They move from place to place, never settling down in one place and calling it home. Their nature is to constantly travel or “burrow” around and are not “bounded” to one individual environment.
“That lion with his lordly, untamed heart/ Has in some man his human counterpart”
Man is being compared to the lion’s lordly attitude. Man does whatever they want in the world and they rank themselves above other men, such as how lions rank themselves above other lions and other animals in the animal kingdom. "Some lofty soul in dreams and visions wrapped" is an example of sensory language because it appeals to the readers sense of touch. This gives the reader the allusion that everything is okay and perfect, when in fact things are just hidden or unseen at the moment. Such as, the limitations in life that only become visible as a person matures with age.