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Animal Poems

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Many times there is a theme or main idea that drives a poem. In the case of Maxine Kumin's "Woodchucks," there is one idea that appears to be very prevalent. Kumin uses "Woodchucks" to display her individuality in addition to her love for her husband. Although some may argue against this proposal, there is little evidence to refute the idea that Kumin has written this poem in order to demonstrate her love for nature and feminist ideals. Kumins makes several distinct statements that support the idea that she is a pacifist and an individual who is conscious and knowledgeable about her own ethnic and cultural background, which further defends the idea that she is a firm believer in feminist principles. Not only does Kumin make several proclamations within "Woodchucks," which reveal feminist ideals, but also the overall tone of the poem strongly suggests that she carries herself as a caretaker for all, which is certainly consistent with feminist principles. Through "Woodchucks," Kumin successfully justifies her anti-pacifist actions by conveying her strong feminists beliefs.

There are many ways to determine whether or not a poem has a specific theme or tone. In Maxine Kumin's "Woodchucks," there are several themes that relate directly to feminism, one of which is revealed through the line, "the food from our mouths." Although this line is often thought to be a reference to Kumin and her having to provide for her children, the fact of the matter is that the line most likely refers to the idea that her and her husband must rely on the land that they live on in order to survive. Additionally, the ideas that refer to the land and the work that must be done in order to preserve the land appears to relate to the fact that Kumin and her spouse reside in New Hampshire and therefore rely heavily on the success of the land and the crops that they grow. Although it may be argued that all of this is coincidental and that Kumin is simply writing a story without any justification, or purpose, the poem itself and the ideas that Kumin conveys strongly refute this idea. Kumin's knowledge of the outdoors and the backwoods, demonstrated in this poem, strongly affirm that Kumin is a caring woman who is passionate about her whereabouts in the world and also very conscious of the possible threats to her and her husband. These principle ideas lead to the suggestion that Kumin is a feminist who cares for her spouse and the well being of the land and the animals on her land, and therefore has justified her actions.

Another aspect of "Woodchucks," that supports the idea that Kumin has written with a feminist tone is the fact that the speaker of the poem claims to be a pacifist. There is a specific line that reveals this idea and it reads as follows, "I, a lapsed pacifist fallen from grace." This quote clearly suggests that the speaker is pacifist, or at the least finds justification through neutral action by using pacifist principles. Further defending this argument is the fact that being a supporter of pacifism often relates to being a feminist. Although there are many assemblages and individuals who are voluntarily pacifist, in this case, it is clear through the tone of the poem and the significant struggle to kill the woodchucks, that the speaker is against killing, yet able to do so because the action outweighs the possible consequence. This key relationship of ideas demonstrates Kumin's love for her spouse and strongly suggests that the feminist role of the speaker leads to the reversal of pacifist action.

It is also key to note that Maxine Kumin is not a mother, but a very devoted wife. Because the Kumins live in the farmland of New Hampshire, it is easily understood that their crops and flowers may directly impact their economic stability and may also double as their source of food (Preston). The speaker in the poem consistently uses the pronoun, "we," to indicate the interdependence of the crops and the strong feelings against the woodchucks. The reliance on the crop and, possibly the flowers, ties into the feminist principle of providing for those who are loved or cared for by the mother or female figure. In the case of "Woodchucks," the role of the caregiver and wife overrides the role of the pacifist. The speaker is unable to maintain a pacifist base in a time when personal property and a proposed source of food are being destroyed. The remorse felt by the speaker is also a sign of feminist beliefs, and the final line strongly displays the speaker's emotion and empathy toward their own action. It is clear that the speaker of the poem is a pacifist who feels badly about the action they have taken. It is therefore logical to conclude that because Maxine Kumin is who she is and lives in the setting that she does, that her personal pacifism is a result of her feminism and is justified by her role as a wife. This conclusion



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