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Jonah And The Whale English Commentary

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Jonah and the Whale is largely based upon Christian conversion, and specifically the conversion of a culture or empire which is pre-Christian, suggested in the poem to be barbaric; a culture or force that has got by on instinct alone and suggestively is ignorant of its destructive nature. The image of enlightenment, the discovery of knowledge and the losing of ones innocence also tie in with the Christian theme.

A large and powerful force, ignorant of its own destructive nature, is the first image we perceive from reading the first stanza, the choice of dark words sets a scene of an unchanging entity, that dominates the world it lives in,

'He sported round the watery world, his rich oil was a gloomy waveless lake,'

The depiction of the affrighted seamen hurling their weapons at this force is an indicator that this force was a sudden and unstoppable power rushing through their path,

'...hurled their weapons in his foaming wake,'

The image continues with the picture of the 'One old corroding iron he bore,'

The choice of words signifying that the entity is primeval, this theme continues, 'another lance he wore,' has connotations of a medieval nature, which leads to the image of knights, hero's and the whale as a monster, which ties back to the holy theme of the whale being unconquerable by man.

Another depiction of ignorance that connects the medieval theme;

'So distant were his parts that they/Sent but a dull faint message to his brain. /He knew not his own flesh, as great kings may/Not know the farther places where they reign,'

Not only does this further emphasize the 'ancient' theme but it also highlights the fact that while the whale is a monstrous being he is also weak in his isolation. This point is reinforced in the next line, 'His play made a storm in a calm sea,' while the whale thrashes around his efforts are ineffectual as the sea is calm; devoid of signs of life or nature.

The emphasis on the whale being isolated or not as powerful as he believes is noted in the last line of the stanza, 'the moon rocked to and fro his watery couch,' the whale is not in control, the moon, a larger being controls what he believes to be his kingdom, and thus opens a gateway to the idea of a even larger entity existing.

The whale's assumed power is indicated in the next few lines, the whale is an ignorant force that believes that the world he occupies is for him, he is free to take what he wishes.

'His hunger cleared the sea. And where/he passed, the ocean's edge lifted its brim. /He skimmed the dim sea floor to find if there/Some garden had its harvest ripe for him,'

Much like a conquering barbarian horde, the whale moves from place to place stripping



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