The Dolphins

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  • Q1

    Give a critical appreciation of the poem ‘The Dolphin’s by Carol Ann Duffy.

    Marks:20
    Answer:

    Carol Ann Duffy is known for highlighting various issues in the society such as animal welfare, oppression, gender discrimination and violence in simple language through her poems. Her poems are known for the combination of tenderness and toughness, humour and unconventional attitudes. Her poem ‘The Dolphins’ is an example of this particular style. It highlights issues such as enmity between man and nature, exploitation, oppression and lack of freedom in connection with animal welfare. She takes us to the world of dolphins and asks us to look at these issues from their perspective.

    The poem is in the form of a monologue by a dolphin comparing its previous life in an ocean and the present life in a pool. It speaks for all the dolphins confined to a pool. Although they live in water where they swim and dance, they are no longer free. The dolphin looks at other dolphins whose shape and constraints are same as its shape and constraints. There is a man controlling them and there are hoops which are used to make them perform tricks.

    The title of the poem is very relevant. The poem is about confinement of dolphins that once lived a life of freedom and joy in an ocean but now live a life of despair in a pool controlled by men. Although the poem is a monologue by a dolphin speaking about the plight of other dolphins confined to a pool, it represents all such animals that are displaced from their natural habitat by men.

    The technique of contrast is successfully used in the poem to highlight the sufferings of the dolphins displaced from their natural habitat – the ocean and confined to a pool.

    The poem begins on a happy note of swimming and dancing but soon highlights the stark contrast between their natural habitat and the pool. The tone abruptly changes from happiness to utter despair. Their life in the ocean was described as blessed and the present monotonous life as ‘not blessed’. When they lived in the ocean their skin responded spontaneously to the stimuli but in the pool it takes days to translate their stimuli in to truth and the truth is that they are confined to an artificial habitat.

    They could see the moon and enjoy while they were in the ocean but now in the place of moon, they have coloured plastic balls. In the place of music they have the single note of a whistle. Above all there is a man to control their movement. Thus the poet uses this literary technique of contrast very effectively to highlight the plight of dolphins that are exploited by human beings.

    The poem criticises human superiority over nature and the exploitation of the elements of nature for the benefit of man. Human beings behave as if they are the masters of the nature. They feel that they have the right to exploit the elements of nature including animals and plants. They treat animals with utmost cruelty for entertainment, monetary purposes, food and other benefits. They displace animals form their natural habitat.

    There is no definite rhyme scheme for the poem. The poet uses repetition, imagery and other literary techniques to highlight the plight of dolphins that are dislocated from their natural habitat and confined to an artificial pool.

    The tone of the poem is depressing and sad. The dolphins are aware of their bleak future. They know that they will live a monotonous life in captivity and will end up dying in the same pool. The poem begins on a joyful note describing activities such as swimming and dancing, but the mood suddenly changes into despair and the same tone continues till the end. The poet uses the metaphor of flowing water into the pool. He describes this flow of water into the pool as 'a constant flow of guilt'. It highlights the guilt of people who enslaved the dolphins to an artificial habitat.

    Thus the poet Carol Ann Duffy is successful in her endeavor to highlight issues such as enmity between man and nature, exploitation, oppression and lack of freedom in connection with animal welfare in her poem, ‘The Dolphins’.

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  • Q2

    The poem is a monologue by a dolphin in confinement. Is the voice of the dolphin individualistic or collective? Comment on the technique of monologue used in the poem with reference to the poem.

    Marks:20
    Answer:

    The poem is in the form of a monologue. A dolphin speaks of its life in confinement. The use of the second person ‘you’ relates the speaker with the readers. The dolphin speaks collectively for all his friends – all the dolphins confined to a pool, for it represents the predicament of all dolphins put in the similar circumstances. Although they live in water where they swim and dance, they are no longer free.

    In a monologue a character speaks his or her thoughts and feelings out loud. In the course of his or her speech, the speaker unveils the situation, setting, the audience and his or her own personality. The monologue offers a psychological experience. The intent of a monologue is to make the reader more and more familiar with the character. As the poetic verse continues, the character will evoke an extreme emotional response from the reader.

    The dolphin looks at other dolphins whose shape and constraints are same as its shape and constraints. There is a man controlling them and there are hoops to make them perform tricks.

    In the first stanza itself the dolphin uses the term ‘we’ – ‘We are in our element but we are not free.’ The dolphin says their ‘element’ (water) remains the same in both the places. Outside of water a dolphin cannot survive. But there is a stark contrast between the two places. In the ocean it was absolutely free. It was not confined by any restrictions. Man has created an artificial environment to keep the dolphins in captivity in order to entertain people with their tricks. There is a constant flow of water into the pool but this flow of water is referred to as a constant flow of guilt – the guilt of confining dolphins to a life of slavery.

    The dolphin speaks collectively for all the dolphins in captivity. The first stanza of the poem has the following lines:

    “The other has my shape. The other’s movement

    forms my thoughts. And also mine. “

    By using the term ‘the other’, the speaker refers to the other dolphins in captivity. It is clear from the context as the dolphin says that the other has its shape and the movements of the other dolphins are also the same. It means the other dolphins are also in confinement. They too monotonously encircle the pool and perform the routine tricks under the control of their caretaker. The speaker says that their thoughts and its thoughts are the same.

    In the second stanza the speaker says:

    “We have found no truth in the these waters,

    no explanations tremble on our flesh”

    Again, “We were blessed and now we are not blessed.”

    In the third stanza of the poem the speaker repeats the same idea.

    “And now we are no longer blessed,”

    The speaker comments on their life of slavery in the artificial environment. Dolphins have a very sensitive skin which is capable of feeling minute changes in their environment. But, living in confinement their skin has slowly lost the ability to respond to the stimulus.

    Their life in the ocean was a blessed life but their present life is not a blessed one. They monotonously encircle the same space every day and very slowly they sense the truth of their confinement. Their life is the same always, the same routine and the same experience. Their actions are controlled by men and they are no longer free.

    The third stanza of the poem expresses the mutual understanding and love between the dolphins and how they define themselves with reference to each other. The speaker says:

    “The other knows and out of love reflects me for myself.”

    The dolphins are sympathetic to each other. The dolphins are aware of the sufferings of the others because all of them undergo the same torture but they are helpless. They try to console each other by referring to the same treatment they receive in their artificial environment. They remember how their skin flashed like silver under the light of the sun when they lived in the ocean. Now they have to jump through the hoops and balance a coloured ball till their caretaker goes away.

    Look at the following lines to see the sympathy, the speaker has towards the other dolphins suffering with him in the confinement of the pool.

    “Music of loss forever

    from the other’s heart which turns my own to stone.”

    The sorrowful music of loss (lamentation caused by the loss of freedom) arising from the hearts of the fellow dolphins turns the dolphin’s heart into a stone.

    There are other instances in the poem where the poet uses the term ‘we’ and ‘our’. It is evident from all these examples that the speaker of the monologue in this poem speaks collectively for all other dolphins which are doomed to live a life of slavery in the confinement of artificial pools, performing tricks to entertain the visitors.

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  • Q3

    The poet uses the technique of contrast in the poem ‘The Dolphins’ to highlight the plight of dolphins in confinement. Do you think she is successful in her attempt?

    Marks:20
    Answer:

    The technique of contrast is successfully used in the poem to highlight the sufferings of the dolphins displaced from their natural habitat (the ocean) and confined to a pool.

    The poem begins on a happy note of swimming and dancing but soon highlights the stark contrast between their natural habitat and the pool. The tone abruptly changes from happiness to utter despair.

    The dolphin thinks about his happy life in the ocean andhis present life in the confinement of the pool. The dolphin says their ‘element’ (water) remains the same in both the places. But there is a stark contrast between the two places. In the ocean he was absolutely free. He was not confined by any restrictions. There was no boundary wall as the sea was vast and limitless. There was no one to control his movements. There was no one to make him perform any tricks. His life was not monotonous.

    On the contrary his life in the pool is not free. The pool has a boundary wall. Unlike the ocean the pool is limited. The dolphin encircles the pool monotonously. He is the same forever. There is nothing new. Every day he performs the same tricks. The dolphin looks at other dolphins in the confinement, whose shape, restricted movements and the thoughts are similar to his. There is a man to control them with hoops. They are enslaved and destined to perform tricks to entertain the visitors. Instead of the constant movement of waves in the ocean there is a constant flow of water through a pipeline into the pool to create an artificial atmosphere for the dolphins to survive in the pool. The word ‘guilt’ is used for this constant flow of water into the pool in order to maintain this artificial atmosphere, emulating an ocean.

    The poem contrasts the pool with the ocean. The pool is artificially created and lacks the expanse and environment of the natural sea. A dolphin’s skin is very sensitive to the environment. The dolphin gets information about the surroundings through its skin. Through the skin it is able to detect minute changes in the environment. When they lived in the ocean their skin responded spontaneously to the stimuli but in the pool it takes days to translate their stimuli in to truth and the truth is that they are confined to an artificial habitat.

    In the confinement a man makes them to perform various tricks such as jumping through hoops and balancing coloured balls on their noses.

    Their life in the ocean is described as blessed and the present monotonous life as ‘not blessed’. The dolphin says that the pool they live now can never be as vast and deep as their previous ‘world’, the ocean. The narrow pool limits their dreams. Their dreams about independence are over in the shallow waters of the pool. When they were in the sea their skin reflected the natural sunlight and shone like silver under the sun. Now it is an old memory.

    They could enjoy the vision of the moon while they were in the ocean but now in the place of moon, they have coloured plastic balls. In the place of music they have the single note of a whistle. This single note of music refers to the whistle blown by the man who makes dolphins perform the tricks.

    The lamentation of the other dolphins turns the heart of the narrator (the dolphin) to a stone. There is a stark contrast with the life of joy the dolphins had in their natural habitat and their present life in the pool where a man controls their movements.

    The poem compares the life of the dolphin in the ocean and its present life in the confinement of the pool. Thus the poet uses this literary technique very effectively to highlight the plight of dolphins that are exploited by human beings.

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  • Q4

    Carol Anne Duffy is known for highlighting various issues in the society such as oppression, confinement of animals, animal welfare, etc. in her poems. Discuss how these themes are highlighted in the poem 'The Dolphins'.

    Marks:20
    Answer:

    Dame Carol Anne Duffy is known for highlighting various issues in the society such as animal welfare, oppression, gender discrimination and violence in simple language through her poems. The poem ‘The Dolphins’ brings to the notice of the general public several issues related to animal welfare such as oppression and lack of freedom. It also highlights issues such as enmity between man and nature, exploitation, etc., in connection with animal welfare. She takes us to the world of dolphins and asks us to look at these issues from their perspective.

    Exploitation of Animals by human beings for selfish interests is the major theme of this poem. Man exploits animals for food, entertainment and various other monetary purposes. Animals are used for procuring milk, flesh, eggs and other animal products. They are treated with cruelty in this process.

    They are displaced from their natural habitat and forced into artificial environments. Their freedom of movement is restricted. They are confined to cages, pools, etc. Some of them are mutilated and killed for scientific experiments. The young ones are separated from their mothers. Man behaves as if he is the master of all animals.

    The poem is a monologue of a dolphin that speaks for its friends. It compares their previous life in the sea and their present life in a man-made pool, confined and controlled by its master, performing tricks to entertain people. They are exploited and made to perform tricks with a coloured ball and hoops for entertaining people. Though they are in water they no longer experience freedom. There is a note of despair in the poem.

    Every living being loves freedom. It is not only human beings who strive to shake off the shackles of enslavement but also animals. They want to live freely in their natural habitat. The poem ‘The Dolphins’ expresses this quest for freedom. In the ocean they could swim freely but in the pool they live a monotonous life. The moon has disappeared from their eyes. They have lost their sensitivity to the environment. The poem presents a bleak and hopeless future for the dolphins. The dolphin says that they will ultimately die in the pool.

    The imagery used in the poem is touching. The author asks the readers to look at all the enslaved animals from their perspective. We should think that just as in our case animals too want to live freely in their natural habitat.

    The poem criticises human superiority over nature and the exploitation of the elements of nature for the benefit of man. Human beings behave as if they are the custodians of the nature. They feel that they have the right to exploit the elements of nature including animals and plants. They treat animals with utmost cruelty for their entertainment, monetary purposes, food and other benefits. They displace animals form their natural habitat.

    Only if we are able to look at animals and plants from their perspective we will be able to understand the pain they undergo. People vehemently criticize the government when human rights are violated. Similarly animals too have rights. Can anyone of us imagine a situation in which we are confined to a cage or a pool and made to perform tricks to entertain others? Great leaders like Abraham Lincoln and others stood against human slavery. It is time that we stand against the exploitation of animals. We may have to use animal products for food and other purposes. But we should, by all means avoid cruelty to animals. We should treat animals and plants - in fact all living and non-living things and beings with at most respect. We are not the masters of the universe. Mother earth belongs to all, human beings, animals and plants.

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