Cat and Mouse

Cat and Mouse

By Ted Hughes

On the sheep-cropped summit, under hot sun,
The mouse crouched, staring out the chance
It dared not take.
Time and a world
Too old to alter, the five mile prospect—
Woods, villages, farms hummed its heat-heavy
Stupor of life.
Whether to two
Feet or four, how are prayers contracted!
Whether in God’s eye or the eye of a cat.

Summary of Cat and Mouse

  • Popularity of “Cat and Mouse”: Written by a popular English poet, translator and children’s writer, Ted Hughes, this short poem “Cat and Mouse” is an interesting poem. It sheds light on the primal nature of living things linked to a vicious cycle of life. The poem shows Hughes’ understanding of not only the living things but also their association with different instinctive features of human life and the life cycle. The popularity of the poem rests on the simple and yet inscrutable topic that he argues for.
  • “Cat and Mouse” As a Representative of Lifecycle and Violence: The third-person omniscience speaker of the poem, who happens to be the poet himself, presents a countryside scene in which a mouse is crouched on a summit under the hot sun looking out to have a chance to move out to find food. However, he is caught in a classic situation that seems to him not changing very soon. It is too old to face any alteration. There is a five-mile distance between farms and woods that the mouse has to cover. And to top it all, it is bustling with life. The lifecycle is such that it is a matter of conjecture for the poet how God accepts prayer and whose all are praying for having a catch or a safe run.
  • Major Themes in “Cat and Mouse”: Vicious lifecycle, cat and mouse game, and prayers for God for safety and food are major themes of this short poem “Cat and Mouse.” The poet presents a primeval scene of a cat and mouse. The mouse is ready to go out on the summit lying between villages and woods, to find something to eat, but fear of the cat is on his head. On the other hand, all other creatures are also in the same food-finding mood, ready to go out, but all have the same fear of one or other creatures waiting for them for the same reason. And interestingly, all are praying to God to bless them with some food or hunt. It is up to God whom He favors, or better to say it is to be seen whose prayers are accepted. This vicious lifecycle goes on at its usual pace.

Analysis of Literary Devices Used in Cat and Mouse

Ted Hughes’s literary skill not only lies in writing poetry but also in using literary devices. He used various literary devices to enhance the intended impact of this poem. Some of the major literary devices are as follows.

  1. Allusion: It means alluding to some event or figure of literary, historical, or mythical importance to stress the main idea. The poet alluded to the cat-and-mouse game and God in this poem.
  2. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line, such as the sound of /e/ and /o/ in “On the sheep-cropped summit, under hot sun” and the sound of /o/ and /a/ in “The mouse crouched, staring out the chance.”
  3. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line, such as the sound of /r/ and /s/ in “On the sheep-cropped summit, under hot sun” and the sound of /t/ and /r/ in “Too old to alter, the five mile prospect.”
  4. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. Ted Hughes used imagery in this poem, such as “The mouse crouched, staring out the”, “Woods, villages, farms hummed its heat-heavy” and “Stupor of life.”
  5. Metaphor: It is a figure of speech in which an implied comparison is made between objects different in nature. The poet has used the metaphor of time and the world, both who are painted as living beings that cannot change their nature.
  6. Personification: It means to attribute human emotions to inanimate objects. The poet has used the personification of woods, villages, and farms as if they have a life of their own.
  7. Symbolism: Symbolism is using symbols to signify ideas and qualities, giving them symbolic meanings that are different from the literal meanings. The poem shows symbols such as a mouse, a cat, villages, woods, and farms.

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in Cat and Mouse

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is an analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.

  1. Diction: It means the type of language. The poem shows good use of formal, poetic, and metaphorical diction.
  2. Free Verse: It means to use verses having no rhyme scheme or metrical pattern. Ted Hughes has written this poem in free verse form.
  3. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. There are three stanzas, with each comprising three verses.
  4. Tone: It means the voice of the text. The poem shows an inscrutable, bland, and even mysterious tone.

Quotes to be Used

The following lines are useful to quote when talking about prayers and their nature.

Whether to two
Feet or four, how are prayers contracted!
Whether in God’s eye or the eye of a cat.