Examination at the Womb Door
By Ted Hughes
Who owns those scrawny little feet? Death.
Who owns this bristly scorched-looking face? Death.
Who owns these still-working lungs? Death.
Who owns this utility coat of muscles? Death.
Who owns these unspeakable guts? Death.
Who owns these questionable brains? Death.
All this messy blood? Death.
These minimum-efficiency eyes? Death.
This wicked little tongue? Death.
This occasional wakefulness? Death.
Given, stolen, or held pending trial?
Who owns the whole rainy, stony earth? Death.
Who owns all of space? Death.
Who is stronger than hope? Death.
Who is stronger than the will? Death.
Stronger than love? Death.
Stronger than life? Death.
But who is stronger than Death?
Summary of Examination at the Womb Door
- Popularity of “Examination at the Womb Door”: The poem “Examination At The Womb Door” by Ted Hughes, a great English poet, and writer, is a powerful poem about death. The poem first appeared in 1970 in his book, Crow. The collection is popular due to the powerful poems written in Hughes’ post-marriage period with another poet of his caliber, Sylvia Plath. The uniqueness of this poetic piece lies in its rendition of how death faces a defeat from life through the entry of the body from the womb into this physical world.
- “Examination at the Womb Door” As a Representative of Creation of Human Life and Death: The poet loads the poem with various rhetorical questions about the arrival of life, the organs of a body, the body parts, the life questions, and above all the final moments when death faces defeat from life. The poet then reaches the conclusion that it is the life that defeats death and this life is his life. He starts the poem with questions about life, about the physical body, about oral points, about legality, about legitimacy, about the whole world, life, death, and finer feelings to say that there is no doubt that Death is stronger than everything but he is stronger than Death, for he is life and life comes into this world through the Womb.
- Major Themes in “Examination at the Womb Door”: Creation, Death, and the physical world are three major themes of this poem. Ted Hughes opens the poem with his argument with questions about Death and the role of Death in our lives. He argues that Death faces confrontation with Life and he himself is alive. Therefore, he has defeated Death. The difference lies in the space in which the physical world is separated from the pre-physical world that is the Womb Door. This is the point of the creation of life.
Analysis of Literary Devices Used in “Examination At The Womb Door”
literary devices make poetic structures meaningful. The analysis of these devices in the poem “Examination At The Womb Door” as given below shows this fact.
- Anaphora: The poem shows the use of anaphora as the verses start with “Who owns…”
- Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line such as the sound of /e/ in “Who owns those scrawny little feet? Death.”, /o/ in “Who owns these still-working lungs? Death” and the sound of /e/ in “Who owns the whole rainy, stony earth? Death.”
- Alliteration: It is a device that means to use words in quick succession having initial consonants such as /th/ sound in “than the.”
- Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line such as the sound of /s/ and /k/ in “Who owns this bristly scorched-looking face? Death”, /s/ and /b/ in “Who owns these questionable brains? Death” and the sound of /w/ and /r/ in “Who owns the whole rainy, stony earth? Death.”
- Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. The poem shows the use of imagery such as “Who owns the whole rainy, stony earth? Death.”, “Stronger than life? Death.” and “This wicked little tongue? Death.
- Metaphor: It is a figure of speech in which an implied comparison is made between the objects that are different. The poem shows Death and Life as metaphors of different worlds.
- Personification: The poem shows the use of personifications such as Death and Life as having a life of their own. The poet has personified both of them.
- Symbolism: Symbolism is using symbols to signify ideas and qualities, giving them symbolic meanings that are different from literal meanings. The poem shows the use of the symbols of Death and Life.
Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in “Examination At The Womb Door”
Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is the analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.
- Diction and Tone: Although the diction is full of metaphors and personifications, it has a very serious and spiritual tone.
- Free Verse: The poem does not follow any rhyming pattern. Therefore, it is a free verse poem. Yet it has a rhyming pattern due to the use of Death as the last word.
- Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. This is a single stanza, having 21 verses.
- Repetition: The poem shows the use of the rhetorical device of repetition as the word “Death” occurs at the end of every verse.
Quotes to be Used
These lines from “Examination At The Womb Door” are relevant to use when teaching about the power of self.
But who is stronger than Death?