How does the poet Carol Ann Duffy raise her voice against destruction of nature and abuse of animals in her poem “The Dolphins”?
Or, The Dolphins by Duffy is a protest against abuse of wildlife and exploitation of animals. Discuss.
In her dramatic monologue ‘The Dolphins”, Carol Ann Duffy has presented herself as an animal-lover and protested against the exploits of animals and other natural elements by man. Though the poem only speaks of the deplorable condition of the dolphins who are forced to live in a pool to perform tricks in circus, the theme actually goes beyond this. In a broader view, the dolphins are mere representatives of all such creatures receiving ill-treatments in the hands of man.
The poet here expresses the sadness in the dolphins’ mind through their own voice using the technique of dramatic monologue. The dolphin says that they are in their ‘element’ to mean they are still living in water, but they are kept away from their natural habitat, i.e., the ocean. They are not free. Freedom is what the dolphin finds most important to be happy. They are not ‘blessed’ anymore as their movements are restricted in a pool and are guided by a man. They cannot even move according to their will; they have to perform tricks as the man wishes in order to entertain people. So, the dolphins are now used for the monetary purpose of humans. They have to balance themselves on a coloured ball. The dolphin regrets repeatedly:
We were blessed and now we are not blessed.
The dolphin is sad as it is living a monotonous life in the same space. It is in sharp contrast to what the life was like when they were in the sea. The space is limited. A man is there constantly above them guiding their movements and making them feel guilty. The moon has disappeared for them, not only literally but also metaphorically. They can no longer see the moon as they are not in the open sea, and the cheerfulness of their free life has now turned gloomy.
The dolphin remembers its happy days of the past. It finds its own reflection in the other dolphin’s actions. Its heart turns to stone when it hears the “music of loss” from the other dolphin.
… Music of loss forever
from the other’s heart which turns my own to stone.
So, there is a sense of loss and there is hopelessness. The only thing they have got to entertain themselves is a plastic toy. That is not the ideal thing they used to use living in the open ocean. The man’s whistle makes them sink to the limit of the pool. There is a tone of suppression. Humans are toying with the innocent animals’ lives. The very last line has a sarcastic tone:
There is a man and our mind knows we will die here.
It is as if where there is a man, there is impurity, there is distortion, artificiality and destruction of everything natural. In fact, the existence of a man above them has been repeated in every stanza of the poem to highlight the authority of man not only over the dolphins but also over nature and most other natural creatures. The way man is expanding their reach in this universe and trying to use natural elements in their way, they may eventually end up making a mess with the balance of this universe and its natural aspects. We are slowly but surely destructing nature and its purity.
The poet here raises her voice against this destruction through human cruelty towards animals. The dolphin acts as the poet’s voice to convey her message towards the readers that we should respect the rights of animals to live in their natural habitat and should not inflict our cruelty on them.
People often fail to understand that the relative brain of a dolphin is only second to that of a modern human being. They live in large complex social groups and swim vast distances in open ocean. But while in captivity they can only swim in circles in tanks and are denied to stay in natural habitat and are forced to perform meaningless tricks and are often taken away from their family.
It is just like a man in a prison blindfolded, the dolphins feel the same way. Accounting to all the years many of the dolphins died while in captivity in touch tanks. By this poem the poetess wants to show us the torture the animals receive in the hands of the people. The poetess expects us to see the world from their perspective too and to protect the life of the innocent animals and demands to stop the exploitation of wildlife in the name of self-entertainment. Most of the countries have already banned the dolphin captivity.
State how is the poem ‘The Dolphins’ a protest against the destruction of nature and natural creature by man.
Man, for his own needs and greed, destroys the natural habitats of mute animals, entrap them, commercially exploits them and even kills them. This physical and mental torture of these innocent creatures, disturbs the ecological balance which in turn results in the destruction of nature.
In ‘The Dolphins’ Duffy only speaks about the oppression of dolphins and their deplorable condition as they are deprived of their natural habitat and confined in an artificial pool with many others of its own kind, but the theme is much more vast than it. Here dolphins are only representatives of all those creature who are mentally, physically tortured and commercially exploited by man.
The speaker of Duffy’s poem is a dolphin itself, hence ‘The Dolphins’ is a dramatic monologue written from the perspective of a dolphin about the effects of their imprisonment by humans. The dolphin says that they are in their ‘elements’ means they are still in water where they can breath and survive but they are not free. They are trapped in a pool where they are alive but not free. Dolphins are very lively creatures having quite developed brain, for them freedom is essential for their happiness and well being. They feel that they are not blessed now as they are not free. Their movements are restricted in a pool and are guided by a man with hoops.
“We were blessed and now we are not blessed.”
They say that they are not blessed now as they can not move on their own wish, they have to perform tricks as jumping through the hoops and balance the coloured ball to entertain humans. So they are now commercially exploited by humans. The dolphins have a great regret for this .
“There is a man and there are hoops”.
The dolphin is sad to live a monotonous life in a pool. As before they were used to swim freely in vast open ocean but now the space is limited. A man is there constantly above them guiding their movements, and making them feel guilty for their misfortune.
” It is the same space always and above it is the man.”
The moon has disappeared for them , not only literally but also metaphorically. They can no longer see the moon as they are not in the open sea and their cheerfulness turned to be gloomy. All they can do is to circle around the coloured ball on the monotonous sound of the whistle blown by the man.
“The moon has disappeared. We circle well worn grooves of water on a single note.”
Dolphins feel compassion for the other dolphins. It says when it hears the mournful voice of other dolphin caused by lack of freedom and happiness, it’s own heart turns into stone.
” Music of loss forever from the other’s heart which turns my own to stone.”
Once ‘limitless’ dolphins now has ‘limits’ imposed. There is a man who controls their movements. There is a sense of hopelessness by their condition. They know that there is no escape for them and they would die in the pool. They sarcastically says –
“There is a man and our mind knows we will die here.”
The existence of a man above them has been repeated in every stanza of the poem to highlight the authority of man not only over the Dolphins but also over other mute creatures. To fulfill his desire and greed and to show his superiority over other creature, man tortured and exploited all these innocent creatures. Hence he has disturbed the ecological cycle and result in the slow destruction of nature.
The poem has raised voice against the cruelty of human towards animals. The poem shows how dolphins and other animals are suffering in the hands of men. It urges us to look at the world from their perspective. The poem indirectly appeals human beings not to destroy natural habitats of animals and their lives. They too are a part of nature like us and therefore deserve our respect and right to remain in the world, free from harassment and harm. On a metamorphic level, the poetess may also want to indicate the troubles of human who think they are caught in the confines of this world.