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Owls by Mary Oliver

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The great-horned owl is one of the most mysterious animals of the world. In an excerpt from Mary Oliver's essay "Owls," she discusses her fear as well as her utmost admiration of this most frightening of creatures.

Mary Oliver's use of threatening imagery conveys her deep fear of the power of this frightful creature. By using phrases referring to "it's razor-tipped toes" and discussing the "heavy, crisp, breathy snapping of it's hooked beak," Mary Oliver wants the reader to understand just how dangerous and scary these "pure, wild hunters of our world" are to all other creatures that they view as prey.

Throughout this passage the great-horned owl is used as a symbol for danger and any kind of threat upon those deemed 'innocent'. The "headless bodies of rabbits and blue jays" are used to represent the innocent people killed by someone else's (the great-horned owl) hunger for food, power, greatness, etc. Mary Oliver states that "if it could it would eat the whole world" as would many power-hungry tycoons we see in the business world today.

In line 37, Mary Oliver contrasts one short sentence full of meaning with the long drawn out one preceding it. Mary Oliver states that "there is only one world" showing her view that all in life is connected and no one thing can happen without affecting everything around it. The African word "ubuntu" can be applied here, meaning 'I am because we are' stating the same that one person can not be if it were not for all else around it. For example, the great-horned owl can not eat a rabbits head without affecting Mary Oliver by making her come to terms with her own mortality.

Mortality. A common theme throughout much of literature, especially the early horror writings such as those of Poe. Although Mary Oliver never specifically mentions mortality it is a common theme throughout most of this passage. I believe that throughout this entire passage the author is trying to come to terms with the fact that one day it may not be a rabbit or a blue jay but herself that is cruelly snatched from this world either by a predator, such as the great horned owl, or by the hand of God.



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