Monday, January 17, 2011

Untitled by Stephen Crane

In the desert
I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
Who squatting upon the ground,
Held his heart in his hands,
And ate of it.
I said: "Is it good, friend?"
"It is bitter -- bitter," he answered;
"But I like it 
Because it is bitter,
And because it is my heart."

Although we read this poem in class, I wanted to write about it because I saw it differently than we spoke of in class. The naked creature we took for someone or something horrible, an evil-doer or something like. The eating of its heart was either proof of his bestiality or deep remorse. However, I saw the creature more as raw than wicked. That it was naked and bestial reminded me of when we are born, completely naked, and without any polishing from society. We are not naturally born with perfect mannerisms. They must be learned. Even the way that the creature is described as "squatting on the ground" reminds me of little kids, once again before they have conformed to society. But then the poem reveals that the creature is also eating it's heart. At this point, most of us believe it is proof that this creature is vile. The speaker, however, does not. He calls the creature "friend" and only asks "Is it good?" not "Why?" Apparently, the speaker does not find the creature as repulsive as we would expect. And perhaps it's because there's something magical about a creature that can eat it's heart and not die. The doesn't seem to be particularly graphic; there is no description of a whole in the creature's chest or blood dripping down his arms, just a heart in his hands. The creature replies that "It is bitter... But I like it/ Because it is bitter,/ and because it is my heart."

The creature shows the natural side of human kind. That is why the speaker is not repulsed by it: he recognizes it. The creature, who hasn't been taught by society how to dress or how to act or even how to stand or sit, it naked, bestial, and squatting, but he also has a knowledge that most humans have forgotten. His heart, which represents the emotions and soul of a person, is in his hands, and he is eating it, accepting it and taking it in. It is not exactly sweet, but he likes that, and he likes that it is his heart. It is not a heart stolen from anyone else, or the heart that society tells his he should have. It is his heart, with all the faults and flaws, but also the gifts and talents. It is not easy to look at yourself exactly the way you are and be honest, to admit, "I do not like all of my traits, but I will accept myself the way I am." It is even harder when you listen to society that tells you you must looks like this, talk like that, act like something else. So when we find those who have decided to accept themselves, not matter how raw or slightly repulsive they may be, we end up liking them, just a little, because they are what we want to be.

So that is way, when wondering through the desert, the speaker does not see the creature and run away, screaming. He calls the creature "friend" because he sees something of himself in it. Of course this creature would be rejected by society. He doesn't not belong. But he has his heart, and he eats it without shame. Society looks down are eating hearts, but then, it also looks down at being exactly yourself. Are you surprised the creature's in the desert?

1 comment:

  1. This is an insightful post. I like your fully formed thoughts on this poem. I especially like your idea of the creature as not fully formed. "However, I saw the creature more as raw than wicked. That it was naked and bestial reminded me of when we are born, completely naked, and without any polishing from society."

    Good work!