Tractor by Ted Hughes Analysis
I’ve been studying a poem called Tractor by Ted Hughes. I am about to discuss how he makes the weather seem interesting throughout the duration of the poem.
This poem is about a tractor, a man and the battle against the weather. The tractor is hopelessly wedged under the snow and the man is repeatedly trying to start up the tractor but in vain as the weather defies this almost disallowing. It’s being defeated and progresses no further.
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The tractor is affected by the weather as in the first stanza it is referred to as being in agony which makes it seem alive as though it could breath, this is an example of personification which he uses throughout the poem to add effect of it seeming to be alive. It says ‘snow packed it’s open entrails’, meaning the snow has filled up the inside of the tractor and it’s described as though it were a person via the word ‘entrails’. It is so cold outside that ‘a spill of molten ice’, smoking snow pours into its steel’, which suggests that the cold air is rising off the steel. In the poem it also says ‘at white heat of numbness it stands’. The word ‘heat’ is used in this instance because the freezing temperature makes it seem as though the tractor has frost bite which makes it seem hot, this is a form of personification.
The fact that Hughes adopts personification and uses it to describe the tractor makes the battle against the weather seem more interesting so it makes you feel sorry for it as though it had feelings. In the poem it says ‘the battery is alive- but like a lamb’, this portrays that the battery is as week as a lamb which can be inferred. Also this is because the snow and the wind have frozen it. These are examples of how the weather is domineering although it refuses to let the tractor move. The tractor is also somewhat stubborn as ‘it defies flesh and won’t start’. Also words such as ‘cracks’ and ‘snapping’ are used to make the affects the weather is having more painful.
The man is also affected by the weather as ‘his hands are like wounds already’. This is almost a melodramatic term as are many others in this poem, his hands aren’t actually wounded it is the weather that makes them so cold which makes this term a metaphor. Another example of this is ‘feet are unbelievable, as if the toenails were all just torn off’, this is really emphasising the weather’s power and the effect it’s having on him. Also he uses the line ‘ while the seat claims my buttock bones, bites with the space cold of earth’. The seats are completely frozen making his buttock bones stick to the seat, it almost bites him suggesting the weather is vicious and refuses to let him go, this is again a metaphor.
The fat that the weather is affecting him prevents him from starting the tractor, which has also fallen victim to the weather. The man gets angry as the tractor just will not start so he ‘squirts commercial sure-fire’, which is a sort of d -icer, Hughes may have called it that to make it seem artificial compared to the weather. But still ‘it just coughs’, as he says ‘ it ridicules me – a trap of iron stupidity’. He really begins to irate but finally ‘it jabbers laughing pain-crying mockingly into happy life’. That sentence has a duality meaning because the tractor is described id referred to as being happy and laughing because it has started up but also the man is happy to have succeeded in starting it up, he feels a sense of triumph against the tractor and the weather.
Another aspect affected by the weather is the environment, an example of this is ‘the copse hisses – capitulates miserably’, this suggests that the wind is forcing the copse (wood) to sway, he used the word ‘hisses’ to make the weather seem more spiteful but the copse just gives in to the overruling weather. The ‘dirtier sleetier snow blows smokily over the plantations’, the snow and sleet is now taking over and spreading. The weather also makes ‘shackle – pins bedded in cast iron cow shit’, this is portraying again the power and what the weather is capable of. The man feels sheer hatred towards the weather as he describes it to be vicious, cruel and unforgiving and uses ‘cracks’, ‘snapping’ and bites.
I think that this poem succeeds in making the weather sound interesting as Hughes uses it and turns it into both the man and the tractor’s enemy. The weather is preventing the man from starting the tractor as it says ‘it defies flesh and won’t start’. It also prevents the tractor from starting because ‘all the time the tractor is sinking through the degrees, deepening into its hell of ice’, this suggests the tractor is stubborn and is allowing this to happen because the weather is controlling. These points all add up to make the weather seem interesting. It also creates an image that the weather is vicious, overpowering and in control.
The poem is constructed in the form of enjambment, which is set out deliberately so the lines are continuous the same applies to the weather which Hughes has used and linked it into the structure to make it more appealing to read.