Essay on Close Reading of "The Panther"

Essay on Close Reading of "The Panther"

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The poem “The Panther” by Rainer Maria Rilke is written in the free verse form of poetry. As such, it is concerned with capturing images and delivering emotions (“Writing Free Verse"). The poet has chosen the length of each line purposefully, with the effect that a rhythm has been established despite the lack of rhyme. This rhythm has been created because the lines of the poem resemble the structural patterns of normal speech (“Writing Free Verse"). The flow that this grants the poem becomes evident when it is read aloud. The poet has also made another effort to establish the rhythm of the poem. Some poems use a capital at the beginning of each new line, whether the line is a new sentence or not. By choosing not to do this, Rilke avoids giving the appearance of a new sentence or idea at each new line. Instead, his use of minuscule letters at the start of each line allows the poem to be read as one continuous, rhythmic idea.

“The Panther” consists of three stanzas. The following is the first:

His vision, from the constantly passing bars,
has grown so weary that it cannot hold
anything else. It seems to him there are
a thousand bars; and behind the bars, no world.
(Lines 1-4)

A primary function of this first stanza is to establish the setting. Extensive and repetitive imagery of bars creates the setting. The words “constantly passing bars” (Rilke 1) forms the image of bars blurring past the panther; the panther’s vision has beheld the great quantity of bars for so long that it has “grown so weary…it cannot hold/anything else” (Rilke 2-3) . “A thousand bars” (Rilke, 4) further develops the imagery. This large number is likely an exaggeration and it works to intensify the ideas of stress and confinement that are ...


... middle of paper ...


...ars that the superego (representing society) has built around it precisely for the purpose of supressing the animalistic instincts housed in the Id. Thus, by using a panther as an embodiment of the human Id in his engaging, eloquent poem, Rilke elaborately develops the theme of how animalistic nature lies at the very core of man.

Works Cited

"The Biography of Rainer Maria Rilke." PoemHunter.com. PoemHunter.Com, n.d. Web. 14 May 2014.

Boeree, C. George. "Sigmund Freud." George Boeree's Page. George Boeree, 2009. Web. 14 May 2014.

Lye, John. "Critical Reading: A Guide." John Lye's Courses and Sources Pages. Brock University, 1997. Web. 13 May 2014.

Rilke, Rainer M. “The Panther”. PoemHunter.com. PoemHunter.Com, 3 Jan. 2003. Web. 14 May 2014.

“Writing Free Verse." Playing With Poetry. St. Jean Elementary School, 16 Feb. 2004. Web. 13 May 2014.



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