Essay on Explication of Mary Oliver’s “The Black Snake”

Essay on Explication of Mary Oliver’s “The Black Snake”

Length: 1158 words (3.3 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Strong Essays

Open Document

Essay Preview

In Mary Oliver’s poem “The Black Snake,” the narrator contemplates the cycle of life with the unpredictability of death. Mary Oliver’s work is “known for its natural themes and a continual affirmation of nature as a place of mystery and spirituality that holds the power to teach humans how to value one’s life and one’s place” (Riley). In the poem, The Black Snake, the narrator witnesses a black snake hit by a truck and killed on a road one morning. Feeling sympathy for the snake, the narrator stops, and removes the dead snake from the road. Noting the snake’s beauty, the narrator carries it from the road to some nearby bushes. Continuing to drive, the narrator reflects on how the abruptness of death ultimately revealed how the snake lived his life.
This poem is divided into six stanzas with four lines each. The poem opens with “When the black snake flashed on the morning road” (1-2). The narrator uses “when” to signify the beginning of the story and introduces the snake as the main character. Labeling the snake as “black” gives it a dark and sinister appeal. The word “flashed” is used to demonstrate how fast the snake moved, and how quickly this event occurred. “Morning” is applied to the time of day that this event occurred. The narrator sees the snake quickly flash across the road. This sets up the scene in our minds. The “truck could not swerve” (3) implies that this was an accidental death. The poet uses “truck” to suggest a big vehicle that is unable to make quick moves or sudden stops. The narrator sees the snake flash across the road, into the path of a big truck that is unable to stop or swerve. “Death, that is how it happens” (4). The word “death” is italicized, emphasizing its importance. The p...

... middle of paper ...

... snake lived, not stopping to ponder death or the meaning of his life. The poet is referring to living life to its fullest “before he came to the road” (24).
Life is fragile and although death is certain, we should not let our fear of death rule the way we live. Oliver uses the snake’s death as a metaphor for the delicateness of life. We can be living one minute, but gone in an instant. We should all be propelled through life at full throttle, never slowing to contemplate death. We hope to be remembered by how we lived, what we did to celebrate that life, and not just how we died.

Works Cited

Riley, Jeannette E. "Mary Oliver." Twentieth-Century American Nature Poets. Ed. J. Scott Bryson and Roger Thompson. Detroit: Gale, 2008. Dictionary of Literary Biography Vol. 342. Literature Resource Center. Web. 1 Nov. 2011.

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Analysis of the Poem Black Walnut Tree by Mary Oliver Essay

- “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” This is a phrase that has been uttered numerous times to children by their parents. This aphorism has been used to not only apply to books but also people. In The Black Walnut Tree by Mary Oliver, the speaker faces a conflict between the literal and figurative meaning of a tree in her yard. In the beginning of the poem, the mother and daughter “debate” selling the tree to “pay off their mortgage.” But with a shift from literal language to figurative language comes a symbolic representation of the tree, one that represents family heritage and their ancestors’ hard work....   [tags: debate, mortgage, language, heritage, tree]

Strong Essays
756 words (2.2 pages)

Intraracial Discrimination in Mary Mebane´s Shades of Black Essay examples

- Within the Black Community there are a myriad of stigmas. In Mary Mebane’s essay, “Shades of Black”, she explores her experiences with and opinions of intraracial discrimination, namely the stigmas attached to women, darker skinned women, and blacks of the working class. From her experiences Mebane asserts that the younger generation, those that flourished under and after the Civil Rights Movement, would be free from discriminating attitudes that ruled the earlier generations. Mebane’s opinion of a younger generation was based on the attitudes of many college students during the 1960’s (pars.22), a time where embracing the African culture and promoting the equality of all people were popular...   [tags: Mary Mebane, Black American, dark skin]

Strong Essays
817 words (2.3 pages)

Essay on The Battle Against The Black Snake

- “The sky is still pale blue and the air still full of the sharp bite of a Plains Night, when the camp caller calls the Protectors to rise. He calls for the women to “Lili!”, to stir and rally the sleeping camp. He reminds us of our cause, our purpose for traveling from every part of the country, every corner of the globe. We must Rise with the Sun to bless the water, bless the waters we risk Life, Limb and Liberty to protect. Mni Wiconi- Water is Life. The sun peaks over the hills, to the sound of drums and Sundance songs, illuminating the sprawling camp of thousands with its glow....   [tags: Native Americans in the United States]

Strong Essays
1532 words (4.4 pages)

The Tale Of Oliver Twist Essay

- General Introduction The tale of Oliver Twist is legendary to British culture. The story of the novel centers round an orphan named Oliver Twist, whose mother died immediately after his birth in a workhouse. The novel focuses on the social injustice done to the orphans in the Victorian period. The main thread of the plot unravels the nature of the criminal world consisting of characters like Fagin, Sikes, Jack Dawkins, Nancy and Betsey. Dickens’s aim of writing the novel was to show in the boy Oliver the principle of good surviving through every adverse circumstance and triumphing at least....   [tags: Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist, Fagin, Oliver!]

Strong Essays
1473 words (4.2 pages)

Essay on Being A Black Snake Through The Desert

- Her fingers gripped the burning hood of the sports car as she held it open and peered down at the lifeless engine while the summer heat burned at her exposed skin. She mumbled foul words under breathe as she stepped back in defeat of revving the engine that was leaking high volumes of smoke. With her hands in her blonde hair she spun around in the dirt to scan the crumbling road beside her that stretched on like a black snake through the desert. It was a mistake taking a backroad out her in the west, for in the twenty minutes she’s been stranded she hasn’t seen another vehicle....   [tags: Automobile, Truck, Trucks, Duffel bag]

Strong Essays
1078 words (3.1 pages)

Charles Dickens 's ' Oliver Twist ' Essay

- Famed author Charles Dickens knew exactly what he was writing about when he wrote his second novel titled Oliver Twist. Dickens connected events from his horrific childhood to the book itself. This time in history also was a key element in his famous work. Although this story was written well over one hundred and fifty years ago, it continues to make people see life from a different perspective. Charles Dickens was born in Portsmouth, England in the year 1812 to a fairly large family. He was the second of eight children in a family that dealt with many financial issues (Info)....   [tags: Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist]

Strong Essays
1229 words (3.5 pages)

The Psychology of the Serpent in D.H. Lawrence's Snake Essay

- The Psychology of the Serpent in D.H. Lawrence's 'Snake'       Less than 17% of the world's snakes are poisonous and less than half of these are dangerous to man. The risk of death as a result of snakebite is, in fact, lower than the risk of being struck by lightning (Pinney 138). Nonetheless, cross-culturally and throughout the world, the snake is an object of fascination, fear, and respect for humankind. The serpent is a source of symbolic speculation, as it appears in myth, dream, literature, and religion....   [tags: Lawrence Snake Essays]

Strong Essays
1565 words (4.5 pages)

Singapore by author Mary Oliver Essay

- Singapore by author Mary Oliver Let me begin this paper by introducing you to two people who live among many others in this world. One is an Electrical Engineer and the other is a labourer . According to the world , there is alot of difference in these both . A lot of things vary among them. One is highly educated and the other is not. One works in an Air conditioned office where as the other works in burning sun. The engineer earns in hundreds of thousands where as the labourer earns in hundreds....   [tags: essays research papers]

Free Essays
618 words (1.8 pages)

Essay about Mary Oliver's Poem Whelks

- Mary Oliver's Poem Whelks No Works Cited Mary Oliver's poem, Whelks, can easily be identified as a Mary Oliver poem. Whelks describes nature in an attempt to illustrate an issue that is all too "human being." Simply, Oliver is using nature to communicate the desire to discover her true self. In lines 12-17, Oliver states that she herself is suffering from the universal dilemma of knowing that there is something more to herself than she is aware....   [tags: Papers]

Free Essays
561 words (1.6 pages)

The Snake Essays

- Joseph Campbell, who became the most famous scholar of world religions, because of his book, The Power of Myth. In his studies of world religions over his long career, Campbell discovered powerful and often repeated ideas that imbue all the religious traditions of the world. He found that the stories we call myths were at one time, or is still, a part of all religions and represents attempts to answer pretty much the same fundamental questions. What makes these myths powerful is that they are so basic to all human questing....   [tags: essays research papers]

Strong Essays
1672 words (4.8 pages)