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Written before Deliverance, James Dickey’s "Fog Envelops the Animals" portrays a hunter in a thick cloud of fog. He is standing in the forest with only his arrows, a bow, and the instinct to kill or be killed. The weather conditions are poor for hunting, but it does not matter. The brave speaker walks into the forest where all you see are his teeth, and they disappear into the fog: "rows of candles go out" (25). The man is completely devoured by the fog and yet is determined to stay there and hunt.
Fog plays a big role in Deliverance as well. Since Deliverance is a novel, unlike a poem, it gives us all the background and details that are essential to grasping the full meaning and idea of what is going on. Ed Gentry has just woken up in his tent, in the woods. He does not want to wake up his buddies so he walks outside and discovers the fog. The fog over the river is calling him to enter it and to prove himself to the woods as well as to his friends. So he goes into the tent, puts on a pair of long johns, and strings his bow. He proceeds to walk outside, behind the tent, and enter the forest.
Ed says his "hands" are by his "sides […]; I stood with the fog eating me alive" (94). The speaker of the poem says, "My hands burn away at my sides" (12). This could just be a coincidence, but the two characters to be standing in the same stance is highly unlikely.
The theme of both poem and novel is that a man is trying to accomplish hunting for his pride and the respect of his friends. Ed proves he is hunting for pride and for the respect of his friends when he says, "I might as well make some show of doing what I said I had come for" and " All I had really wanted was to stay away a reasonable length of time, long enough for the others to wake and find me gone […]. That would satisfy honor" (95). Ed is a city boy dissatisfied with work and love and to compensate he goes on this trip against his better judgment. The four suburbanites have no business being in the forest, the only one that has made a habit of hunting is Ed's friend Lewis.
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What is fog? The river lets out particles that are suspended into the air, and they are visible through the light being reflected off of them. In the context of this scene, an early hour of the morning, the fog could be just fog. This fog is also Ed’s confused state because he is a creature of habit. When he was younger, I assume, he was told to follow the American dream but without too much ambition. He has a steady job at his own graphics design firm and a practical, loving wife, yet he is not happy at all. He longs for the attention that he receives from Lewis in the forest because it is special attention by his close friend that makes him feel good.
Both the novel and the poem could be about hunting in fog or they could be about the speaker and Ed's cry for help to escape the oppressed world where everyone's actions are judged. In the fog no one can see Ed or his flaws. In fog Ed is equal to Lewis who appears flawless: a perfect physique, a pragmatist prepared for anything that comes his way. Ed cannot see his own imperfections and neither could his vision of Lewis. This leads to the scene on pages 98-99.
Ed has just went out hunting and missed a deer. He felt like a true hunter out there in the fog, but Lewis is not pleased when he returns empty-handed. Ed’s reply to him is, " What I was really thinking about up there was you" (98). This is Ed’s tragic flaw. Ed longs to be like Lewis. This longing in the fog allows the animal inside of him to be released--instinct, the rawness of the human soul.
Dickey, James. Deliverance. 1970. New York: Dell Publishing, 1994.
"Fog Envelops the Animals." The Whole Motion: Collected Poems 1945-1992. Hanover: Wesleyan UP, 1992. 80-21.