The Heaven of Animals
By: James Dickey
The poem “The Heaven of Animals”, by James Dickey, explores the relationships between predator and prey as well as the controversial topic of whether or not animals have souls. The end of the poem also touches on the idea of a circle of life; death being the centre. The structure of the poem as well as Dickey’s use of poetic devices reflects these themes whilst also painting a vivid mental imagine of “the heaven of animals” for the reader.
In the first stanza, Dickey introduces the animals with the simple phrase “The soft eyes open.” (Line 1) Throughout the poem, there is no mention of any specific animal, but in the opening line of the poem, ...view middle of the document...
This repetition is clearly used to emphasize the gentle awakening of animals in heaven.
The next stanza is the only one that does not focus on the animals but rather on describing the beauty of their surroundings. “Outdoing, desperately, outdoing what is required” (Lines 14-15). These two lines shows the perfection of heaven. The word “outdoing” has a sense of overachievement and greatness that can all be related with the perfect heaven. In this stanza, Dickey is showing the reader that just because it is a heaven for animals, does not mean that it is any less perfect than heaven for humans. This sense of perfection continues into the fourth stanza, where the primal needs of predator animals is addressed. Blood is mentioned and seems like a very strong contradiction to the rest of the poem that was all about happiness and beauty. However, for a predatory animal to be completely happy and fulfilled, it must hunt. Therefore, their claws and teeth are perfectly sharp and everything about their preying technique is perfected in heaven. This allows them to live with a sense of contentment and, as mentioned before, fulfilment in the afterlife as well. This idea is continued throughout the next stanza, where Dickey describes the different ways in which the predatory animal’s hunting is perfected. “They stalk more silently” (Line 23).
In the sixth stanza, Dickey addresses the prey that is being hunted by these bloodthirsty predators with newly perfected skills. How can it be a heaven for those animals that are the prey? They get to live without fear; once they are hunted, they get right back up unharmed. Dickey is showing that...