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Self-Preservation and Justifiable Violence in Maxine Kumin's Woodchucks - Essay Example

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Self-Preservation and Justifiable Violence in Maxine Kumin’s “Woodchucks” Name Subject Teacher Date               Self-Preservation and Justifiable Violence in Maxine Kumin’s “Woodchucks” The poem “Woodchucks’ was written by celebrated American poet and Pulitzer Prize awardee Maxine Kumin perhaps sometime during the Second World War…
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Self-Preservation and Justifiable Violence in Maxine Kumin's Woodchucks

Download file to see previous pages... More than just a mere 30-line poem, Maxine Kumin’s “Woodchucks” is a demonstration of the idea that threats to self-preservation causes a good man to resort to evil and violence in order to survive. In Kumin’s poem, the narrator is a good man who simply acts according to reason when he decides to have the woodchucks gassed. He resorts to “gassing the woodchucks” with help from a company he calls the “Feed and Grain Exchange” (Kumin, 2012, 1-2). Although this seems like a cruel act that alludes to the Nazi way of gassing prisoners during the Second World War, the narrator is simply defending his right to his vegetable garden, which is obviously his property. The exercise of this right of ownership must necessarily override the idea of kindness and must therefore naturally prompt him to defend his own property at any cost, even if this would mean the death of those who seek to take it away from him. In the poem, the woodchucks are the animals that destroy his garden by “nipping the broccoli shoots [and] beheading the carrots” (11-12). The cruel imagery that uses the word “beheading” emphasizes the idea that these small creatures are actually cruel and that their actions lead to the unjust and cruel execution of the owner’s vegetables. ...
After the failure of the gassing because the woodchucks have hidden in their “sub-sub-basement,” the narrator does not even say that he would do something to eventually kill these animals. The narrator’s biggest decision – the decision to exterminate all of them by shooting at them – has simply been prompted by the idea that “next morning [the woodchucks] turned up again” (7). The lines that follow seem to demonstrate their very fast destruction of the vegetable patch and an equally speedy consumption of the plants in it from the marigold to the broccoli to the carrots. When the narrator picks up his .22 rifle, he has simply reacted to the idea that if he does not do anything, his whole vegetable garden would be wiped out by the woodchucks in no time. The narrator recognizes the reasonableness of his decision when he says that it is only “righteously thrilling” for him to defend his property from the woodchucks that want to destroy it (13). He also emphasizes his “Darwinian pieties for killing” the woodchucks, which means that what he is doing is only a matter of survival and something which is akin to shooting someone who is also just about to shoot him too. The narrator feels guilty but this is a proof not of his evil but of his compassion. As the narrator begins shooting at the woodchucks, he assumes they are a family complete with the “littlest” woodchuck, the mother, two baby woodchucks, and an old one (17-25). His guilt is evident in his recognition of their roles in the family. Otherwise, he would simply regard each one of them as a mere woodchuck that deserves to be killed. The fact that these animals, no matter how much damage they have caused him, are still also baby, mother and old fellow, somehow ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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