In Ted Hughes’s “The Casualty,” he portrays the domestication and commercialization of a tragedy. Farmers and housewives behold the plane crash with an air of indifference .They watched as if they encountered a fight between “a spider and a firefly.”The phrase “between the washing hung out” domesticates the larger scale of tragedy.”Far above the trees” indicates their standpoint: how they comprehend that they are far away from the domain of this disaster. They wait for the evening news with interest as yet another major tragedy is commercialized.
Fallen into a brambled or thorny ditch, the “suddenly smashed stems twitch.” This signifies the vegetation that is completely out of place or the human bones being smashed due to the accident. The pheasant, the hare and the wren respond with their respective reflux actions bewildered at this “unnatural occurrence. ‘The pheasant stands on the ruins in total astonishment. The hare that typically hops reluctantly and quizzically-thinking at every step; in response to the calamity frantically hops away flattening its ears without thinking twice. The wren goes about its duty of warning the others.
The response of people to the crash is elaborated upon in the subsequent paragraph. They “saw fall”, it was not only the fall of the plane, but the Fall of Man as well, where Nature won over science yet again. They peer just as they would look for a snake or a rare flower. Note how both are potent symbols of death. Even the grave of the dead leaves heaves as a man drops out from the air alive.
People listen to him now as he tries to regains his senses, and gropes for help. They rip apart the slum of weeds, barbed coils and leaves to raise a body. As the breeze touches the body it glows: gets slightly refeshened and oxygenated. They brand their hands onto his bones. Now that his spine has collapsed, sheaves(pulleys) are lined up to take away the dead bodies in the background ,as he is propped up for support. It may also imply that the people who prop him up act as”heaped sheaves.”
They arrange his legs in order, <i>open</i> his eyes; and then the people stand helpless like ghosts. The term ‘ghosts’ is used in keeping with the poplar conception of ghosts who want to help the living but cannot be of any practical value. The man here is a mere metaphor for people in general afflicted by such catastrophes as he tries to support himself on his legs yet again, and tries to open his eyes. August is the hottest English month, and people were literally and spiritually melting there as they encountered a major blow. They behold the flesh and blood of the bulky person in question as a heart beat shakes the body . Eyes widen in a childish way; people seem like children in that they are worried, but do not do anything much about it. Sympathies seem to fasten to his blood like flies; nothing much but parasites feeding on the tragedy.
The heart is no more openthan a clenched fist and extremely controlled in its emotions. It lies complacent, unscathed by the incident like an unscratched diamond. Their tears are too tender to let go and break. They pose as mourners. They are greedy in that,instead of helping them, their voyeuristic nature attaches more preference to knowing the juicy details of the horrific experience that the victims have gone through-“grimace,gasp,gesture of death.” All this prevails, till they encounter his frigid-eyed stare at the handkerchief above him.
© Rukhaya MK 2010
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