The poem “Woodchucks” by Maxine Kumin is about the dehumanization of a man to the point where he is completely opposite from the person he used to be. He is desensitized to the point where he can justify to himself a mass extermination. It shows the effect hatred and evil can have on a human’s soul and how that can change their behavior. The poem begins with the man having a prejudice against one population, the woodchucks, which finally evolves into a personal vendetta towards them. The author, Maxine Kumin, mainly uses dramatic irony and symbolism to show how the growth of evil inside of a person until all that is human is carved away. A few other literary devices are also used in her poem. These devices include characterization, alliteration, and metaphors.
Kumin uses dramatic irony constantly throughout her poem. You can see dramatic irony in what the speaker knows as well as what Kumin, the author, wanted the poem to portray. Symbolism is also quite abundant throughout the poem; the woodchucks and the farmer are used to represent more than what they just appear to characterize. The poem is not just about a farmer that enjoys killing small animals; there is more that is hidden in the writing.
Throughout the whole poem, as you look from stanza to stanza, the speaker’s civility changes consistently. The speaker begins as a pacifist farmer who follows along with what his community’s attitude was towards the woodchucks. The way that he and his fellow farmers see the woodchucks is a nuisance that needs to be dealt with. As the poem develops the speaker’s hatred towards the woodchucks continues to grow as they continue to evade his attempts to exterminate them all and finally put an end to their continued annoyance to him and the rest of his community. Their endurance and ensuing invasion of the garden is a turning point for the farmer. He begins to take their presence personally. The woodchucks start to eat his crops. They don’t even take the whole vegetable they take only a little and leave the rest as though to taunt the farmer. They have progressed from being general nuisances to personally targeting the farmer. From this point on he discontinues using plural phrases and now starts using first person. It is now not just between his community and him it is now him against the woodchucks.
The depiction of the antagonist as a farmer in this poem is highly important. Farmers are not usually thought of as bloodthirsty killers in society. Farmers do what they have to in order to survive and keep their farm and their family safe and provided for. Even if it means he needs to exterminate an entire species. They believe it is a necessity that drives them not an evil desire. People during that time period did what they needed to survive during World War II. These people, along with the rest of the world, were trying to exist through economic hardships and just make it to the next day. As a rodent infestation might endanger a farmer's crops, the...