Flying Man and Injury are poems which use technology as a symbol to express the worst aspects of mankind. Through sound techniques, contrast and structure, Flying Man discloses man’s arrogance towards the world, as well as overstepping natural limits. Set in low life India, ‘Injury’ mocks aspects of technological advancement, stating the harmony between man and land through colour, symbolizing agriculture and imagery, leading on to emphasize human’s dangerous potential.
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In ‘Flying Man’, structure plays a large part in portraying the joy of birds and nature, and the destruction in its harmony through technology. With a structure of several short tercets, it looks mechanical and automated, transporting the reader inside the “satanic machine” which man has created. During the volta in the eighth stanza the joyful atmosphere turns sour. The last line of each stanza before the volta always ends positively, i.e. “energy and song/ harmonious birth” however after the volta; the endings “storm/nothing slows/growing devastation/total destruction/panic” are sinister and full of despair, labeling technology as the doom of mankind. Furthermore, seven stanzas -seven a spiritual number- pre- volta associates spirituality with joy and the ingratitude of god’s gifts with destruction. Also, the tone pre-volta is harmonious and peaceful with gentle descriptions of the calm environment, however post-volta, “your direst instruction/feel the ageâ€¦drawing to a close” it is contemptuous and full of disapprobation.
This idea is further developed through the use of sound, rhyme and rhythm. Simple AC rhyming pre-volta contributes to the smooth pulsing of the earth. “Space/race/belong/song” contain vowels, sounding smooth and calm. Flowing enjambment, “birds belong/to the wind” emphasizes this. Alliteration of “From/flash/feathery” represents the harmonious rustling of organic forms with the movement of birds. “Spiritual/springs” connotes fluid and light motions of nature. However, post-volta, unpleasant onomatopoeia of “grating” damages these light motions, connoting the unsuitable usage of technology. Long and cluttered rhymes are used to sound unnatural and forced symbolizing the unnatural advancement of technology. “Conflagration/devastation/divinity/affinity/instruction/destruction” are monotonous rhymes which sound like mechanical gears in automatons. The rhetorical question, “what is its meaning?” and imperatives, “lace/hear” create an interrupted rhythm, copying the jittery movements of plane engines, connoting the untrustworthiness of technology.
The diction throughout the poem further enhances the ‘before and after’ situation of technological advancement. “Wings/joy/play/wind/dawn/birth/peace/life” are simple, monosyllabic, positive words found in the first seven stanzas, relating happiness with a simplistic, undeveloped but blessed lifestyle, suggesting inessentiality of technology. However, the diction after the Volta is full of harsh, longer, complex and negative words. The sharp staccato sounds in the syllabic “incompatibility” contrast with the softness of the following word ‘sky’ and previous lexical set, bringing obstruction and disharmony to the enjambment before the Volta. This ultimately connotes humanity’s incapability of adapting to and loving the beautiful environment anymore.
To take this further, the personification of an airplane engine, imagery and conceit in “catalogue of sin” disclose disrespect to our creator. “Blasphemous” indicates the laughter of an engine is symbolic of man’s open mocking of God. The imagery of a “banner of arrogance” taking wing connotes the conquering and demoting of the exclusive gift of flight. “Catalogue” suggests the constant coveting for materialistic goods to satisfy mankind’s growing demands, and can be associated to “hatred” and “envy”, contrasting the harmonious relationship between birds and the environment with man’s obsession with conquering skies.
Overall, ‘Flying Man’ uses technology to symbolize man’s arrogance in taking things too far and their obsessive compulsive disorder with superiority. The poet believes that they are overstepping boundaries, gloating at nature and god, who is the very essence of life.
Alternatively, ‘Injury’ has three stanzas, two long ones describing life in India followed by a short stanza set in Finland, to contrast events in India with the West. The free verse structure, “Pandit’s/Eldest son”, suggests freedom and vivid movement of all creatures and Indians. To emphasize this further, a lack of long sentences sets a healthy pace for life, yet frequent punctuation slows down the speed, assuring the relaxed and un-hurried atmosphere Tagore is trying to depict.
The first two stanzas illustrate the beauty and calmness of the land. The imagery and sibilance of “sinking sun extends its late afternoon glow” paints a picturesque and soothing view, where “sun” is used to symbolize warmth and “glow” shows comfort. Combined with the non-vigorous verbs “dozed/extends”, this connotes a hazy and relaxed atmosphere. Also, the imagery of “newly-cut sugar cane” conjures a tempting image, adding beauty to daily and less recognized things. A rare rhyme in “grass/pass” simulates the rustling of grass, breathing life to the poem. The exquisite experience of “fields/fresh air of trees washed by rain” opens up the five senses to an innocently seductive and lush scent as “fresh” suggests incorruptibility. Furthermore, the verb “crawls” is allusive to babies’ movements, connoting the inculpability of nature. Flowers are also used to symbolize growth and the purpose of nature. “Bhati-flowers/come into bloom” shows the nurturing of the gradual and potential beauty of nature. Humans protect nature in exchange for her beauty and supply of life.
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Additionally, the invasion of Finland by Soviets in this poem allows Tagore to contrast India with the Soviet’s lifestyles, proving India the better of the two. In India, “calf following” symbolizes the obedience and interaction between two humans and compatibility with nature. “Married” life and “friends” are also used to symbolize sentiments of happiness. The simple noun “tank” from the imagery of a boy sitting “on the edge of a tank, fishing all day” conveys primitiveness and a modest lifestyle, whilst allusive to the weapon tank, contrasting between the helpfulness and destructiveness of them. The repetitiveness of actions while “fishing all day” denotes a deep interest in simple tasks, adducing happiness is not necessarily included with complex lifestyles.
Nevertheless, all these beautiful descriptions are disfigured by inconsiderate humans, injuring Mother Nature. A “Koel-bird” ‘s “dull, demented melody” is comparable to mourning, the solemn ‘d’s adding weight to the atmosphere. “Strains” contrasts with the previous lazy verbs, intensifying the pain inflicted. Moreover, “jarul-trees” contrasts with “bhati-flowers”, “jarul” sounding guttural and rough, a prelude to a darker atmosphere.
Tagore’s talent in dramatic endings is evident in this poem as he chooses to end with a short but powerful piece of news to conclude. The telegram “Finland pounded by Soviet bombs” is so sudden it seems like a bomb itself. “Pounded” boosts the ferociousness of the Soviets, expatiating on man’s wicked side. “Bombs” are examples to illustrate the employment of brilliant technology for the wrong reasons, destroying harmless “snails/wild duck”. The unemotional tone shows a lack of surprise from the speaker, implying the predictability of self-destruction to ourselves and our home, hence the title ‘Injury’.
Through the use of expert vocabulary in “koel/jarul/bhati”, Tagore places our trust in his opinions, convincing us of the danger humanity’s obsession with overstepping boundaries brings, using technology as an example. Despite the good intentions, humans have been driven by their arrogance to use god-given intelligence to create something ugly such as bombs. As a result, Tagore insists that a simplistic yet blessed lifestyle is preferable to an advanced yet discordant one as haughtiness is human nature, it would be better to remove these ‘temptations’ . I for one believe there is no compromise.
Word count (excluding titles and headings): 1200.
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