This is another poem in which Hughes dramatises man's struggle with an often hostile environment. Here, the poet is trying to rescue a tractor form its 'hell of ice'.
Again, Hughes uses personification. The tractor is personified in order to make the incident as dramatic as possible. Throughout the poem it is compared to animal, and its final release from the trap of the weather is like the birth of a baby animal.
As well as the wonderful descriptions of the tractor and the weather in thispoem, Hughes displays his ability to describe physical pain.
Lines like 'feet are unbelievable As if the toe-nails were all just torn off', make this reader for one wince!
The poem can be compared to 'Wind' in its description of extreme weather conditions, and to the other poems in the group in that it deals with man and nature, and because Hughes uses many of the same techniques he employs elsewhere.
Unlike the all the other poems, except 'Wind', the poet is a character in 'Tractor'.
The poem is as much about how Hughes deals with the dangerous situation and his feelings about the incident.
The three main elements of the poem are the tractor, the weather and the poet. In the table below, the descriptions have some how been muddled up.
Drag a either a tractor icon, a poet icon or a weather icon on to the question mark next to each quote to show from which poem they originate. Mark your answer to see how you got on:
As in his other poems, Hughes uses a lot of sensual imagery and figurativelanguage in this poem. The poem contains:
Metaphors and Similes
and also he uses Paradox, or Oxymoron.
Mainly we see, hear and touch this scene.
Have a think which of the lines you feel are the best examples of each of these senses...
There are many lines in which Hughes personifies the tractor giving it feeling and emotion.
The most important example is probably the last line of the poem, wherethe words, 'raging and trembling and rejoicing', suggest the range of intense and mixed emotions felt after a traumatic experience such as those felt by a parent after prolonged labour and the birth of a child.
The purpose of the personification is to make the scene as alive and dramatic as possible. But also, as in 'Wind' there is also the sense of man once again becoming part of the landscape as the line between what is alive and feels is blurred.
Metaphors and Similes
There is an extended metaphor in the opening stanza of the poem. The snow is described as being 'a spill of molten ice', it 'pours into the steel', in a 'white heat' and aims its fiery 'hosing'at the tractor.
These images suggest an industrial process, where something is being melted down and transformed into something new. It is also as if the weather is alive, aware of what it is doing as it 'aimed' its 'hosing'. The personification and the metaphor of an industrial process are Hughes' way of conveying the extreme weather condition.
However, Hughes mostly uses similes in this poem.
How many can you find?
Notice how Hughes uses rhyme so that we hear the simile about the starting lever:
'crack its action, like a snapping knuckle.
Paradox and Oxymoron
A paradox or oxymoron is when two opposites are brought together.A well known example is of 'a wedding hearse', or 'burning ice.' Hughes refers to the tractor as being in a 'hell of ice', to the snow as being 'molten ice'and the cold being 'white heat'. Clearly here he is thinking of those very low temperatures where frost bite is a real danger, when it is so cold that your skin seems to burn.
The form of the poem is irregular. The lines are stanzas of variedlength.
This perhaps suits the story, giving it a spontaneous, lived feel, rather than something heavily worked up and 'poetic'. The poetry comes more in the vividness and power of the descriptions.
Each stanza is packed with descriptions.
The sixth stanza, from line 43, is particularly laden with specific details of a tractor. Hughes refers in just seven lines to 'power-lift', 'levers', 'dead-weight', 'shackle pins', 'iron' and 'night-locks.' This packed detail, and the solid block of lines that form the stanza, create a dramatic contrast with the next stanza.
In the final three stanzas there is a sense of release, of opening out after the effort and heaviness that's gone before, not unlike the feelingat the end of an exam. But there is also danger and pain. Both the words 'fingers' and 'eyes' are isolated, alone on their lines, as if vulnerable among all this metal.
The rhythm of the last line and the fact that it is contains three verbs enhance this sense of release and relief.
|The poem is about a real life incident when Hughes had to rescue a tractor. It tells us about what farmers have to put up with, and manages to make the British weather sound powerful and dangerous.|
|The poet suffers a lot of pain in this poem and vents some frustration and anger on the 'stupidity' of the tractor.|
|But the end of the poem appears celebratory. The rescue of the tractor has been quite an adventure, a great achievement. The last line suggests the range of emotions the poet feels, but ends with elation.|
|Hughes uses many of his favourite devices. The poem is brimming with sensual imagery and figurative language.|
|Again, Hughes a change in the form at the end of the poem for dramatic purposes, and to suggest a change in feelings.|