The Bat-Poet by Randall Jarrell is a story of a brown bat that stays awake during the day and discovers more of the world than his fellow bats. The book explores the development of a poet. The story begins on a porch where the bats currently lived and then they all begin to move to the barn. The little bat refuses to move and stays in the porch. He recognizes that it’s fun to be different as well as interesting. Though, the bat constantly has to encounter social conflict between the bats and other animals. The bat poet also deals with inner conflict between his desires to be different and to be like everyone else at the same time. Moreover, the bat is depicted as rebellious when he denies moving to the barn with the other bats. He’s able to witness things that haven’t been witnessed before and he’s eager to write about them.
Bases on a article in New York Times, there’s a sense of “alienation” when the bat stays back on the porch. Therefore, “he begins to feel the free curiosity and adventure of the creative spirit.” He ponders around and admires the sweet songs by the mockingbird and imagines if he could sing that way. When he realizes that singing won’t work out, he discovers his talent of poetry and “creation of the words for songs.” The bat poet only observes and put those observations into writing. For example, he writes about his encounter with the owl. He observes and listens to the mockingbird from his rafter and writes a poem about him. And later, he observes the chipmunk and writes about his way of life. The bat depicts the ability of capturing experience and turns them into poems. This enables him to revisit the experiences whenever he wishes to.
Another source called, Voice is Voice Whether a Bat or a Poet, stated, “Through his separation, the bat becomes aware of a new world, both physical and creative, that he has never known before or ever will be separate from again. He becomes, first, an observer of the world of day with its bright colors, light, incessant activities, and sounds, especially those of the mockingbird and his songs.” This portrays that it can be rewarding to be different which allows the bat to explore freely in own terms. At the same time, there’s a negative side which isolates the bat from his other fellow bats. However, he’s aware of the fact that he’s different from others and he will not be part of their group as he continuously tries to change their views. He tries to make other bats perceive the world, the way he does. He explains to them how it feels to see and hear during the daytime. He states, “the next time you wake up in the daytime, just keep your eyes open for a while and don’t go back to sleep” (Jarrell 4). He tries to convince them but they don’t feel the urge to do it.
Staying awake during the daytime sounds totally bizarre to them therefore, they don’t pay heed to the bat. He writes about the things he hears and observes to tell his friends. He sounds very eager to read his poem to other bats and share the heartfelt experience. Then he tries to read one of his poems, “At dawn, the sun shines like a million moons, and all the shadows are as bright as moonlight” (Jarrell 5). Just then, another bat couldn’t help but interrupt him from reading the poem. There’s a strong sense of pain when the bat realizes that there’s no hope for other bats to see the world from a different perspective and they’re not a very good audience either. The bat poet is very intelligent compared to other bats. He begins to write poems to alleviate his grief of parting from the other bats. Due to his writing hobby, he doesn’t fit in with others; he doesn’t belong to the world of bats nor the poets. There’s a sense of misplacement because he belongs nowhere.
Therefore, he struggles with an inner conflict which leads him to write more and more poems. In Voice is Voice Whether a Bat or a Poet, Howell writes, “The other bats rebuke him with the displeasure they receive from its images — strange, unbelievable, and even frightening images of a world they unyieldingly refuse to try to imagine or stay awake to see for themselves…With this harsh rebuttal, the bat goes his own way, aware that if he wants to continue to enjoy the world by day, he must abandon the familiar.” I agree with Howell because his fellow bats weren’t interested in his discovery, and they wanted to return to sleep and do what they always did.
Despite their extreme dislike, the bat doesn’t change himself. In fact, he remains in force and does what he desires to do. Though, he was longing for an audience who would listen to him and praise him for his work. The Mockingbird, just as his name likes to mock other creatures, but he’s not portrayed as villain but a critic. In fact, he’s the very first audience who teaches the bat initial steps of becoming a poet. He’s an intellectual and a gifted singer; he criticizes the bat’s poems harshly. The mockingbird guides the bat with formation and consistency of the poems, leading him to an introduction of lines and meters. The bat learns new terms that he never heard of such as “iambic pentameter or iambic trimeter.” Though, he has used them in his writing unconsciously.
Later, when he goes back to his rafter, he feels terrible due to the mockingbird’s criticism. He asks himself, “What do I care how many feet it has? The owl nearly kills me, and he says he likes the rhyme-scheme!” (Jarrell 15). The statement clearly illustrates how he feels about the analysis of his poem and he doesn’t take it lightly. Though, the Mockingbird plays an important role in shaping the bat in a critical way to become a good poet. Furthermore, the bat’s behavior represents how a student or children would react to criticisms and what they would feel. The mockingbird is a genius and in this case, it represents a tutor or a teacher who would help children learn through constructive criticism. The author connects to the real world by portraying the relationship between the bat and the mockingbird.
However, the best audience is the chipmunk that was afraid of the bat at first, but then loved all his poems. The chipmunk completes his longing for an audience to listen and actually appreciate his work. The bat writes a poem about it called “The Chipmunk’s Day” the chipmunk loves his poem and encourages him to write more so he can listen. The next poem he writes is about the Mockingbird. The chipmunk goes along with the bat to read it to the mockingbird. When the bat questions “why the mockingbird tries to chase off other creatures and then imitate them,” the mockingbird becomes furious at the bat. He then asks, “You sound as if there were something wrong with imitating things” (Jarrell 31). This implies that the mockingbird believes in mimicking others’ rather than producing own work as opposed to the bat who believes in observational writing. There’s a notable difference between these two creatures.
At the end, the bat dreams about writing a poem about his own life in general. So, he begins writing about the life of a bat and how a mother takes care of the child. The chipmunk was amazed by the poem and motivates the bat to read his poem to his other fellow bats. Chipmunk says, “You ought to say the poem to the other bats…They’ll like it just the way I liked the one about me…When it has all the things you do, you can’t help liking it” (Jarrell 42). This gives courage to the bat to share his poems with the other. The chipmunk plays a central role in the his life who leads him ahead. He provides mental support while the mockingbird provides critical support. The chipmunk teaches him to rely on his intuition about his writing. The bat learns to find pleasure in his “uniqueness” and becomes more confident in him. He’s encouraged to share his poems and guaranteed that they would love them. Later, the bat runs off to the barn where “the bats were hanging upside down, wrapped in their brown wings” (Jarrell 42). And at last, he falls asleep with the bats and “snuggled closer to the others.”
The ending of the story was unpredictable for me because you wouldn’t think after identifying such talent and achieving great wisdom, he’d go back to his fellow bats who failed to recognize his talents. But it does illustrate a significant meaning; he goes back to his own group because he wants to share his ideas and poems with them. After all, it’s the main goal of his writing so he can teach them about their own lifestyles. They can be more aware of themselves and the creatures around them. He cannot accomplish this goal if he’s away from them. He needs to be part of them while sharing his thoughts. At last, the bat poet learns to overcome his desire in order to fit in with everyone else. Through The Bat-Poet, we are taught how an individual can be overlooked when they live in a larger society. It’s similar to the world we live in; many talents are overlooked by the society and the authorities. Sometimes inspiration is just what we need to build our confidence just like the chipmunk gives the bat. The relationship between chipmunk and the bat portrays an ideal friendship humans should have. It’s important to recognize one’s individuality and lead them to the right direction.
- Hardwick, Elizabeth. “Parable of the Present.” Books. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 May 2014. <http://www.nytimes.com/books/99/08/01/specials/jarrell-bat.html>.
- Howell, Pamela. “Hunter College Libraries.” Databases Login. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 May 2014. <http://muse.jhu.edu.proxy.wexler.hunter.cuny.edu>
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