'So Many Oaks,' a thought-provoking poem penned by Sujata Bhatt, navigates through a dense forest of symbolism and vivid imagery to explore complex themes. As we delve into this poetic creation, we embark on a journey through a metaphorical forest, each tree representing deep-rooted cultural traditions and societal norms. Bhatt's verses gently hint at the consequences of challenging these entrenched traditions, cleverly drawing a parallel to being labeled as an 'evil witch.
So Many Oaks Poem Text
In this forest we stand among ancient trees.
So many oaks. Holy. An evil witch would kill them.
The windows of that house are so bright, so clean-
Who lives there? A woman who lost five sons in the war.
Birds have feathers but mammals have none.
A pity because I would really like to fly.
Human beings have eyes and ears
but some are born blind or deaf.
The flowers of a plum tree can be red or white.
I have one of each in my garden.
My hat is brown. My gloves are brown.
A practical colour.
Summary of So Many Oaks
In "So Many Oaks," the narrator finds themselves in a forest of ancient oaks that symbolize deep-rooted cultural traditions and societal norms. Challenging or attempting to discard these traditions is akin to being considered an "evil witch." The poem juxtaposes this external symbolism with the portrayal of a bright, clean house inhabited by a mother who has lost five sons in a war, highlighting the stark contrast between outward appearances and inner suffering.
The poem also delves into human aspirations for freedom and open-mindedness. It expresses a desire for the kind of freedom that birds, with their feathers, possess, contrasting this with the limitations that humans, referred to as mammals, experience due to their inability to fly. The poem points out the metaphorical "blindness" of individuals who are resistant to change or different perspectives, emphasizing the importance of embracing diverse viewpoints.
The reference to plum trees bearing red and white fruit signifies the duality of mindset. The narrator reveals ownership of both types of trees, signifying an inner conflict between traditional and progressive perspectives. The choice of the practical color brown for the narrator's attire symbolizes a pragmatic approach to navigate societal expectations without attracting undue attention.
In summary, "So Many Oaks" explores themes of tradition and resistance to change, the contrast between external appearances and internal experiences, the desire for freedom, the importance of open-mindedness, and the inner conflict between traditional and progressive mindsets. It conveys a reflective and ambivalent attitude while urging readers to contemplate the societal norms that shape our lives.
Analysis of So Many OaksIn the poem, the narrator stands amidst a forest of oaks, which symbolize long-standing cultural traditions and practices. These "oaks" represent the deeply rooted traditions in society. The act of attempting to eliminate or challenge these traditions is metaphorically portrayed as an attempt to cut down these oaks. In this context, someone who challenges or threatens these traditions is labeled as an "evil witch." This reflects society's resistance to change and its tendency to demonize those who question or seek to break with established norms.
The poem then shifts its focus to a house with bright and clean windows, which initially appears pure and pristine. However, the brightness of the house is contrasted with the profound sorrow that resides within it. The house is inhabited by a woman who has endured the loss of her five sons in a war. This observation underscores the idea that appearances can be deceiving, and within even the most seemingly idyllic settings, profound suffering and loss may exist.
The poem adopts a reflective tone as it explores human limitations and aspirations. The reference to birds with feathers emphasizes their freedom and the ability to fly. In contrast, humans, referred to as mammals, are depicted as bound to the Earth and unable to experience the same freedom. This longing for the freedom to soar above earthly constraints is portrayed as a pitiful desire.
The poem also delves into human sensory experiences. While humans are equipped with eyes to see and ears to hear, the poem acknowledges that some individuals are born blind. This metaphorical blindness signifies those who are unable or unwilling to perceive the world with an open and free perspective. They remain ensnared by the constraints of society and refuse to acknowledge or listen to those who offer alternative viewpoints.
The reference to plum trees bearing both red and white fruit symbolizes the duality of mindset. The red fruit represents a mindset entrenched in traditions, while the white fruit symbolizes the desire for freedom and change. The narrator's ownership of both types of trees suggests an inner conflict, a coexistence of these opposing mindsets.
The neutral color brown, worn by the narrator, symbolizes practicality and adaptability. Choosing this color allows the narrator to blend into society without drawing attention. In a society that may label those who challenge traditions as "evil witches," brown serves as a practical choice to navigate the world without inviting unnecessary scrutiny.
Note: You can explore additional perspectives from fellow students in the comments section below, and you're also welcome to share your own thoughts or reviews there.
Major Themes in So Many Oaks by Sujata BhattTradition and Resistance to Change: The oaks symbolize cultural traditions, and the poem highlights society's resistance to challenges to these traditions, often demonizing those who question them.
Deception and Suffering: The bright and clean house, contrasting with the immense sorrow it houses, underscores the idea that appearances can be deceiving, and profound suffering may exist behind a pristine facade.
Freedom and Constraint: The desire to fly, represented by birds, serves as a symbol of human longing for freedom. It highlights the constraints that bind humanity to earthly limitations.
Perception and Open-mindedness: The poem explores the theme of perception, with blindness representing those who refuse to see the world from an open-minded and free perspective. It emphasizes the importance of embracing diverse viewpoints.
Attitudes/FeelingsThe poem conveys a sense of:
- Ambivalence: The narrator grapples with a conflict between traditional and progressive mindsets, symbolized by the red and white plum trees.
- Reflection: The poem adopts a reflective tone, encouraging readers to contemplate societal norms and human aspirations.
- Pragmatism: The choice of the practical color brown reflects a pragmatic approach to navigating societal expectations and avoiding undue scrutiny.
- Forest of Oaks: The oaks represent long-standing culture and traditions. They symbolize deeply rooted customs that have endured through time.
- Witch: In the poem, someone who dares to challenge or eliminate these traditions is referred to as a witch, symbolizing the societal condemnation and opposition faced by those who seek to break with established customs.
- Clean and Pure House: The house with clean and bright windows symbolizes an outward appearance of purity and adherence to societal norms. It signifies the facade of conformity.
- Mother Who Lost Five Sons: The mother inside the pure house, grieving the loss of her five sons in a war, symbolizes the hidden sorrows and suffering that can exist behind outward appearances. It represents the emotional toll of tradition and societal expectations.
- Birds and Feathers: Birds with feathers symbolize freedom and the ability to soar above worldly constraints. Feathers are a metaphor for the freedom that humans lack.
- Mammals (Humans): Humans are portrayed as mammals without feathers, emphasizing the constraints and limitations of earthly existence. This represents the inability to achieve the freedom symbolized by the birds.
- Eyes and Ears: Human eyes and ears symbolize the potential for understanding and perceiving the world, highlighting the gift of awareness and sensory perception.
- Born Blind or Deaf: Some people are born blind or deaf, representing individuals who are blinded by societal shackles and closed off from new perspectives. They lack the ability to see or hear the truths presented with a fresh and free perspective.
- Plum Trees with Red and White Fruits: Plum trees with red and white fruit symbolize different mindsets and perspectives. The red fruit may represent traditional and conservative mindsets, while the white fruit symbolizes progressive and open-minded perspectives.
- Neutral Brown Attire: The narrator's choice of brown attire symbolizes practicality and the need to blend in with society. Brown is a neutral color that allows the narrator to exist in both traditional and progressive mindsets without drawing negative attention.
- Vibrant Colors and Witchcraft: The avoidance of vibrant colors is a practical choice to avoid being considered a witch or an evil person by society. Vibrant colors might symbolize rebellion against tradition, and the choice to wear brown allows the narrator to navigate societal expectations more discreetly.
Line by Line Explanation of So Many Oaks
Line 1: In this forest we stand among ancient trees.
- The narrator is in a forest filled with ancient oak trees, symbolizing deep-rooted cultural traditions and values.
Line 2: So many oaks. Holy. An evil witch would kill them.
- The abundance of oak trees is seen as sacred, representing long-standing traditions. The phrase "An evil witch would kill them" suggests that challenging or trying to remove these traditions is met with strong opposition and condemnation.
Line 3: The windows of that house are so bright, so clean-
- The house mentioned appears pristine, with bright and clean windows, signifying purity and adherence to societal norms.
Line 4: Who lives there? A woman who lost five sons in the war.
- The apparent perfection of the house is contrasted with the sorrow inside. The mother living there has lost five sons in a war, revealing that suffering and grief can exist beneath outward appearances.
Line 5: Birds have feathers but mammals have none.
- Birds have feathers that enable them to fly, symbolizing freedom. In contrast, mammals, including humans, do not possess this ability.
Line 6: A pity because I would really like to fly.
- The narrator expresses a strong desire to experience the freedom of flight, emphasizing the longing for liberation from the constraints of earthly existence.
Line 7: Human beings have eyes and ears
- Humans are equipped with the faculties of sight and hearing, suggesting their potential for understanding and perceiving the world.
Line 8: but some are born blind or deaf.
- However, some individuals are born blind or deaf, metaphorically representing those who choose to remain ignorant or closed off from new perspectives.
Line 9: The flowers of a plum tree can be red or white.
- Plum trees can produce flowers in two different colors, red and white, symbolizing diverse mindsets and perspectives.
Line 10: I have one of each in my garden.
- The narrator's garden contains both red and white plum trees, indicating that they embrace both traditional and progressive mindsets.
Line 11: My hat is brown. My gloves are brown.
- The narrator's hat and gloves are brown, which is a neutral and practical color.
Line 12: A practical colour.
- Brown is described as practical, suggesting that the choice of this color is pragmatic.
- The lines emphasize the need to blend in with society rather than stand out. Choosing a vibrant color might lead to societal judgment, reflecting the idea that society often discourages those who challenge established norms.
- What are your interpretations of the symbolism of the oaks and the "evil witch" in the poem? How do these symbols relate to the theme of tradition and societal pressures?
- The poem mentions a "clean" house inhabited by a woman who lost five sons in the war. What do you think this image represents, and how does it affect the overall tone and message of the poem?
- The narrator expresses a desire to fly, contrasting birds with mammals. What might this desire symbolize, and how does it reflect the theme of freedom and constraint?
- The poem explores the idea of some humans being "born blind or deaf" to certain perspectives. How does this idea relate to the themes of open-mindedness and resistance to change?
- The poem mentions the colors red and white in the context of plum trees. What do these colors symbolize, and how does the narrator's ownership of both red and white plum trees reflect her mindset and perspective?