The Peacock, Sujata Bhatt: Summary, Analysis & Themes

'The Peacock' is a poignant poem penned by Sujata Bhatt, a diasporic writer currently residing in Germany. Bhatt's literary works often delve into the complex emotions of individuals living far from their homeland. This particular poem is extracted from her acclaimed collection, 'Brunizem,' which secured the Commonwealth Poetry Prize for the Asia section in 1988.

The Peacock by Sujata Bhatt Poem Text

His loud sharp call
seems to come from nowhere.
Then, a flash of turquoise
in the pipal tree.
The slender neck arched away from you
as he descends,
and as he darts away, a glimpse
of the very end of his tail.

I was told
that you have to sit in the veranda
and read a book,
preferably one of your favourites
with great concentration.
The moment you begin to live
inside the book
a blue shadow will fall over you.
The wind will change direction,
the steady hum of bees
in the bushes nearby
will stop.
The cat will awaken and stretch.
Something has broken your attention;
and if you look up in time
you might see the peacock
turning away as he gathers in his tail
to shut those dark glowing eyes,
violet fringed with golden amber.
It is the tail that has to blink
for eyes that are always open.

Summary of the Poem

In 'The Peacock,' Sujata Bhatt shares her encounter with a bird that she perceives to be a peacock. The poem vividly describes the allure, physical attributes, and grandeur of the peacock in the initial stanza. The second stanza unfolds the poet's anticipation as she patiently waits for the appearance of the elusive bird.

Recalling the advice of her elders, the poet immerses herself in a book while awaiting the peacock. By maintaining unwavering focus on her reading, the extended waits do not weigh heavily on her. As she deliberately distracts her mind from the bird, a subtle blue shadow captures her awareness. Seizing the opportune moment, she gazes upward to behold the resplendent peacock in all its glory, concluding the poem on a note of joy.

'The Peacock' encapsulates the emotional journey of the diasporic experience, where moments of anticipation and patience ultimately lead to the revelation of beauty, symbolized by the majestic peacock.

Form and Structure

'The Peacock' is a subjective poem, composed in free verse, forsaking a specific stanza form or rhyme scheme. The poem comprises two stanzas, with the first being an eight-line introduction highlighting the beauty of the peacock and establishing the poem's theme. The second, more extended stanza consists of 21 lines and delves into the poet's personal quest to observe a peacock.

Theme and Settings

The central theme of 'The Peacock' revolves around the national bird of India, serving as a symbolic representation of the country. The poet portrays the peacock, a familiar bird in India, as a rare and majestic creature. While the precise "setting" remains ambiguous, the vivid descriptions of the peacock and the native 'Pipal tree' evoke a colorful image of India, suggesting the poem unfolds in the poet's mind.

Literary and Poetic Devices

'The Peacock,' despite its simple language, employs rich imagery and symbolism, accompanied by literary and poetic devices such as personification, allegory, and hyperbole.

Imagery

The poet employs vivid imagery, describing the peacock as "a flash of turquoise" and its movements creating a "blue shadow." These images paint a colorful and mesmerizing picture of the bird, presenting it as a visual feast.

Symbolism

'The Peacock' serves as a symbolic representation of the poet's yearning for her motherland. The vibrant colors of the peacock, particularly the 'turquoise,' metaphorically symbolize the beauty of India, bordered by water on three sides and mountains on the other. The elusive nature of the peacock mirrors the poet's struggle to reconnect with her distant homeland.

Hyperbole

The poet employs hyperbole in the final lines, exaggerating the eye patterns on the peacock's tail-feathers as eyes of "amber" and "gold," creating an ethereal ambiance as the feathers spread. The peacock's act of gathering its feathers is portrayed as a purposeful gesture, intensifying the poetic experience.

Personification

The 'peacock' is personified throughout the poem, addressed as "He" and "His." This personification adds a human-like quality to the bird, emphasizing its magnificence and pride.

Allegory

'The Peacock' can be interpreted as an allegorical poem, extending beyond a description of the bird's beauty. It encapsulates the poet's deep affection and pride for India, using images and symbols to convey a sense of yearning for the nation and its scattered people across the world.

Stanza One

The opening stanza of 'The Peacock' captures the regal and captivating presence of the peacock. The use of the pronoun "his" creates a sense of intimacy. The peacock's call is described as loud and sharp, seemingly originating from nowhere, adding an element of mystery. The turquoise flash of the peacock against the Pipal tree, its majestic descent with a slender arched neck, and the fleeting glimpse of its tail as it darts away create a vivid and enchanting image.

Analysis and Interpretation

The first stanza introduces the reader to the allure of the peacock, highlighting its enigmatic nature and captivating appearance. The choice of descriptive language, such as "loud sharp call" and "slender neck arched away," establishes the majestic quality of the bird. The stanza sets the stage for the poet's personal encounter with the peacock.

Stanza Two

The second stanza unfolds the poet's attempt to see the peacock, guided by advice on the proper way to wait for its appearance. The first-person pronoun "I" adds a personal touch to the narrative. The poet is instructed to sit on the veranda, engrossed in a favorite book, as the peacock is elusive and requires patience. The moment attention shifts from the peacock to the book, the bird makes a subtle appearance, akin to a blue shadow.

Analysis and Interpretation

In this stanza, the poet shares the wisdom received on waiting for the peacock, creating a sense of anticipation. The detailed instructions, including the change in wind direction, the cessation of the hum of bees, and the awakening of a nearby cat, build an atmospheric backdrop. The poet emphasizes the need to look up at the right time to catch a glimpse of the peacock, reinforcing the elusive nature of the bird.

Additional Development

Further into the stanza, the poem provides indications of the peacock's arrival, creating a heightened sense of anticipation. The act of the peacock gathering its tails is described as an intentional act, akin to blinking its "dark glowing eyes." The intricate patterns in the peacock's plumage, resembling eyes, are highlighted as never blinking. The closing lines suggest that the peacock's gathering of feathers is a purposeful act, adding a layer of symbolism to the poem.

Major Themes of "The Peacock" by Sujata Bhatt

1. Diasporic Experience and Longing: The poem delves into the emotional journey of individuals living far from their homeland. Sujata Bhatt, as a diasporic writer, expresses the deep yearning and emotional connection with her native India. The peacock serves as a symbol of this longing for one's cultural roots.
2. Beauty and Elusiveness: The poem explores the theme of beauty through vivid descriptions of the peacock's physical attributes and majestic presence. Simultaneously, the elusive nature of the peacock becomes a metaphor for the challenges faced in reconnecting with one's cultural identity, especially in a diasporic context.
3. Cultural Pride and Symbolism: The national bird of India, the peacock, symbolizes cultural pride and heritage. The vibrant colors of the peacock, particularly the 'turquoise,' metaphorically represent the beauty of India. The poem reflects the poet's pride in her Indian cultural identity.
4. Patience and Anticipation: The second stanza emphasizes the themes of patience and anticipation. The poet is advised to wait patiently for the peacock's appearance, mirroring the patience required in re-establishing a connection with cultural roots. The anticipation builds, creating tension that resolves when the peacock finally reveals itself.
5. Joyful Revelation: The poem concludes on a note of joy as the poet, by maintaining focus and patience, finally beholds the resplendent peacock. This joyful revelation signifies the rewarding nature of rediscovering one's cultural identity and the beauty that unfolds when one is patient and attentive.

These themes collectively create a poignant narrative that explores the emotional aspects of the diasporic experience and the profound connection individuals maintain with their cultural roots.

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