Essay Question: Discuss the ways in which symbols and figurative language (imagery) are used to develop themes in at least two poems you have studied. No Ordinary Sun & Rain, by Hone Tuwhare Hone Tuwhare uses symbols and figurative language to develop themes in his poetry. Tuwhare's strength is his ability to use effective imagery and symbols to develop persistent ideas that, in the poetry I studied this year, relate to the purity and beauty of natural things. Rain, an apostrophe to a "rain god", and No Ordinary Sun, another apostrophe to a tree and Tuwhare's protest against nuclear weapons, reflect ideas about nature that are persistent in many of Tuwhare's works. In No Ordinary Sun, a tree is a symbol for nature. The tree will suffer the effects of a nuclear catastrophe, perhaps mankind's most devastating intrusion into the natural world, and the "resilience" the tree once was able to exert against forces of destruction, would not be enough, "for this is no ordinary sun." Tuwhare compares the effects of a nuclear disaster to the situations the tree once had to face.
He uses this comparison to emphasize the harsh effects of nuclear fallout on nature. The tree could once "blunt" an axe, or "smother" a fire, but now, its "former shagginess shall not be wreathed with the delightful flight of birds." Tuwhare also links the tree to its importance to humans in using a seemingly insignificant image of lovers shielding from the "monstrous sun" under the tree's arms. He does this to develop the idea that the impact of a nuclear fallout is not only limited to the effects on nature, but on humans and the simple activities that they enjoy in nature too. But most importantly, the tree is used as a symbol to develop the theme of the effects of nuclear weapons because the tree characterizes ideals such as strength and purity and by showing how the tree fails to fight the "the bright en haloed cloud", the effects are further emphasized.
Tuwhare's word choice is also significant in creating images that further develop the ideas of the beauty of nature and the troubling effects of nuclear disaster. For example, he describes natural forces that the tree had to endure as a "gallant monsoon's flash" or a "dashing trade wind's blast. Gallant and dashing are adjectives typically associated with noble men of society, thus the imagery signifies Tuwhare's intention to further develop his themes. In the final stanza of the five-stanza poem, Tuwhare uses are barrage of adjectives to illustrate the final effects of the nuclear bomb. Tuwhare's appeal to the tree, "O tree / in the shadowless mountains / the white plains and / the drab sea floor / your end at last is written", create imagery of a lifeless earth, clouded by "polluted skies", that develops his protest against nuclear warfare, and reiterates the notions of the purity of nature. In Rain, the theme of the purity of rain, a symbol for nature, is developed by linking sensuous imagery to the purity evoked by rain.
Symbolism is not an important feature of Rain. Tuwhare is more simplistic in his expression of his love of rain, and by searching for symbols and how they show ideas would only serve to undermine the intentions of this particular poem. So in that sense, symbols are not used as importantly as in No Ordinary Sun. The most significant feature of Rain is the sensuous imagery which in developed through linking how the persona enjoys rain to human senses. "But if I / should not hear / smell or feel or see", rain's overpowering purity .".. would still / define me / disperse me / wash over me." The idea is simple.
The persona enjoys rain. Rain's power to make the persona feel such is in its purity, this idea is developed by Tuwhare creating imagery that appeals to the senses. In conclusion, No Ordinary Sun and Rain are somewhat different in their approach to develop themes. In No Ordinary Sun, a tree is used as a symbol for nature and imagery is created by careful word choice to develop the theme of the disastrous effects of a nuclear explosion on nature and indeed humanity. In Rain symbolism is not as important, but the sensuous imagery is significant in developing the idea of the purity of rain.
Both poems develop ideas that are associated with a number of Hone Tuwhare's poetry, that of the beauty and purity of nature. Paul Ataahua Smith 7 July 2005.