ISC Reverie the dolphins – as a dramatic monologue


 The Dolphins

Question: Discuss  ‘The Dolphins’ as a dramatic monologue and the significance of this technique to reflect the plight of the dolphins as well as that of other animals.

 Answer: A dramatic monologue or also called the ‘persona poem’ is a long speech delivered by a single person. These poems are dramatic in the sense that  they have a theatrical quality i.e.,the  poem is meant to be read to an  audience. The poem is monologue in sense that  these are the words  of the speaker with no  dialogue coming from any other characters.
    The main features of dramatic monologue are

  • A single person narrates everything
  • One or more other characters may present but they do not take part in direct conversation
  • The text reveals the speaker’s character and temperament

    Carol Ann Duffy’s  ‘The Dolphins’ is a good example of dramatic monologue. In the poem, a dolphin is the single person who narrates it’s painful condition and lack of freedom in an  artificial pool. It not only speaks of itself but also of the other dolphins in which it finds its own reflection.

    The other dolphins and a man are also  present in the scene but  they remain silent through out. We know about them from the speaker i.e., the dolphin itself.
    In the poem, the dolphin reveals it’s deplorable condition, feelings, oppression, hopelessness and the monotony of their lives.

      By the use of dramatic monologue the poet allows the reader to explore the  themes such as entrapment, abuse of wildlife, cruelty of  man towards nature and the enmity between the man and nature. Dramatic monologue also contributes to the development of the main idea of the poem.

 The dolphin begins by speaking in the second person –
” World is what you, swim in…..”
       This helps to create a sense of  familiarity and  affinity between the reader and  the dolphin. It also indicates that the speaker is a dolphin who lives it’s life in water and hence, swim.  The rest of the poem is in the first person  plural. It takes the reader into the world of dolphins, forced to  speak from their perspective about the effects of their  imprisonment by humans.
     The use of ‘we’ indicate the collective voice of the dolphins and  their mutual understanding how they  define  themselves in terms of each other.
“We are in our element but  we are not free.”
  The images associated with freedom and joy in ‘swim’ and ‘dance’ are contrasted with  dolphin’s present  ‘world’ which is not the expansive ocean. When they  say although we are still in water but now we are ‘not free’,  it  indicates a great depression and sadness in them.
” We have found no truth in these waters no explanation tremble           on our flesh. “
    Confined in a restricted pool, instead of limitless, vast ocean and being controlled and guided by a man, made them  feel that  these waters are not  true, as it provide no sense of  happiness and trembling to their skin(flesh).

“We were blessed and now we are not blessed.”
    They feel that when they were free in  their natural habitat i.e.,ocean, they were free to move anywhere, they were the master  of their own,  they were blessed. But now in a restricted pool, guided by a man they are not blessed anymore.

“There is a man and there are hoops.”

” There is a coloured ball  we have to balance till the man has                                      disappeared. “
Above lines show their pain  for lack of freedom. They are enslaved by man for monetary purpose. They have to jump through the hoops and balance coloured balls on their nose on the man’s indication.
       They can not dream anymore in this shallow water  and  are  reduced to the  status of  a mere puppets controlled by humans. Their freedom is snatched away and all they are required to do is to balance themselves on a coloured ball or to play with a plastic toy.

    They say –
” There is no hope. We sink to the limits of this pool until the.                                              whistle  blows.”
Their life is hopeless and it gives them a feeling of sinking every day. Their life is monotonous, circling around the grooves of water on monotonous single note of blowing whistle.
“We circle well – worn grooves of water on a single note.”

   Just because their species is different from  humans, they are captured and trained and made to follow orders. The dolphins are  non – human animals and thus  “are trapped, captured, transported from their  home  and  socially isolated from other dolphins, confined and asphyxiated and forced to perform. Thus the poem reveals the sadness, sufferings and hopelessness of dolphins.

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