Now thatyou have read the poem in detail, we can begin to ask what the poemmight mean. Here are two suggestions. Can you think of others?
(i) Doesthe poem present a conflict between man and nature? Compare it with A Tiger in the Zoo. Is the poet suggesting that plants andtrees, used for ‘interior decoration’ in cities whileforests are cut down, are ‘imprisoned’, and need to‘break out’?
(ii) Onthe other hand, Adrienne Rich has been known to use trees as ametaphor for human beings: this is a recurrent image in her poetry.What new meanings emerge from the poem if you take its trees to besymbolic of this particular meaning?
(i)Yes, the poem presents a conflict between man and nature. Whilenature is more free and unbounded, man prefers to live in boundedspaces and also wants to curb nature. He uses plants for interiordecoration of houses, cuts trees to make a house for himself, killsanimals for food or other purposes and cages them in zoos. In allthese ways, man curbs nature and denies plants and animals thefreedom in which they should live. The poem shows that trees andplants are rebelling against man as they strive to work their way outinto the open. For instance, in the poem A Tiger in the Zoo,the poet presents the fact that animals feel bounded by cages. Theycan only take a few steps inside the cage, whereas they really wantto run and leap into the open. This signifies the fact that plantsand animals feel caged by humans and want to break out from theimprisonment at the hands of humans.
(ii)If trees are symbolic of human beings, then it could be said thathumans too want to break away from the shackles of the busy andselfish lives they lead. They also want to go out into the nature andbe free. They work all day and sometimes all night to try and achievesomething though they do not have the time to enjoy it. They keepstriving hard in their routines as they feel cramped under the roofsof their homes and offices. Even they want to break free and go outinto the peaceful nature.