The Panther: Rainer Maria Rilke - Summary and Critical Analysis

The poem The Panther by Rainer Maria Rilke depicts the picture of a panther locked in a cage of a zoo. The cage has iron bars and because of being tired he cannot see anything. To him, it looks as though, there are thousands of bars which are confusing his vision. To him, there is no world behind the cage.

Rainer Maria Rilke

When he moves round and round the cage frequently, it looks as though he is performing a ritual dance. The panther inside the cage of the zoo has a powerful desire to go out because he feels paralyzed and arrested. By pacing constantly, he is refusing to be tamed. So he is constantly moving in circles to escape from his present fate. The panther perceives the image of the people outside when his eyes see outside but unfortunately they are of no use and became distressed.

Though panther is a mighty and strong animal, it seems as if all his powerful desires have vanished. Sometimes he opens his eyes and an image goes into his heart through the tensed and arrested muscles but it ends there without any result. The tone of the poem evokes freedom. As the panther does not see the world and his visions are also confused, he is moving hither and thither helplessly. The poem depicts the agony of the panther that has been imprisoned. The mighty strength of the panther has been paralyzed and the tensed muscles have been arrested. So the tone of the poem evokes to let the animal survive in their natural sate or habitat.

However, a prisoner and the panther in the cage are different in some respects. The condition of panther in this poem can be similar to a person in prison in the way that both are away from their natural environment and have lost their freedom. The difference between a prisoner and panther is that a prisoner has a full knowledge of why he has been sent to prison but the panther does not have such ideas. And for prisoner there are many fellow prisoners for him to talk to and to share each other’s feelings. Additionally he can read books and do some kind of job and pass the time easily. But this panther has nothing to do except eating, sleeping and pacing around. It can’t use its power and its will. Therefore, panther remains paralyzed and useless inside the cage. The poet here is trying to depict the reality of the caged animals that are living in a very pitiable condition losing their natural habitat and freedom from being wild and blissful. This poem can be a satire to humans who are responsible for making the animals and wildlife homeless.

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Biography of Rainer Maria Rilke