Written in free verse, this poem dramatizes the chance confrontation of a groundhog and terrier. As the speaker relates the setting, the poet uses the design of the groundhog den to provide an alternative, “option”, to the latent conflict. Morgan, asserts the layout of the groundhog den “always has a back door”, and in doing so introduces the option to conflict. The vocabulary, “confronted”, used to herald the terrier’s presence, suggests the potential for conflict.
The tone the speaker uses with the word “tearing” in the line “Tearing at the aproned entrance” confirms the potential for violence. When the woodchuck exits out the back, the poet utilizes the “option” inherent in the den to allow the animal to flee the confrontation. As the woodchuck surfaces in weeds or a thicket, the poet’s rhetoric could imply the choice is cowardly. However, in the following lines the speaker asserts the wisdom of the choice of freedom over the possibility of being victimized as described in lines 7 and 8, “prisoner or martyr in his own burrow.” In line 9, the speaker again stresses the whistle pig has an “option” for his whereabouts, respectfully terming it “deniability”. It is interesting to note the poet never refers to the groundhog using the same vocabulary.
The speaker chooses a total of three different nouns to reference the animal, with “whistle-pig” being the last and least flattering language. This could imply a disrespectful slant if analyzed out of context. The poet in closing refers to the option taken by the groundhog as “the alibi of absence” and in doing so, posits the action as a plausible defense. The poet’s choice of vocabulary for the conclusion provides convincing support and approval for the utility of clever retreat and evasivesness, the “option”.
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