Comic and Tragic Visions in The Sheep Child
An analysis of the archetypal antitheses of comic and tragic visions in Dickey’s poem, `The Sheep Child`.
The paper examines how the comic and the tragic visions are interwoven in Dickey’s poetic loom to create a world that is able to accommodate these seemingly opposing impulses. The paper provides a careful examination of this “marriage” of visions to demonstrate how Dickey’s theme of grace through the grotesque is brought to the surface.
`The first aspect of the comic vision that is laid down by Frye deals with the nature of the human world. He states, `In the comic vision the human world is a community, or a hero who represents the wish-fulfillment of the reader. The archetype of images of symposium, communion, order, friendship and love…` and `…marriage or some equivalent consummation belongs to the comic vision` (Frye 513). This is undeniably an aspect of `The Sheep Child.` The sheep-child itself steps into the role of the hero who fulfills the wish that the human world and the animal world may find grace through a communion. Dickey states, `Way back in the corner somewhere There’s this thing that’s only half sheep like a wooly baby` (101). Here, Dickey is addressing simultaneously the images of symposium, communion, order friendship and love. The sheep child is a result of a consummation of a `love`, if you will, between the farm boys and their uncontrollable urge to `couple with anything` (101). Yet, these `anythings` that are referred to here all deal with nature in some way, the `soft-wooded trees…mounds of earth…and pine straw` (101). This is meant to underline is desire for mankind to get back to the nature that he has abandoned. The sheep child has the unique ability to see `for a blazing moment the great grassy world from both sides, Man and beast` (Dickey 102).`