My Sister Jane by Ted Hughes


Ted Hughes introduces Jane in a rather different way. While other poems bring the main character into focus from the very beginning, the poet begins in such a way that we come to know that we must have heard of Jane from someone else which makes us more curious and wonder what is going to happen next. This tells us that Jane is famous and later we come to know that it is because of her wrong doings.

The poet tells us that he is not lying by calling Jane a bird but instead of praising her, he calls her a crow. The word crow brings unhappy thoughts to our mind. The word “crow” just tells us that Jane is not polite, badly behaved and mannerless which makes us wonder why.

Even though the poet calls Jane a crow, he is not demeaning her because he uses positive words such as great and big before “crow” in all the stanzas at least one time henceforth.

The next stanza talks about Jane’s physical ailments. Due to this, the poet’s family doesn’t want to send her to school but send her anyway because they want her to fit in with the rest of the world.  Her family tries to make her fit in with everyone else by changing her appearance so she looks like a normal girl going to school.

This stanza talks about the vanity of Jane’s family as they expect her to put a façade over her actual “crowy” behavior. They expect her to act like an angel in front of visitors as if she behaves badly, it will throw light upon the family’s upbringing. This paragraph is also a satire on society as parents expect children to behave well outside the confinement of their houses.

After the visitors leave, Jane throws of her “mask” and behaves in her usual way- creating havoc in the house. The poet exaggerates by saying that she will peck you to death if you don’t duck. The poet repeats the two lines again to convince the readers that the politeness shown by Jane is just a farce.

In the last stanza, the poet talks about Jane’s bad and crow-like table manners.

Crows are scavengers so they eat anything they see. Jane plays with her food before eating by literally stabbing it with her forked “beak”. After handling this for some time, Jane’s mother loses her patience and scolds her and reminds her of her table manners. After being severely reprimanded, Jane quietly finishes her food and shows basic table etiquette. She plays the piano and behaves like a normal girl by putting on her farce again.

The poet ends the poem by saying that however good Jane may seem in the end, she is still and always will be a great big crow.

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