Mosquito By John Updike The Mosquito By John Updike This poem by Updike describes an ordinarily dull and bland, if not even annoying pest and one of his dealings with such a creature. This pest is of course a mosquito, which seems to have made its way into his bedroom, looking to make a meal out of him. The main point that I think this poem is trying to convey is that sometimes ordinary or dull occurrences can be made into a game, and had fun with. No one likes mosquitoes, but when you think of one as an opponent and it is either kill, or be killed, then you can understand the mosquitos point of view. The speaker, who is Updike himself, seems to want to convey a melancholy affect with the use of his nonchalant language, as when he makes the mosquito a woman. Who knows, or even cares what a mosquito is, when it is bugging you, you just want it dead.
Which is what he wants, but the tone remains laid back and lazy. It almost has a sarcastic or ironic twinge to it. It makes this huge melodrama out of something that is quite ordinary. Yet he professes the mosquitos innocence of wrongdoing. All she wanted was a necessary meal, lest she die, she had to drink of his “fragrant lake of blood.” The diction of the poem is just wonderful and spectacular.
When he says “fine wire of her whine she walked,” we all know that he is describing how a mosquito hums along and winds through the air, with no direct course, but the picture it creates in your mind is very clear. When he uses”ominous” in the second line, it foreshadows some deep, dark thing to come. The word fragrant in the second stanza reveals that the mosquito probably cannot see him, but only smells his delicious blood, as one smells a home cooked meal from ones bedroom, down the hall. When he describes himself as a “lavish field of food,” the word lavish jumps out at you. Once again saying that she in fact did not want to hurt anyone, but only to feast on this wonderful meal before her.
He compares himself with her as if they were raging in some game or battle; he calls them “opponents.” He uses “thread” and “fine wire” to describe her movement, almost as if she were a puppet. He gives her human characteristics by saying she has a “nose,” and saying that she was”thankful.” He says his death movement was “cunning and strong,” as if it took some great skill to kill a mosquito. He describes himself as a “Gargantua,” as if to say that his opponent never really had a chance. He describes his skin as a “feast,” reinforcing the fact that she was only out to get a meal. She was “Lulled” by his blood, as if it had sung her a lull-a-by, as if his blood was a self-defense mechanism, to put to sleep those who would attack him.
The only remorse he had was a “small welt,” and a welt is a small enough thing in its self, I mean, its not a bruise or anything, and a small welt, well, thats hardly a welt at all. He describes himself as a “murderer” and the mosquito as “murdered,” because she was, in fact, innocent of any wrongdoing. All that she was doing was getting herself a meal, and he had killed her for it. There is much great imagery in this poem. To start off with, when he describes the flight of the mosquito as walking on a fine wire, we actually see this insect walking on a fine wire, and can see that to be true in our minds from past experiences.
The mosquitos camouflage is obviously darkness, and when she betrays this, she does so with the hum of her wings, or her voice as in line 3. All that he was to her was a “fragrant lake of blood.” This helps to put the reader in the shoes of the mosquito. All that she saw was like, to us, this big lake of coke. What crime is it to go and take a few gulps of the coke lake then? Once again, he compares his body to a big pile of delicious food. Just imagine your favorite food. Now imagine Shasta Lake drained, and filled with this food.
This is what she sees. Now imagine that you are about to die from starvation. As her “nose sank thankfully in,” as if she did not get it she would die. Would you jump into the Shasta Lake size bowl filled with life giving food? He describes his deadly action as if he were some mighty warrior, “cunning and strong.” He sees himself as this big, strong, superior being, which of course he is, but he just got you feeling all sad and sorry for the poor little mosquito. He describes her as a “lover,” furthering your pity for this poor insect.
He describes how his blood had almost seduced her, so that he could murder her in the end. He had killed her so ruthlessly, and efficiently that he was almost proud. You can imagine him swallowing his “small welt of remorse” like a lump in his throat. In the last line you picture him with his arm around a dead loved one, sleeping peacefully, which is what he wants you to think, but, suddenly, you realize, it was only a mosquito. There are no similes in this poem, but many metaphors. Updike compares the mosquito to many things: “a traitor to her camouflage, A thirsty blue streak, an anchor, a lover, a fleck of fluff upon the sheet,” and finally, “the murdered.” He also uses many metaphors to describe himself: “a fragrant lake of blood, a reservoir, a lavish field of food, A cunning, strong Gargantua,” and lastly a”murderer.” He uses these to draw the reader into having feelings for both sides of the story. If Updike uses any symbolism in this poem, it is very little, or none at all.
The only symbolism that I could gather from this is that the mosquito represents some sort of group of repressed people, and Updike himself is the one doing the repressing, and disregarding the value of life. The way that the author uses syntax is wonderful, yet not fully understood, at least not by me. The first and third lines rhyme as do the second and fourth. He tries to continue this pattern throughout the poem, and is pretty successful, only deviating a little bit. His use of syntax to portray himself as big and strong and overpowering is strongly contradicted by how he depicts the mosquito as small and delicate, he even refers to it as a woman.
The sentences are always two lines long, except in the fourth stanza, where he runs on about how his blood had seduced the mosquito. There are no sentence fragments. All his sentences flow smoothly together and form a nice rhythm.