The Mosquito By D H Lawrence
In a direct address to the mosquito, Lawrence enumerates its qualities – likeable and otherwise – in a hilarious and playful manner while evincing various shades of feeling towards this seemingly insignificant creature.
Summary and explanations
Addressing a mosquito as a fellow being the poet begins by asking it questions. The questions are about the poet‘s amazement at the mosquito‘s weak legs, its weightless body and ability to trick its victim before biting. The poet is astonished at how the mosquito performs intricate movements in the air to lull its victim before biting him or her. Impressed by the mosquito, the poet describes its body movements and actions in detail and compares it with Winged Victory, a legendary ancient Greek statue.
The poet challenges the mosquito to a game of bluff. He expresses his dislike of the mosquito’s bad policy i.e. the buzzing sound it makes as if declaring victory. The mosquito draws first blood but becomes heavy with the blood it has sucked. Soon after, the poet swats it on the wall.
The mosquito’s limbs stick to the wall with the blot of blood and the poet rejoices in victory.
- Stand upon me weightless, you phantom?: The poet cannot feel the weight of the mosquito on his skin because it is too light.
- Invisibility and anaesthetic power: The mosquito’s tiny size and the power to mislead by not remaining at one place.
- You lurch off sideways into air/Having read my thoughts against you: The mosquito flies off before the poet can hit it.
- Shakes my sudden blood to hatred of you: The poet feels extreme disdain for the mosquito‘s cheating tactics.
- enspasmed in oblivion, obscenely ecstasied: The state of drunkenness and stupor the mosquito experiences after having sucked the poet‘s blood as if it had drunk liquor.
The poem revolves around the conflict between mosquito and man i.e. nature and culture. The disgust of the poet for the mosquito is almost universal in mankind because the tiny insect causes a tremendous nuisance to humans and leaves them in pain and irritation. The disgust, however, is misplaced as the mosquito bites people for survival, not out of malice. Shredded shank, phantom, frail corpus, ghoul on wings, dull clot of air, speck, fiend, hateful bugle, bad policy, obscenely ecstasied, gorging, filthy magic, evil little aura and trespass are expressions that reveal the poet‘s disgust with the mosquito and also show that he considers it a nonentity.
However, the poet also treats the seemingly insignificant mosquito as an equal by addressing it as monsieur, calling it Winged Victory and by challenging it to the game of bluff.
Expressions like ‘You turn your head towards your tail, and smile‘ and ‘Eyeing me sideways, and cunningly conscious that I am aware‘ show as if the mosquito knows its own power and potential. The mosquito proves itself worthy of respect because it draws first blood and succeeds in sucking the poet‘s blood before getting killed.
Point of view
It is at the end of the poem that the poet‘s point of view becomes clear. Even though the mosquito is squashed, it is not precisely defeated because it succeeds in sucking the poet’s blood which he so sacredly protects. This demonstrates that in the scheme of nature a tiny-sized organism can achieve victory over a much bigger and more powerful being.
The tone in the poem is mostly sarcastic and comically offensive and the poet keeps addressing the mosquito in a belittling manner. The sarcastic tone carries underneath the poet‘s admiration of the mosquito‘s perfect game plan to achieve victory.
Humour: ‘The Mosquito’ is a hilarious poem. It begins on a humorous note as the poet addresses the mosquito as monsieur. The expressions used to describe the mosquito are humorous because they are exaggerated comparisons e.g. phantom, Winged Victory, aura, anaesthetic power, sorcerer, paean, etc.
Metaphors: phantom, ghoul, speck, trump, friend, bugle, forbidden liquor, blood-drop.
Wordplay: The poet has played on the word trump. The word has been used in two senses: (i) to mean the buzzing of the mosquito (trumpet of victory) and (ii) as an advantage held in reserve to be used when needed for getting the better of an opponent (as trump card). This type of word-playing is called punning.
Allusion: ‘Winged Victory’.
Oxymoron: ‘suspended transport’.