Anamial + Human = Character

In short fiction that presents an animal in the theme, it very specifically uses the animal as a device to convey a correlation between human and animal. Techniques used to make this correlation are comparative language, supposing human knowledge within the animal and vice versa, and anthropomorphizing the animal. E.J. Pratt’s poem “The Shark,” Margaret Laurence’s “The Mask of the Bear,” and Guy Vanderhaeghe’s “ Dancing Bear,” employ these techniques to place the reader in the mind of the animal as well as convince the reader that the animal exists both as an individual spiritual being and within its human counterpart.

E.J. Pratt’s poem “The Shark,” is, on the surface, about the narrator observing a shark in a harbour. It could be said that this poem is a characterization of beasts of prey and, because the fish is placed in a human situation (in the harbour as opposed to the open ocean); it is a comparative analogy to human nature. The first two lines, “He seemed to know the harbour,
So leisurely he swam;”employ both the imposition of human knowledge and human attribute on the animal. To know something implies cognition, and the idea of an animal swimming leisurely says that an animal could have leisure. This assumes that the shark’s consciousness is akin to human consciousness on some level (and thus makes the human to shark comparison). The author continues his poem by describing the shark compared to manmade industrial materials, “His fin, Like a piece of sheet iron,” to put the foreign fish body into human terms.
Throughout the poem the author refers to the shark as “he,” yet the reader is under the assumption that the author has no biological understanding of the fish. This genderisation of the shark allows the reader to accept the shark as a person, or at least a comparison to people.
Margaret Laurence’s short story “The Mask of the Bear,” uses imagery of the bear to describe and qualify the character Grandfather Connor. The story focuses on the...