An Analysis of the Poem "An Ox looks at Man"
In the poem "An Ox Looks at Man" by Carlos Drummond de Andrade, the speaker is an ox that makes observations about mankind's existence. The ox criticizes the behavior of humans in regards to each other and the natural world. The poem suggests that man is frantic and fragile, while the ox is calm and strong as shown through direct comparison of their mental and emotional characteristics.
The ox suggests that oxen are physically superior to men due to the fact that men are fragile beings while oxen are strong capable creatures. The poem begins with the ox's critique of the physical strength of humans. The ox claims that humans "are more delicate even than shrubs" In the eyes of the ox, human beings are feeble beings that have the strength of plants. While shrubs are not necessarily weak, they are a source of food to oxen. Shrubs are also easily crushed under the weight or grazing herds and are easily uprooted from the soil by hungry oxen. The ox also comments on man's inability to match the ox's physical stability because "there is little of the mountain about them" The ox considers human beings creatures that are of an inferior physical status. Humans who are in a constantly moving whether it be across the world or across the room are unlike oxen that are nearly immovable. Throughout the course of history countless empires and nations have existed, all coming to an end in a similar manor, they are overthrown by another empire or nation. However, both oxen and mountains have the power to withstand the elements are unconquerable. Furthermore, at the end of the day mankind loose "itself to a simple lowering of lids, to a shadow." The ox claims that humans can only escape their despair and sadness in their slumber. Implying that mankind lacks the strength to face these problems, and choose to avoid them until they reach a point of exhaustion. The ox is able to characterize humans so thoroughly because "All their expression lives in their eyes" In the opinion of the ox, mankind's inability to conceal his emotions is a sign of weakness. Hence, they are unable to hide their fear, and it can be seen by all, making them an easy target to predators. Oxen on the other hand are feared by other animals and are less expressive than humans. In the comparison of the physical characteristics of the ox and man, the ox is able reveal his belief in the superiority of oxen.
In addition to being physically superior, the ox also believes the oxen to be more emotionally and mentally sound than mankind. In the eyes of the ox, mankind is distracted, unfocused creatures that "run from one side to the other, always forgetting something" suggesting that the ox is a tranquil and calm being. The ox believes humans to be indecisive creatures. Oxen unlike sporadic people, oxen graze peacefully through plains. The ox's condescending tone than changes to one of sympathy due to the fact that we are incapable of hearing neither "the song of the air nor the secrets of hay;" The ox suggests that within nature there is a world of beauty that humans are not capable of understanding. However oxen are able to appreciate the beauty of the world. The ox criticizes the fact than man cannot see beyond their own one-dimensional views of the world and find meaning in simplicity. With their ability to have a deeper understanding of the world, the oxen see themselves as a species of a higher intellect in the ox's observations of humans, he notices that "in the wake of sadness humans come to cruelty." In the midst of adversity humans often resort to violence, differences in opinion lead to war and genocide. Unable to properly process their emotions and sorrows the ox sees that humans tend to drift towards savage behaviors, while oxen are able to maintain their calm. The ox continues to compare man to oxen, arguing that "it is impossible for them to settle themselves, into forms that are calm, lasting and necessary." Humans in the opinion of the