Leda And The Swan Analysis Essay

Man’s supposed dominion over animals is far from absolute. In 2013, John Bradford, who had been the elephant manager at Dickerson Park Zoo for 25 years, was killed by one of the female elephants he had raised since 1990 while guiding her to a barnyard stall [1]. In the light of stories like this, one must question the extent of our control over animals and our own place as living creatures on this planet. Dominion is defined in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as, “supreme authority,” or, “absolute ownership [2].” It seems that the use of this term in Genesis [3] to describe man’s relationship with animals is either outdated or inappropriate. The true relationship between human and non-human animals is one much more complex and undefined, hinging…

This sonnet depicts the taking and impregnating of Leda by Zeus in animal form. Simple word choice completely inverts the commonly held notion of man’s superiority over animals. The swan’s actions are portrayed with active verbs like “engenders” and “holds,” while Leda is “caressed,” “caught,” and “mastered.” She is “helpless” and “terrified,” while the swan is “great” and “indifferent.” Additionally, the words “staggering,” “shuddering,” and “loosening” shows ambiguity in Leda’s consent and ultimately portray either the power of the swan or the submission of the human. Finally, the notion of the swan’s indifference parallels the human’s indifference to animal life. The reader knows that this encounter will indirectly cause the collapse of Troy and ultimately amass to human death and destruction through the actions of Leda’s children. But the swan is either unaware or uncaring, just as the destruction of rainforests is inevitably leading to the death of entire species and ecosystems, for example. An important note, however, is the fact that Zeus is behind the swan’s actions. His “knowledge” and “power” are alluded to, which undoubtedly play a role in the dynamic between human and non-human animals and justifies this dehumanization of the…