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The Badger Summary and Critical analysis


“The Badger” by John Clare is a poignant portrayal of the badger, a creature often misunderstood and persecuted. The poem delves into the life of the badger, its habits, and the cruel treatment it often receives at the hands of humans. Through detailed descriptions and evocative imagery, Clare paints a vivid picture of the badger’s world, highlighting both its natural behaviour and the challenges it faces.

Critical Analysis

John Clare’s “The Badger” is a powerful commentary on the relationship between humans and nature. While the poem starts with a depiction of the badger’s natural habitat and behaviour, it soon transitions into a darker narrative, highlighting the cruelty and persecution the animal faces. Clare’s detailed observations and empathetic portrayal of the badger serve as a critique of human behaviour, particularly the senseless violence and cruelty inflicted upon innocent creatures. The poem is not just a mere description of the badger’s life but a deeper exploration of societal attitudes towards nature and the often adversarial relationship between man and the natural world.


  1. Man vs. Nature: Central to the poem is the conflict between the badger and the humans who hunt and torment it. This theme underscores the often adversarial relationship between humans and the natural world.
  2. Cruelty and Persecution: The poem delves into the senseless cruelty inflicted upon the badger, highlighting the animal’s suffering and persecution.
  3. Resilience and Survival: Despite the challenges it faces, the badger is portrayed as a resilient creature, fighting for its survival against all odds.
  4. Innocence and Vulnerability: The badger, in its natural habitat, is depicted as an innocent and vulnerable creature, emphasizing the injustice of its persecution.

Literary Devices

  1. Imagery: Clare’s vivid descriptions, from the “old hedge bottom” to the “shouting boys,” create a detailed and evocative picture of the badger’s world.
  2. Alliteration: Phrases like “barking dogs” and “furious fate” add a rhythmic quality to the poem.
  3. Personification: Clare occasionally gives human attributes to the badger, such as describing it as “outlawed” or attributing emotions like fear and defiance to it.
  4. Metaphor: The poet employs metaphors to convey the essence of the scene, likening the badger’s persecution to an “outlawed” individual being pursued.


The poem follows a consistent rhyme scheme, adding a melodic quality to Clare’s descriptions. The rhyme scheme can be described as “ABAB,” with each stanza adhering to this pattern, providing a harmonious flow to the narrative.

Stanza-by-Stanza Analysis

  1. First Stanza:
    • Clare introduces the reader to the badger’s habitat, emphasizing its solitary and nocturnal nature. The “old hedge bottom” and “mossy den” set the scene for the badger’s natural environment.
  2. Second Stanza:
    • The poet delves into the badger’s foraging habits, describing how it ventures out in search of food. The mention of the “mole” and “mouse” highlights the badger’s role as a predator in the food chain.
  3. Third Stanza:
    • Clare describes the badger’s defensive behaviour when threatened. The imagery of the “growling dog” and the badger’s “strong” defence emphasizes the animal’s resilience and determination to protect itself.
  4. Fourth Stanza:
    • The poet speaks of the badger’s persecution, describing how it is often hunted and tormented by humans. The “shouting boys” and “barking dogs” paint a vivid picture of the chaos and cruelty the badger faces.
  5. Fifth Stanza:
    • Clare delves deeper into the badger’s torment, describing the relentless pursuit and the animal’s desperate attempts to escape. The imagery of the “furrowed field” and the “wood’s side” emphasizes the badger’s vulnerability and desperation.
  6. Sixth Stanza:
    • The poet describes the badger’s eventual capture and the cruel fate it often meets at the hands of humans. The “furious fate” and the “crowded village” underscore the senseless violence and cruelty inflicted upon the creature.
  7. Seventh Stanza:
    • Clare concludes by reiterating the badger’s resilience and determination to survive. Despite the challenges and persecution, the badger continues to fight, emphasizing its indomitable spirit and will to live.

In “The Badger,” John Clare offers a detailed and heartfelt portrayal of a creature often overlooked or misunderstood. Through his keen observations and lyrical language, Clare not only celebrates the badger’s unique beauty and resilience but also critiques societal attitudes towards nature. The poem serves as a powerful commentary on the often adversarial relationship between humans and the natural world, reminding readers of the need for empathy, understanding, and coexistence.