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» Man in the Midst of Nature - Reflections on the Death of a Porcupine, by D. H. Lawrence

Man in the Midst of Nature - Reflections on the Death of a Porcupine, by D. H. Lawrence

Man in the Midst of Nature - Reflections on the Death of a Porcupine, by D. H. Lawrence

There are many bare places on the little pine trees, towards the top, where the porcupines have gnawed the bark away and left the white flesh showing. And some trees are dying from the top. Everyone says porcupines should be killed; the Indians, Mexicans, Americans, all say the same. At full moon a month ago, when I went down the long clearing, in the brilliant moonlight, through the poor dry herbage a big porcupine began to waddle away from me, towards the trees and the darkness. It had a lumbering, beetle's, squalid motion, unpleasant. I followed it into the darkness of the timber, and there, squat like a great aureoled tick, or a bug, it was struggling up.

I stood near and watched, disliking the presence of the creature. It is a duty to kill the things. But the dislike of killing him was greater than the dislike of him. So I watched him climb. And he watched me. When he got nearly the height of a man, he hesitated and slithered down. Evidently, he had decided either that I was harmless or else that it was risky to go up any further, when I could knock him off so easily with a pole. So he slithered podgily down again, and waddled away with the same bestial motion of that white-spiky spoon tail. He was as big as a middle-sized pig; or more like a bear. I let him go. He was repugnant. He made a certain squalor in the moonlight of the Rocky Mountains. As all savagery has a touch of squalor that makes one a little sick at the stomach. And anyhow, it seemed almost more squalid to pick up a pine bough and push him over and hit him and kill him. A few days later Madame came in suddenly

'Come', said she excitedly. 'There is a big porcupine drinking at the ditch. I thought at

first it was a bear!' When I got out he had gone We got through the fence and soon caught him up. Then he lumbered, with his white spoon-tail spiked with bristles, steering behind almost as if he were moving backwards, and this was his head. His long hairs above the quills were quivering with a dim grey gleam like a bush. And again I disliked him. 'Should one kill him?'

She hesitated, then with a sort of disgust:'Yes.'

I went back to the house and got the little twenty-two rifle. Now never in my life had I shot at any live thing - I never wanted to. Myself, individually, it was repugnant to me even to try. But something slowly hardens in a man's soul. And I knew now it had hardened in mine. I found the gun and, with rather trembling hands, got it loaded. Then I put back the trigger and followed the porcupine. It was still lumbering through the grass. Coming near, I aimed.

The trigger stuck. I pressed the little catch with a safety pin I found in my pocket, and released the trigger. Then we followed the porcupine. He was still lumbering through the trees. I went sideways on, stood quite near to him, and fired, in the clear-dark of the moonlight. And as usual, I aimed too high. He turned, went scuttling back whence he had come. I got another shell in place and followed. That time I fired full into the mound of his back, below the glistening halo. He seemed to stumble on his hidden nose, and struggled a few strides, ducking his head under like a hedgehog. 'He's not dead yet! Oh, fire again!' cried Madame. I fired, but the gun was empty. So I ran quickly for a cedar pole. The porcupine was lying still, with a subsiding halo. He stirred faintly. So I turned him and I hit him hard over the nose; or where, in the dark, the nose should have been. And it was done. He was dead. And, in the moonlight, I looked down on the first creature I had ever shot.

'Does it seem mean?', I asked aloud, doubtful.

Again Madame hesitated. Then: 'No!' she said resentfully.

And I felt she was right. Things like the porcupine, one must be able to shoot them if they get in one's way. One must be able to shoot. I, myself, must be able to shoot and to kill. For me, this was a volte-face. I have always preferred to walk around my porcupine rather than kill it. Now I know it's no good walking around. One must kill

The only nice thing about him were the feet. They were like longish, alert, black hands, paw-hands. That is why a porcupine's tracks in the snow look almost as if a child has gone by, leaving naked little footprints, like a little boy. So, he is gone; or she is gone. But there is another one, bigger and blacker looking, among the vast timber.That too is to be shot. It is part of the business of ranching, even if it's only a half-abandoned ranch like this one.

Wherever man establishes himself upon earth, he has to fight for his place, against the lower orders of life. Food, the basis of existence, has to be fought for even by the most idyllic of farmers. You plant and you protect your growing crop with a gun. Food, food, how strangely it relates man with the animal and vegetal world. How important it is! And how fierce is the fight that goes on around it!

The same as when one skins a rabbit, and takes out the inside; and one realizes what an enormous part of him is just for food-apparatus; for living on other organisms. And when one watches the horses in the big field, their noses to the ground, bite-bite-biting without lifting their noses, cropping off the grass, the young dandelions, with a blind relentless unwearied persistence, one's whole life pauses. One suddenly realizes again how creatures devour, and must devour, the lower forms of life.


Reading Comprehension

1. What is the author-hero's motivation for killing the porcupine?

2. How is the porcupine image gradually drawn?

3. How does the author's hesitations and decisions relate to 'common opinion'?

4. Do you consider that the narrative episode is central? Why or why not? Is it based on a story or on a plot?

Text Analysis

1. Concentrate on the major topic(s) of the text. Consider the following issues as possible


- man's need to assert his identity and status in the universe (versus other living creatures)

- the self-defence instinct and the impulse to kill whatever endangers man

- the desire to do away with ugly, repugnant things

- man's feeling of empathy with all other live creatures

- the dependence of all human, animal and vegetal specimens on 'food' for survival

Look up the following words in a dictionary.

to reflect porcupine bare

to gnaw bark squalid

to waddle flesh squat

to lumber clearing podgy

to slither herbage repugnant

to pick-up beetle relentless

Vocabulary Practice

1. Comment on the value of the word timber(s) and lumber in the following.

a) We all admired the standing timber and felt sorry for the rolled one.

b) His timbers embarrassed him a lot.

c) He was a real managerial timber.

d) He was a man of the right sort of timber.

e) There was a great amount of lumber in their attic.

f) The workers were ready to unload the lumber.

g) The horses advanced slowly because of the lumber.

h) They lumbered all the old books on the balcony.

i) The old wagon was lumbering along the bumpy road.

j) The podgy man was lumbering on his way home.

2. Fill in the blanks with the word missing from the fixed phrases/idioms containing the

items flesh, top, touch and spoon.

a) Even the slightest will break a soap bubble.

b) The car was driving at the of its speed.

c) He boasted of having come out at the of the school.

d) The engine of my car starts at the first of the switch.

e) She seems to have lost of late.

f) He's feeling at the of his form.

g) He was a sculptor with a fine

Grammar Module

The Adjective (Adjectivul)

Fiintele, obiectele, notiunile etc. prezinta caracteristici, obiective sau subiective, pe care vorbitorul le aminteste fie ca insusiri sau calitati (good-bun, beautiful-frumos, hypocritical- ipocrit), fie ca pe niste "date' care le precizeaza in diferite sensuri - al locului, al timpului, al cantitatii etc. (this man - omul acesta, the then situation-situatia de atunci, much sugar-mult zahar, your library - biblioteca dumitale). Partea de vorbire care face asemenea caracterizari, respectiv care modifica sau determina substantivele, este adjectivul. Din punct de vedere morfologic, adjectivul din engleza moderna nu se acorda in gen, numar sau caz cu substantivul pe care il modifica sau determina:

a diligent pupil - un elev silitor, o eleva silitoare

a diligent school-girl - o eleva silitoare

diligent pupils - elevi silitori, eleve silitoare

two diligent school-girls - doua eleve silitoare

Adjectivele raspund la intrebarile: of what sort? - de ce fel?, in what state? - in ce stare? which? - care?, what? (is, are etc.)like? - cum? (a se retine ca how? - cum? e o intrebare ce se refera la adverbe de mod, nu la adjective).

Din punct de vedere sintactic, adjectivele pot fi atribute (Attributes) sau nume predicative (Predicatives). Spunem ca un adjectiv este atributiv (attributive) atunci cand este asezat in chip nemijlocit langa substantivul la care se refera, in marea majoritate a cazurilor inaintea substantivului (spre deosebire de limba romana):

a gorgeous landscape - un peisaj fermecator

three English playwrights - trei dramaturgi englezi

Good words are worth much. (Prov.) - Vorba dulce mult aduce.


knight errant - cavaler ratacitor

court martial - curte martiala

the people present - cei de fata, cei prezenti

secretary general (dar si general secretary) - secretar general

In stilul poetic, de asemenea, adjectivele sunt uneori asezate dupa substantiv, de exemplu:

the leaves dead - frunzele moarte (Shelley, Ode to the West Wind)

Adjectivele predicative sunt asezate dupa verb-copula si formeaza un nume predicativ:

The home-task was easy. - Tema (pentru acasa) era usoara.



Adjectives are invariable: They do not change their form depending on the gender or number of the noun.

A hot potato.

Some hot potatoes

To emphasise or strengthen the meaning of an adjective use 'very' or 'really':

A very hot potato.

Some really hot potatoes.

Position of adjectives:

a) Usually in front of a noun:

A beautiful girl.

b) After verbs like 'to be', 'to seem', 'to look', 'to taste':

The girl is beautiful

You look tired

This meat tastes funny.

c) After the noun: in some fixed expressions:

The Princess Royal

The President elect

a court martial

The adjectives involved, present, concerned:

I want to see the people involved/concerned.

(= the people who have something to do with the matter)

Here is a list of the people present.

(= the people who were in the building or at the meeting)

NOTE: When these adjectives are used before the noun they have a different meaning:

An involved discussion = detailed, complex

A concerned father = worried, anxious

The present situation = current, happening now


Adjectives tell us more about a noun. They can:

Describe feelings or qualities:

He is a lonely man.

They are honest people.

Give nationality or origin:

Pierre is French.

This clock is German.

Our house is Victorian

Tell more about a thing's characteristics:

A wooden table.

The knife is sharp.

Tell us about age:

He's a young man.

My coat is very old.

Tell us about size and measurement:

John is a tall man.

This is a very long film.

Tell us about colour:

Paul wore a red shirt.

The sunset was crimson and gold.

Tell us about material/what something is made of:

It was a wooden table.

She wore a cotton dress.

Tell us about shape:

A rectangular box

A square envelope

Express a judgment or a value:

A fantastic film

Grammar is boring


Where a number of adjectives are used together, the order depends on the function of the adjective. The usual order is: Value/opinion, Size, Age/Temperature, Shape, Colour, Origin, Material

Value/opinion: delicious, lovely, charming

Size: small, huge, tiny

Age/Temperature: old, hot, young

Shape: round, square, rectangular

Colour: red, blonde, black

Origin: Swedish, Victorian, Chinese

Material: plastic, wooden, silver

Examples: a lovely old red post-box, some small round plastic tables, some charming small silver ornaments.



Number of syllables Comparative Superlative

one syllable + -er + -est: tall - taller- tallest

one syllable with the spelling consonant + single vowel + consonant: double the final consonant: fat - fatter - fattest, big -bigger - biggest, sad- sadder - saddest

two syllables, disyllabic adjectives ending in -y, -ow, -er,: pretty - prettier - the prettiest, narrow - narrower - the narrowest

NOTE: Adjectives ending in '-y' like happy, pretty, busy, sunny, lucky etc:. replace the -y with -ier or -iest in the comparative and superlative form: busy - busier - busiest

three syllables or more: more + adj - the most + adj:

important - more important - the most important

expensive- more expensive- the most expensive


A cat is fast a tiger is faster but a cheetah is the fastest.

A car is heavy a truck is heavier but a train is the heaviest.

A park bench is comfortable a restaurant chair is more comfortable but a sofa is the most comfortable.


These adjectives have completely irregular comparative and superlative forms:

good - better - the best

bad - worse - the worst

little - less - the least

much - more - most

far - further / farther - furthest / farthest
old - older/elder - the oldest/the eldest


'the' is placed before the superlative:

For example: He is the richest man in the world.


To compare the difference between two people, things or events.


Mt. Everest is higher than Mt. Blanc.

Thailand is sunnier than Norway.

A car is more expensive than a bicycle.

Albert is more intelligent than Arthur.


To compare people, places, events or things, when there is no difference, use:

as + adjective + as:

Peter is 24 years old. John is 24 years old. Peter is as old as John.

More examples:

Moscow is as cold as St. Petersburg in the winter.

Ramona is as happy as Raphael.

Einstein is as famous as Darwin.

A tiger is as dangerous as a lion.


Difference can also be shown by using not so/as as:

Mont Blanc is not as high as Mount Everest.

Norway is not as sunny as Thailand.

A bicycle is not as expensive as a car.

Arthur is not as intelligent as Albert.


I. To show difference: more, less, fewer + than


With countable nouns: more / fewer

Eloise has more children than Chantal.

Chantal has fewer children than Eloise.

There are fewer dogs in Cardiff than in Bristol

I have visited fewer countries than my friend has.

He has read fewer books than she has.

With uncountable nouns: more / less

Eloise has more money than Chantal.

Chantal has less money than Eloise.

I spend less time on homework than you do.

Cats drink less water than dogs.

This new dictionary gives more information than the old one.

So, the rule is:

MORE + nouns that are countable or uncountable

FEWER + countable nouns

LESS + uncountable nouns

II. To show no difference: as much as, as many as, as few as, as little as:

as many as / as few as + countable nouns

as much as / as little as + uncountable nouns


With countable nouns:

They have as many children as us.

We have as many customers as them.

Tom has as few books as Jane.

There are as few houses in his village as in mine.

You know as many people as I do.

I have visited the States as many times as he has.

With uncountable nouns:

John eats as much food as Peter.

Jim has as little food as Sam.

You've heard as much news as I have.

He's had as much success as his brother has.

They've got as little water as we have.


1. Supply the comparative or superlative form of the adjective in brackets.

1) He is (lazy) student in the class.

2) She is looking for a (big) flat than the one she has now.

3) Jane is (good) cook I know.

4) He is (much) familiar with modern painting than with modern music.

5) He is able to get (far) information at the railway station.

2. Arrange the adjective in brackets in the proper order.

1) A (black, nice, little) cat was lying on my door step.

2) You will practise on an (Steinway, expensive, white) piano.

3) When will you sell your (blue, old) car.

4) I'll give her a (red, leather, small) bag.

5) She greatly admired those (ivory, Chinese, delicate) figurines.

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