Study Guide

Big Poppy Transience

By Ted Hughes

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"Big Poppy" hinges on temporality, in a lot of ways. What do we mean by that? Well, a lot of what gets the speaker so riled up about this flower is not only that it's very pretty, but also that it's very temporary – as soon as it flowers, it's already in the process of transforming into something much darker. This theme is very much related to the theme of Mortality. They have kind of a causal relationship – the transformation, in this case from orange flower to dark green/black seed pod, is indicative (it tells us) of the plant's impending death.

Questions About Transience

  1. How do you think the speaker of the poem feels about the impending transformation of the flower?
  2. How does the poem present transformation as danger?
  3. Do you think that the speaker of the poem would want the poppy in flower to last forever and ever?
  4. How, generally, do we as a species tend to view things in nature that are very short-lived?

Chew on This

Much of the force of beauty in "Big Poppy" lies precisely in the temporary nature of the flower itself.

The flower's impending transformation into a drug for human consumption renders it dangerous and alluring all at the same time.

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