The Rain Horse by Ted Hughes
In The Rain Horse by Ted Hughes we have the theme of disappointment, connection, struggle, control, fear and change. Narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator the reader realises from the beginning of the story that Hughes may be exploring the theme of disappointment. The protagonist on reaching his destination looks around and is disappointed by what he sees. It is not as though he was expecting ‘some meaningful sensation’ however there is nothing. The protagonist feels nothing. For twelve years he had imagined the sight before him and yet when he reaches his goal there is no stimulation whatsoever. It is as though the protagonist has wasted his time and efforts walking through the mud, woods and fields. What the protagonist was wanting to see is never mentioned but perhaps he wished to recall a happier time in his life. Hence the journey he has undertaken. It is as though the protagonist wanted some sort of connection but there was nothing there for him. Nothing but disappointment. He has spent the afternoon struggling to reach his destination yet there is nothing there for the protagonist. Just as the protagonist doesn’t recognise the land around him neither does the land recognise him. He is a stranger in a place that was once a home to him. The protagonist is also badly dressed for the excursion he has undertaken. Which may be important as Hughes could be suggesting that the protagonist is a different man after twelve years away.
It is also noticeable that throughout the story the protagonist struggles. Whether it is the fear he has of the horse or simply the journey back to the farm. There is a self-evident sense of struggle. It is as though there is a battle between man and nature and the protagonist spends most of his time losing the battle. Not only is he hindered by his clothes and shoes but he also has the horse chasing him. Which may be the point that Hughes is attempting to make. He may be suggesting that man is at the mercy of nature and it is nature that controls man. Whether man likes it or not. Though it is interesting that the protagonist is able to overcome any natural obstacles he incurs even if it is a struggle. However what the protagonist has real difficulty with is the horse. He has no control over the horse and it is the horse that is dictating the direction in which the protagonist travels.
The struggles that the protagonist encounters with nature are more an irritant to the protagonist. He knows the he has the wrong shoes and clothes on but knows he must persevere. However the struggle with the horse is a different matter. That struggle is fuelled by fear. The protagonist is afraid on the horse’s action. It is a larger animal than the protagonist and it has the ability to kill the protagonist. However it is noticeable that the protagonist has the strength to fight back. Something that is noticeable by the fact that each encounter with the horse results in the protagonist throwing stones at the horse. The protagonist knows he must control the horse’s movements and the only way he is able to do that is by throwing stones at the horse in order to frighten it away. Just as nature is controlling the protagonist’s progress on his way to the farm. So too is the protagonist trying to control the horse’s movements. Something that the protagonist after many attempts finally manages to do. The only struggle left for the protagonist is to get back to the farm.
The end of the story is also interesting as the protagonist when he gets back to the farm soon forgets about the horse. This may be important as it suggests that the protagonist may be resilient and used to encountering problems in the countryside. He is after all originally from the countryside. Having moved to the city twelve years previously. There is also a sense that nothing has changed. As the protagonist is sitting in the shed he looks around him at some of the objects in the shed and recalls them from his past (twelve years previously). Hughes informing the reader that ‘all was exactly as he had left it twelve years ago.’ The last sentence of the story may also be important as by telling the reader that ‘some important part had been cut out of his brain.’ It is possible that Hughes is suggesting that the protagonist though once used to the land is no longer as sure as he had previously been. However the land is still part of him. Despite the passing of time. It is part of his physical and mental make-up. Though he has forgotten that the land and nature controls the man and not the other way around. So in that respect the protagonist has changed. Where once he had an understanding of the land and nature this may no longer be the case. Something that is noticeable by the fact that the protagonist was wearing the wrong clothes and shoes. Which in all likelihood would not have occurred twelve years previously.