The Wedge-Tailed Eagle by Geoffrey Dutton
In The Wedge-Tailed Eagle by Geoffrey Dutton we have the theme of respect, revenge, control, skill and remorse. Narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator it becomes clear to the reader from the beginning of the story that Dutton may be exploring the theme of respect. Both pilots when they are talking to the farmer scorn the farmer because he does not give eagles the credit or respect that they deserve. As pilots and flyers they know how majestic eagles are. They also know that they have the benefit of their biplanes to exact the farmer’s revenge on the eagle. However revenge is not something that the pilots are thinking of. Rather they are more concerned with the challenge that they will encounter. It is as though this is the driving factor for the pilots to carry out the farmer’s plan. If anything the pilots wish to challenge themselves against the eagle without necessarily thinking too much about at what cost (the eagle’s life). Which may leave some critics to suggest that the pilots are being egotistical when it comes to killing the eagle. They want to pit their skill against the majesty of the eagle.
It might also be important to remember that the farmer does not value any life that he does not control. That being he has control over his sheep and is concerned that the eagles are killing them. However he is thinking of profit rather than of the life of the sheep. If anything he is thinking practically or at least he views himself as thinking practically. Sheep are his business and his profit so in reality the farmer is thinking of his own well-being. He is not taking into consideration the law of nature where only the fittest will survive. That is till man becomes involved and changes the direction or course of nature. Just as the eagle views the sheep as prey. The farmer views the eagles as prey too. Though it is noticeable that the farmer is reliant on others (the pilots) in order to change the balance of nature. He knows that he is outmaneuvered and outwitted by the eagles and as such depends on the pilots to help him. Though they are not necessarily as keen as the farmer to kill the eagles.
The battle of the skies is also interesting as it is clear that the pilots could not individually kill the eagle. They simply don’t have the same skill as the eagle. It is only by pairing up that the pilots stand a chance of killing the eagle. Which says a lot about the eagle and the majesty that the pilots bestow on the eagle. The farmer on the other hand is just happy that someone is helping him. At no stage in the story does the farmer treat the eagle as an equal never mind the fact that he simply doesn’t consider the eagle to be better than him. If anything the eagle has outwitted and frustrated the farmer.
The end of the story is also interesting as Dutton appears to be continuing with the theme of respect while at the same time suggesting that both pilots are full of remorse for their actions. This is something that is noticeable by the fact that the pilots give the eagle a burial. They know they have been fortunate when it comes to killing the eagle and by burying the eagle they are in many ways not only showing the eagle respect but also highlighting their remorse for their actions. Something that is clearer to the reader by way of the fact that the pilots do not wait to celebrate with the farmer. What had begun as a game of skill has resulted in the pilots realizing they have downed a foe that has outwitted them and only by luck have the pilots succeeded in their task. The sense of victory is absent for the pilots. They know that what they have done is wrong and as such not something that should be celebrated. The farmer on the other hand is relieved to have seen the eagle killed. Though he has not thought about the other eagles that circle his farm. The reader left only too aware that the pilots will not help the farmer again. So the real victor in the story remains the eagles. They may have lost one of their own but they remain in control of the farmer’s land.