While both Edward Hughes’ poems “The Jaguar” and “A Second Glance at a Jaguar” examine the life and nature of a jaguar in captivity, they approach the subject in different ways. The most evident overarching distinction between the two is the perspective. Though both are narrated in the third person, “The Jaguar” seems to be from a perspective outside the jaguar’s cage but still within the zoo. The narrator first observes the other animals, describing how “the apes yawn” and “the parrots shriek.” They go on to note the jaguar’s audience of zoo attendees who “stands, stares, mesmerized, / As a child at a dream…” Only then does the narrator describe the jaguar’s anger and the “wilderness of freedom” that characterizes his liberating run throughout the cage. “A Second Glance at a Jaguar” however, positions the narrator alongside the Jaguar, vividly describing the motion of his body and its trajectory, stating “the hip going in and out of joint, dropping the spin with the urgency of his hurry” and noting that “at every stride he has to turn a corner.” The entire poem focuses on the jaguar himself exclusively, with no mention of the zoo or its attendees.
“A Second Glance”, while observing the jaguar more thoroughly, also makes more allusions to the jaguar being like a machine as well as tools of human violence. Hughes heavily focuses on the components of the jaguar that hold it together noting his “hip going in and out of joint”, him “trying to grind some square /socket between his hind legs round”, and him “swiveling the ball of his heel.” He also makes direct mechanical comparisons, calling the jaguar’s body “the engine shoving it forward.” On the other hand, he also compares the jaguar to vehicles of human violence like “a thick Aztec disemboweller, / club-swinging” or comparing his tail to a “Gangster club.”
In comparison, “The Jaguar” simply emphasizes how the jaguar’s inner anger and aggression allowing him to transcend the confines of his cage. Here he is described as having a “short fierce fuse. Not in boredom.” Hughes then suggests that “there’s no cage to him” because his “stride is wilderness of freedom.”