Jim Tilley utilizes diverse figurative language to portray comprehensive imagery in the poem the "Big Questions." While the poet acknowledges the sophisticated nature of the big questions, she uses unique ques to express his point of view and to empower the audience to comprehend his assertions. He utilizes a philosophical statement when introducing the poem to evoke the readers' minds into understanding the purpose of their existence in the universe and at a specific time and space. The poet leans towards different elements of figurative language such as metaphor, simile, personification, and hyperbole to enable the audience not only to understand the gravity of his concerns but also to relate it to the contemporary issue. "The Big Question" denotes an interesting figurative element, simile, which the poet recurrently uses to express his understanding and portrays emotion towards the notion of the big question that remains unanswered. Therefore, critical analysis of simile throughout the poem is vital to instigating active reading, creative and analytical thinking, and self-assessment within the contemporary environment.
The poet uses similes repeatedly to express the phonological presentation of the big question that adamantly dominates contemporary society. He ascertains that while the concept seems enormously significant, it is a substance subjected to time and space, which changes according to the needs, purpose, and determinations of an individual to achieve a specific objective. For instance, "some questions, as big as they seem...are like when you're hiking a trail alone, and you encounter a mammoth who hasn't had lunch" (Meyer). The imagery presented by likening the big question to a hungry mammoth depicts the vulnerability and fear that such unanswered questions present and the hopelessness they may inspire. Although lone hikers enjoy their ride, the fear of encountering danger significantly inhibits their ability to think, make rational decisions, or progress in achieving his or her objectives. Like a hungry mammoth that has not eaten for a fortnight, the big unanswered question inspires fear, anxiety, terror, and confusion that deters people from elevation. Questioning the very purpose of existing in the universe only remains a big question before an individual understands his or her self-worth and purpose. Additionally, Jim Tilley uses a simile to depict the dilemma that humans encounter when faced with complex and sophisticated unanswered questions. For instance, when hiking a trail alone, people are adamantly defenseless and feeble to confront the "Big Questions" with no specific solutions or answers, resulting in excruciating emotions rather than rational thinking or courage to achieve stipulated objectives.
Although people strive to attain answers to the big questions, their realization of the questions only becomes a defining moment. The preconceived notion of unanswerable questions that holds that the big questions are meant to remain unanswered continues to dominate society. As the mammoth sees the lone hiker as his food and exclusive answer to his big question, so does every human problem. While one party sees a barrier, the other party sees a savior, and depending on the perception; one will emerge victorious over the other. The simile reveals a symbiotic relationship between the human mind and the socio-cultural and economic environment. For instance, the poem disputes the preconceived notion of the existence of the big question, which is preferably a defining moment for solving a small problem. A phenomenon only remains a "Big Question" when people refuse to confront situations to transcend beyond social constrictions. When faced with a hungry grizzly bear while hiking alone in the woods, a physical, emotional, or cognitive problem or dilemma, people either run away, appear bigger than the problem or wait to be consumed as the bear's lunch. However, the poet warns, "still one day when someone does, might it not be a person like you staring down a bear looking for lunch" (Meyer). Tilley uses simile throughout to depict human situations when faced with seemingly ambiguous situations, which "turns life existential" depending on the human reaction (Meyer). It sparks extreme reaction to question the dominant preconceived ideas and trigger human curiosity to deconstruct the "big questions" rather than blindly accepting that human beings are naturally limited to attain enlightenment.
Comparing life to a hungry bear enables Tilley to portray the engulfing and consuming challenges that life's problems present and the diverse reactions they require. The simile used to capture the events inspire critical thinking and analytical worldview that enable readers to understand the metaphoric connotations of the poet. It not only evokes distress and nervous emotions when faced with a "hungry bear" but also a sense of relief when the character overpowers' a "mammoth looking for lunch" (Meyer). Despite the fear and terror that a mammoth can inspire to a lone hiker, it is harmless against humans and only a phenomenon that humans can overcome. However, without understanding the purpose of existence, human beings feel worthless and futile, which makes them to experience barriers in every opportunity. The poet notes that when humans are faced with any kind of danger irrespective of its insignificance, "life turns existential," and they cannot help but question their very existence. However, such fears quickly turn into defining moments after comprehending their importance and restructuring themselves to attain a specific goal (Meyer). Therefore, an overwhelming situation only seems difficult and impossible at the moment before creatively thinking of a solution. It reveals that no condition is universal since every individual face different challenge. Whether a harmless hungry mammoth or a dangerous grizzly and irritable bear, human beings must strive to achieve their objective and understand their purpose in the universe to facilitate a sense of worth, courage, and high self-esteem.
Conclusively, the poem significantly arouses distinctive moods and a hopeful tone that deconstructs and demolishes the preconceived notion of the "big questions." With the constant use of simile that compares life's unanswered questions with different animals like a mammoth and a bear, the poet depicts an understanding of the dominant social barriers that people perceive and which prevents them from progression. For instance, although a mammoth is an enormous, dangerous and life-threatening creature, it is not only harmless but extinct. It actively portrays the limitations that humans create to justify their vulnerabilities and fear to accomplish and transcend beyond the social barriers. The "big question" only remains big before someone answers it, then it turns to be a defining moment that controls the conduct and achievements of an individual. Tilley's use of simile draws a substantial image that evokes an excruciating feeling in the face of possible danger contrasted with the charming and captivating sense of relief of achieving the goal that eventually turns into a defining moment rather than the preconceived big question.
Meyer, Michael. The Compact Bedford introduction to literature: Reading, thinking, and writing. 11th ed. Bedford. 2016. ISBN 1319037275 9781319037277
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