Le Chne Et Le Roseau, a poem by Jean de La Fontaine, shows the contrast of the characters while moralizing about hidden strengths that are often overlooked or belittled. In this poem, the oak is personified as having a stubborn sense of strength, while the humble reed is represented as possessing the qualities of endurance, flexibility, and hidden strength. Fontaine teaches the reader his lesson through the use of nature by having the oak and the reed converse about their strengths. In the end the reed proves his point when the north wind uproots the oak, leaving it to die.
The theme of Le Chne Et Le Roseau is a universal one, easily recognized and understood by all. The poems central idea is that strength is not necessarily size and power, but in adaptability, endurance, and flexibility. Fontaine illustrates the theme well in these lines: Larbre tient bon; le roseau plie. Le vent redouble ses efforts, et fait si bien quil dracine celui… The poet further develops the theme with a moral which implies that humility is more important than pride. Fontaine places most emphasis on idea to help develop this moral. In the end, the pompous oaks strength is his weakness, while the humble reeds suppleness is his fortitude.
Jean de La Fontaine develops well the poems mood, one of pity, compassion, and respect, through sensory images and descriptions of the characters. These lines: Un roitelet pour vous est un pesant fardeau; and Le moindre vent qui daventure fait rider la face de leau, vous oblige baisser la tte; , as well as La nature vous me semble bien injuste. illustrate the sentimental atmosphere of pity that the reader feels for the reeds struggle against relatively small difficulties. Although Fontaine succeeds in creating this sympathetic mood, this line: Vous avez bien sujet daccuser la nature; detracts from the intended mood because one does not feel sorry for someone that accuses and complains.
Jean de La Fontaine uses examples of personification, imagery, similes, allusions, and symbolism to create a deeper meaning of the poem and to the emphasize the theme. Le chne un jour dit au roseau: is an example of personification that Fontaine uses throughout the poem. He personifies the oak and the reed as humans having a conversation. These lines: Le moindre vent qui daventure fait rider la face de leau, vous oblige baisser la tte; show imagery and personification. The image that Fontaine creates, the rippling of the water, is one that the reader can visualize, while the lowering of the head represents a person bowing his head. This line: Cependant que mon front, au Caucase pareil, contains a simile and an allusion. The simile is the comparison of the forehead to the Caucasus Mountains, while the allusion is the Greek mythologys Caucasus Mountains, which represent strength, fortitude, and perhaps danger. Des royaumes du vent is an allusion to the kingdom of the Greek wind god Aeolus who usually stirred up strong winds. Lempire des morts is also an allusion to the kingdom of Hades, which was the Greek underworld, representing the death of the oak. This poem expresses irony when the reed is troubled by simple burdens, but the reed is able to withstand difficult predicaments. The oak is symbolized as power, pride, and a false sense of strength, while the reed represents endurance, flexibility, and strength from within. Moreover, the wind is pictured as hardships, challenges, and tests.
Fontaine uses logical sequence in developing the characters of the oak and the reed. At first, the reader only sees them as trees, but he soon learns through the oak that the reed appears weak and defenseless, and that the strong oak wishes to shelter and protect the reed. The reader next learns that the reed is confident and not afraid of impending dangers, because he bends and does not break. Then the terrible winds come and uproot the oak, while the small reed survives. Thus, the reader understands that size is not as important as flexibility.
Fontaine writes Le Chne Et Le Roseau as a narrative, didactic, and descriptive poem with an irregular number of syllables. It is narrative and didactic because he teaches a moral and tells a story through the use of nature with which he is intimately acquainted. The poems descriptive words vividly contrast the reed and the oak. The narrative aspect of the poem has realistic dialogue which advances the plot and the traits of the characters.
Fontaines style of simplicity contributes to the easy understanding of this interesting poem. Le Chne Et Le Roseau teaches a lasting lesson about human nature: the pompous oak is outlasted by a confident reed. This poem adds to ones understanding of the world by demonstrating that the weak can survive, while the strong can die.