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Analysis of Poem 'Deer Hit' by Jon Loomis

Andrew has a keen interest in all aspects of poetry and writes extensively on the subject. His poems are published online and in print.

Jon Loomis poem analysis

Jon Loomis poem analysis

'Deer Hit' Poem Analysis

'Deer Hit' is a two-part poem that focuses on an early morning drunken drive undertaken by a teenager in his father's Fairlane car. Basically, he has to swerve to miss some deer on the road but ends up in a ditch, having hurt himself and one of the deer.

He's dazed and confused, lucky to be alive. But he picks up the badly injured deer and puts it on a back seat before driving on to the family home where he's greeted by a non-too-happy father.

Things quickly develop. The father acts humanely when he sees that the deer is beyond repair, but the son's angst and near depressive reaction deepen the feeling that more mistakes are bound to follow wherever this teen goes.

Jon Loomis published 'Deer Hit' in 2001 in the book The Pleasure Principle and it has become a popular choice for study because of its broad appeal, simple-to-follow language and immediacy.

The ongoing saga of cars versus wild animals carries with it much emotion. Millions of innocent creatures are killed each year on the roads and many human casualties result from vehicles having to avoid stray animals, especially in the dark.

  • 'Deer Hit' brings this issue closer to home so to speak and creates a powerful human drama that goes well beyond a mere collision between a car and deer. The reader is taken into the heart and mind of the unfortunate teenager through the unusual perspective of the narrator/speaker.

There is no first-person approach in this poem, which suggests that there is no real, true acknowledgement of responsibility by the teen? Surely a person who felt deeply for the deer and the trauma caused would start with the 'I'.

The speaker throws the reader a bit of a curved ball by using 'You're' as the first word in the poem. You the reader have to put yourselves in the shoes of this drunken wagon-weaving teen and share the burden of pain inflicted, on both the animal (and the teen?).

A poem that inspires many ethical and topical questions, 'Deer Hit' resonates with almost everyone who reads it simply because just about everyone knows what it feels like to be an awkward teenager, having created a mess out of a foolish mistake.


Summary of the Poem

Jon Loomis's 'Deer Hit' captures the moment when a teenager's world begins to unravel. Through vivid description and clever use of narrative, the poet offers the reader a chance to fully experience the dilemma facing the drunken son.

So the speaker's stance from the off is to invite the reader right into the Fairlane wagon. Front seat. The teenager is saying, Look, I'm trying to explain to you exactly what happened to me that night so you can truly understand the situation. OK, I was a little drunk, I'll admit that, but.....

The reader might begin to feel a little sorry for the teen when he discovers that a family or herd of deer have strayed onto the road and caused him to swerve and brake and finally end up in a ditch, lucky to be still breathing.

The reader might also start to think that, hey, what the heck was this drunken youth doing driving at 3 am in his father's car? The deer were doing what they do naturally, come out and forage for food. They don't see the road as a place of potential danger. It's up to the driver to drive with care if there are known to be wild animals about.

So there is an accident. Nature versus human, the old story, the old battle. Who hasn't seen the gruesome evidence at the side of the road, the resultant roadkill from the never-ending war between vehicle and creature?

Only this time the reader is given the awful, graphic details. Fortunately, the young driver gets only cuts and bruises but one of the deer is badly injured. It wants to flee the scene but can only make pathetic circles with its front feet. And it's crying out in pain.

Momentary compassion fills the teen, which the reader might admire, and when the deer is placed on the back seat, against its wild will, surely this young man, despite being inebriated, is worthy of praise?

The fact that the deer bites back only adds pressure on the reader to now show empathy with the human. Yes, the teen has needlessly broken the deer's hip or spine, but he's showing a noble side to his weak character by wanting to rescue and possibly heal the poor victim.

When the two reach home, however, the situation takes a turn for the worse.

The teen's father has also been drinking, setting the family pattern perhaps; and he's been watching a zombie movie. Oh dear.

There's no word of greeting, no asking if the son is alright, no care shown for his flesh and blood, only a grumble about the state of the car and the deer.

It being the middle of the night, quick action has to be taken. Perhaps the father is thinking that the deer should have been put out of its misery at the scene of the accident. If his thoughts are along these lines, he's not saying anything.

There is only the cold, blunt response. Concrete will do the job.

The deer is taken back to the woods where it was born and grew up. For the teenager there is only the negative feeling - he's some kind of gangster doing underhand work - a criminal who has defiled Nature.

He won't forget these feelings. But he also might remember the reaction of his father, who did not ask about his wellbeing. It's up to the teenager to rectify the faults, to restore the ruins, if he possibly can.

Literary Devices Used

'Deer Hit' is a two-part poem written in unrhymed couplets, pairs of lines, except for the last lines in each part, which are single. In total there are 52 lines, 33 in the first part, 19 in the second.

The first part of the poem deals with the accident, the reaction and the journey home; the second focuses on the teenage son's feelings and the father's response.

  • There is no set rhyme scheme so these are free verse couplets.
  • The metre is mixed which tends to produce patchy rhythms and varied pace.
  • The syntax, the way the clauses and sentences are put together, reflects the nature of the situation - there are pauses, stop-starts, hesitation and panic. Even though the speaker is looking back in time the language brings the present starkly to the reader.
  • Note the use of simile: like dust, like a bride, like a ghost, like a gangster. Similes add interest and an extra visual element to the narrative.
  • Metaphor: eyeballs are small moons glowing.
  • Repetition: the use of you're and you reinforces the idea that the speaker wants the reader to understand the predicament and develop empathy for the protagonist.
  • Alliteration: father's Fairland/ dips-dark wood/till they turn their.


© 2017 Andrew Spacey