A deer is just a deer

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    Senior Member
    American English
    A kiss is just a kiss, a sigh is just a sigh,* a deer is just a deer – as here. At least that's my interpretation.

    *From the lyrics of As Time Goes By:
    You must remember this
    A kiss is just a kiss, a sigh is just a sigh
    The fundamental things apply
    As time goes by
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    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    For some people, a deer may represent many things -- a reincarnated soul, the vulnerability of nature, and so on. (These are just examples I am making up. They are not necessarily the sort of things the author has in mind.)

    But to other people, deer are simply animals, and have relation to human beings aside from the uses people might make of them.

    Similarly, most people interpret the animals in Animal Farm as representations of certain kinds of human beings. But to some people those animals are just talking pigs and horses and so on. (Frankly, this part of the comparison seems a little implausible. It's difficult to imagine that anyone could read Orwell's Animal Farm as an animal story.)

    Beryl from Northallerton

    Senior Member
    British English
    Is there any special significance to the word 'deer' here or is it a random example of an animal?
    Who knows? From the posts above it would seem wide open to interpretation.
    Since the poem was inspired by a recent visit to Beijing, it seems at least possible that the poet was impressed by the legend of the milu (Père David's deer) which in turn could, tangentially, get you to thinking about Animal Farm .... just about; although there were no deer on Orwell's farm.

    Père David's deer - Wikipedia - Legend and cultural significance:
    According to Chinese legend, when the tyrant King Zhou of Shang ruled the land more than 4,000 years ago, a horse, a donkey, an ox and a deer went into a cave deep in the forest to meditate and on the day the King executed his virtuous minister Bigan, the animals awoke from their meditation and turned into humans. They entered society, learned of the King's heinous acts and wanted to take recourse against the King, who was powerful. So they transformed themselves into one creature that combined the speed of the horse, the strength of the ox, the donkey's keen sense of direction and the nimble agility of the deer. This new animal then galloped to the Kunlun Mountains to seek the advice of the Primeval Lord of Heaven. [...]


    Senior Member
    US English
    I'd say it's just a random example, but I'm not knowledgeable about Chinese folklore. Freud's cigar? Spiegelman's Maus? The legends of werebeings? perpend thinks it's about gun control; I think it's about censorship ('the metal bit in your tongue') and the need to camouflage criticism. Then again, Chinese characters represent things ('logography'); sometimes they can be homophones or the equivalent of 'multisemes'; might that have something to do with it?


    Senior Member
    English - England
    It may be worthwhile considering that The Morning Star is the organ of the Communist Party (UK) (which is to be distinguished from the "Communist Party of Great Britain") and that (George) Orwell's Animal Farm is a polemic against capitalism, Stalinism and the hard left.

    As Cagey says in #4, the deer is a symbol of gentleness, spirituality and emotion. The two lines, 'For you a deer is just a deer,/and Orwell's farm has no real animals.', combine to suggest that the person to whom it is addressed has no real emotions or imagination about the real world and the lives of working people.

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I read it very much in Cagey's sense.

    It's hard to see the animals in Animal Farm as animals; the allegory is so obvious that we think of them as archetypal people.

    At this point the poem evokes a naive person who takes everything at face value, and doesn't read more into things beyond what is evident on the surface.


    Senior Member
    I read it differently: the poem is (in part) about force of words: You've never read a book / then tried to unlearn it.
    For a person like herself, there are real animals on the farm - the animal may be 'beast' here - something scary which once met cannot be un-known Edit: or a real characters with real fate...
    But for people she describes; this knowledge is not shattering. Of course they know the book is not about animals. But maybe unlike the author, they move easily to read something else, or have a good easy cry..
    whilst the author:
    ...we have read Boxer's story and don't even dare to cry. Reality's too mad, too close sometimes.

    I don't know what to do with Morning Star though - maybe the newspaper misunderstood the poem.:D

    e: As for deer, I thought of Bambi.:)
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    Senior Member
    Wow, thank you so much everybody! At first I just wanted to know whether I was missing an idiom with 'deer' but it was extremely interesting to read all of your interpretations! :)
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