A piece of good literature is commonly defined as a writing that includes all needed literary elements as well as embodies the topics that have lasting importance for humanity. Literature is a very important element of our society, since people reflect their way of thinking, worldview and discuss things that matter in writing. Maxine Kumin and Joyce Walder produced two difference pieces of writing on the same, seemingly unimportant topic of killing the woodchucks. Nevertheless, both writings communicate the moral message of protecting animal rights. "Woodchucks" and "Peter Rabbit Must Die" can be equally defined as literary pieces since both writings include the essential literary elements as well as reflect on the important moral dilemma.
The essential elements of the literary text can be defined as unavoidable fundamentals without which no literary work can be created. The literary elements include plot, characters, conflict, setting, protagonist and antagonist, theme, mood and narrator. The authors of "Woodchucks" and "Peter Rabbit Must Die" developed in their writings all of the mentioned literary elements. First of all, the antagonist and protagonist are present in both writings. Thus, in "Peter Rabbit Must Die" the main antagonist is young artist from New York who moved to Pennsylvania and the protagonists are the woodchucks. In the "Woodchucks" the pest are also protagonists, while narrator and antagonist is the same person.
The characters are not developed very intensively and remain a bit shallow. Nevertheless, in both literary pieces the small moral change is present due to the conflict that evolved between protagonists and antagonists. For instance, Joyce Walder mentions that the artist at first "did not want to take a life" because he was "concerned about how his New York clients would feel about it that he is not willing to be identified". However, at the end of the story "he embraced his mission, and grew so obsessed with it that an aunt began to call him Woodchuck Johnny. How many did he kill that summer?" (Walder) In the same way the narrator of "Woodchucks" in the beginning wanted to kill all woodchucks in a fast and painless way (by gassing or poisoning). However, in the middle of the poem the narrator "I, a lapsed pacifist fallen from grace; Puffed with Darwinian pieties for killing" (Kumin).
Finally, such elements as plot, setting, theme and mood are also present in "Woodchucks", as well as in "Peter Rabbit Must Die". The setting of both literary writings is a vegetable garden and all characters live in modern times. Despite the many similarities that both writings share, the mood presented in the works is quite different. Thus, the poem "Woodchucks" is rather joyful and merry, though in "Peter Rabbit Must Die" author created more serious and ironic mood. For instance, the part where artist informs woodchucks about his plans to kill them is very ironic. The last element of writing to analyze is the plot. The plot is rather simple in both writings: the human is killing the woodchucks in order to avoid the loss of vegetables and other foods. Nevertheless, the simplicity of this plot and such unimportant and common topic as pest destroying brings to reader's mind more serious questions, such as animal protection.
Maxine Kumin and Joyce Walder produced two literary works that touch in certain way an important modern issue of animal rights. "Peter Rabbit Must Die" sends more explicit message that killing animals is very widespread and "the artist's story is not as unusual as some would like to believe" (Walder). Meanwhile the poem "Woodchucks" is more poetic, but the last lines clearly communicate author's message:
If only they'd all consented to die unseen
Gassed underground the quiet Nazi way (Kumin)
In my personal opinion both writings deserve to be called literary works equally, since they possess all the essential literary elements which every piece of literature has.