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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Many poems deal with the issue of the state of humanity. Focusing on any two poems, examine how the poem express and treat this subject.

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“The Early Purges?by Seamus Heaney is about how we lose innocence. It is ambiguous and ironic. The poem recalls a particular incident of when young Heaney, as a boy, witnessed the farmhand killing kittens, and how the poet became used to this in time. Now, he writes, he has a similar indifference to the death of animals when, in fact, the young Heaney’s reaction is the one the poet really approves of. “The Early Purges?deals with the issue of the state of humanity by appearing to endorse the view that “sentiments?of the “living?are “false? The poem ends in an unconvincing clich?denying compassion ?“Pests have to be kept down?


Seamus Heaney aims to take a different degree of angle into this issue of humanity. In the poem, the sense of humanity is denied with the poet attempting to believe that fear and innocence fades away in time. Dan Taggart justifies action by suggesting that the kittens have no value ?“scraggy wee shits?and finally, the adult Heaney does the same by even swearing like Dan ?“Bloody pups? According to the poem, Dan, as the older person, deceives young Heaney to protect him from his compassion. “Sure isn’t it better for them now???yet the child is not convinced.


Continuous imagery in the poem is used to suggest an undertone in the perspective of inhumanity. There is some use of juxtaposition such as “Soft paws scraping like mad? Just as “soft?suggests little resistance, “paws scraping?immediately follows to contradict with the innocent image. It delivers the idea of desperation and the image of kittens rubbing against a surface with forceful pressure. The kittens were generally described as weak and tiny creatures, yet attacked phrase by phrase with strong and exaggerating actions. ??they bobbed ?till he sluiced them out? Words such as “sluice? “pump? “slung? “soused?and “pitch?expresses striking images of inhumanity. The sound of drowning is suggested by “frail metal?and “tiny din? Onomatopoeia “sickening tug?is used for the reference of the pulling of hen’s neck. Notice the sound device of alliteration is continuously used in the poem, mostly using the starting letter of “s?or “p?to gain the most contradictory affect against the creatures themselves. The kittens were likened by simile to “wet gloves?(woolen, soaked mittens) and later on, to “dung??they are put on a manure heap and overtime becomes like dung. Most striking of all is the oxymoron “glossy and dead? for a glossy coat is usually seen as a sign of animal health. This is contradicted with the direct adjective “dead?to reinforce the statement.


The poem concluded in an ambiguous and cynical way. There was irony and sarcasm at the end to restate the fact that in “The Early Purges? Seamus Heaney purposely denies the state of humanity but he fails to convince his own approval of this issue. He attempts to say that sentiments are “false?in this case ?yet saying this doesn’t make them so. Also, “it makes sense?is not true ?this statement fails its purpose to convince himself to think this way, as we, the readers could only sense a fragile note-to-self from the poet, protecting himself against further compassion. Honest and direct language earlier in the poem is then replaced by sarcastic clich�s ?“cuts ice?and “pest have to be kept down? This would be inept if Heaney really thought of the expressions as persuasive, as it is not.


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“Telephone Conversation?by Wole Soyinka? also deals with the issue of the state of humanity, yet attacks it in the perspective of racism. In this poem a man is trying to rent an apartment but the owner of the complex doesn’t want him to move in because he is African. She asks him “How dark? Are you light or very dark??Wole Soyinka, in this poem, deals with the prejudice in the best way they know how. The black man in “Telephone Conversation?does not seem to be hurt by the women’s prejudices, only somewhat disappointed by the fact that he is not getting the apartment. He seems to be above the racism and the ignorance that comes with it and is able to deal with the issue properly. The poem expresses the state of humanity by letting both the black man and the women assume and stereotype the situation.


The tone of the poem should be considered as the narrator’s education is suggested through the way things are worded and the images he uses. Sentences are phrased carefully ?this indicates that from the start, the narrator already expects denial and rejection from the owner because of his race. The issue of humanity is dealt with as he assumes the women’s image just through the silence waiting on the other end of the phone ?“Silence. Silence transmission of pressurized good breeding? This predicted the women’s ignorance. He even goes into assuming a cigarette stained smell “stench of rancid breath?from the women through a simple conversation on the telephone. The tone of the woman’s voice creates a harsh personality for her as she reemphasizes her question “Are you dark? Or very light??The way the question is posed implied the desperation and the lack of interaction between the two characters.


“Telephone Conversation?has many different images yet no rhymes scheme. It is more complex and hard to comprehend, as the issue of the state of humanity in the poem strongly relates to the message of racism and the interaction between the black man and the women. Humanity is expressed and revealed through the black man’s proposal to be accepted for his skin colour. Repetition such as “Red booth. Red pillar-box. Red double-tiered omnibus squelching tar.?Also “Palm of my hand. Soles of my feet?captures the reemphasis of his physical self. He tries to prove the fact that racism should not be allowed and expresses his disappointment towards the woman’s reaction by using the word “pleaded?amongst his last sentences. The woman, however, denies his race simply through a question of the man’s skin colour. As Soyinka attempts to describe an immigrant’s difficulties in finding a room, it is revealed that one lies on the fact of racism. Is this the only issue to be found in the poem? This poem is classified to be one of which is ironic in some perspectives but ends also, in an unconvincing note as the immigrant seeks for more attention but was put in denial and left hung up on the other end of the telephone.





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