Someone Else's View
Never a facile polemicist, Dennis Scott's Epitaph," explores the complexity of memory and the emotional difficulty that "we" as inheritors of the island's history have in writing about the period. In fact, the complexity that marks much of Scott's work is reflected in Uncle Time (from which this poem was taken) winner of Commonwealth Poetry Prize (1972) and an International Poetry Forum Award.
1. Describe the image presented in stanza one of the poem.
The poem is written in blank verse. This makes the tone of the poem
Another Person's Views
The constant repetition of the phrase 'I wish' points to a yearning, a desperation even, for the basic things that life has to offer. The repetition gives credence to the idea that the persona might believe that his wishes are actually dreams that might not come true.
- Stanza 3, lines 19 to 20, alludes to Paul Robeson, a black intellectual, who attained success despite difficult circumstances. The persona yearns to be like this person. He wants room to stretch intellectually.
- Stanza 4, lines 22 to 25, alludes to the klu klux klan. Burning lights refers to the burning crosses and the pyjamas allude to their white outfits that look like pyjamas. The persona wants them to leave him alone, find something else to do other than make his life difficult, as well as contributing to his wishes remaining a dream.
IMPORTANT WORDS / PHRASES
3.'not sink to lick boots':
This refers to the concept of being subservient. To have no choice but to bow to people in order to get ahead.
4. 'Inside eye a sun ':
This refers to the persona's mind. He wants to show how intelligent he is without fear. He wants his mind to be a sun. Sun represents brightness and light, that is how he wants his intelligence to shine.
Racism, and its effects, is the major theme for this poem. The persona's yearning for 'ordinary things' highlights how contained the boy's life is. It is a cry to be free.
In the page that he writes, he is justifying his right to acceptance and equality, on
Oppresion and Racism
a) Compare the ways in which these two poems deal with the experience of oppression and racism.
b) State which of the two poems you find more disturbing, and give reasons to support your answer.
c) Identify and comment on TWO poetic devices used in each poem to highlight the workings of oppression or racism.
"Dreaming Black Boy" and "Epitaph" are two poems which address the issues of oppression and racism. though they both deal with the same problem, it is handled and discussed differently.
In " Dreaming Black Boy", the persona, a young black boy in school, talks about his aspirations and dreams. He hopes for an end to racism. The persona tries to use his education to try to escape the harsh reality of racism. He not only mentions what is going on around him now, but also the past and even how he would like things to be in the future. He longs for acceptance, a good education, success, to travel and a break from mental slavery. He fails to grasp that despite his intelligence and physical maturity, the racist treatment will continue. Thinking that what he experiences as a young boy is the worst, he has yet to find out how it is in the future. On the other hand, "Epitaph", a significantly shorter poem, is about a black slave who was hanged. People stop what they are doing to watch the sight, yet the rest of the world continues to go on. the sugar cane continues to grow. Unlike in "Dreaming Black Boy", the persona in "Epitaph" is an adult, looking on a past occurrence and commenting on how these types of events have impacted on our lives today.
"Epitaph" appears to be the most disturbing as it suggests that many of these slaves' deaths are forgotten. The idea or notion that life goes on after you die and all you are awarded is a "pause". The images in "Epitaph" are also more graphic. In "Dreaming Black Boy", the poet uses euphemism to down play the harsh reality of the young black boy. For example, "plotters in pajamas" is used to refer to the klu klux klan, a group infamous for the terror they caused on the black race.
The main literary device used in "Dreaming Black Boy" is allusion. The persona alludes to white supremacy groups, a famous singer etcetera, to express the things he would like to change about his reality. "Epitaph" uses the "apostrophe" to give a visual image of the black slave hanging and swinging as he is hanged. This metaphor is effective in showing also how the slave has taken on the problems of the black race as his own. And his death belongs to the blacks. It is their history.
Racism and slavery are two of the most controversial and oppressive elements in human history. Though both poems differ in style and technique, both successfully describe the physical and emotional effects of racism and oppression (slavery). This success is achieved through the use of allusions, vivid images, symbolic language and even euphemism.