To what extent are the poems Nothings changed and Half-caste a message of protest Essay

Published: 2020-04-22 15:06:56
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The two poems, Nothings changed by Tatamkhulu Afrika and Half-caste by John Agard, both deal with issues of race. Nothings changed describes the return to district six after the apartheid in South Africa it presents a voice angry that nothing has changed since the apartheid has been abolished, and that racial segregation still exists. Half-caste also communicates a protest against racial prejudice. It questions the use of the term half-caste and promotes more open views. The discontent behind both messages is clear in their tones.

From the start Afrika sets a bitter and angry mood, the hot, white, inwards turning anger of my eyes the use of how deeply resentful he is about what is going on. Also the alliteration of the strong t consonant enhances the frustrated quality of this phrase.

On the other hand Half-caste challenges the reader with a mocking phrase Excuse me standing on one leg Im half-caste. This appears to set up a more relaxed atmosphere in first three lines. The poet makes this more assertive with his use of imperatives such as excuse and explain. Throughout the poem he continues to play with the term half caste but the light atmosphere is soon over ridden by the seriousness of the message.

Nothings changed is written in six main stanzas which draw attention to the harsh reality of district six. Interestingly there is a mini stanza of two lines no sign says it is but we know where we belong. this could show the racial segregation enforced and illustrates that although it is not official everybody accepts the unwritten rule.

Afrika uses the power of three and the skin¦ and the soft¦ and the hot¦ to demonstrate how complete and overwhelming the anger is. Also use of the refrain like phrases no board says it is and no sign says it is continue to emphasise how embedded the segregation is in society.

The structure in Half caste is less obvious although it has strong implications. For example the unequal line lengths so spiteful deem dont want de sun pass/ ah rass suggest an odd untidiness and imbalance. As in nothings changed Agard uses refrain to reinforce an idea, explain yuself/ what yu mean. Although here is is more aggressive and upfront. It is repeated as he demands for an answer.

There is a flow to the poem created by enjambment with no punctuation. This could reflect the release of anger. The forward slashes add pauses ? is a half-caste weather/ well in dat case which keep the reader aware of the theme of standing up against society.

Both poets continue to develop the themes through rhyme and rhythm.

In Nothings changed there is half rhyme, for example trees and cuisine. This could symbolise inequality and a sense of uprising against what society imposes. The rhythm is heavy and strong with hard consonant sounds like trodden and gatepost this gives a feeling of oppression. Also there is enjambment, which is shown when the poet says seeding grasses thrust/ beaded seeds/ into trouser cuffs this suggests urgency to release anger it is building up to the last line, nothings changed the short sentence ends the flow and implies defeat as the protest is replaced by acceptance that the separation still stands.

Similarly the rhyme in Half-caste is random which continues the theme. The main images highlighted by rhyme such as mix a black key with a white key is a half-caste symphony. The rhythm is uneven which again emphasises the concept of half. The interesting use of colloquial language provides lots of focus on the sounds of words for example yu, de or dem which makes the rhythm more confident and direct.

In nothings changed the poet begins with monosyllabic language. The first line is small round hard stone click which echoes the sound of walking on gravel this sensory language draws in the reader to the message. He uses words showing oppression like trodden on, crunched, and crushed this conveys the aggressive nature of district 6. Afrika also uses lots of heat associated words like flaring, hot white and burn. These immediately portray a build up of anger. He uses pronouns such as I press my nose making it a more personal account which engages the reader with the personal emotions. On another level he could be expressing the voice of black people against discrimination.

Similarly Agard uses pronouns he engages the audience by saying yu which is directing the poem to a wide audience. He also uses colloquial language like wha, yu and on dem cloud this is Jamaican slang which sets up a background and displays his pride to be from that culture. His repeated use of the term half-caste reminds us of the taboo of the term inflicting guilt upon the reader. The clever use of half links all the imagery listening to yu wid de keen half of mih ear. This is all leading up to the last line when he challenges the reader to accept him as a whole person.

Afrika uses subtle imagery like tall purple flowering amiable weeds The word weeds suggests inferiority but a struggling to stand tall against segregation. He uses personification to describe the whites only inn it squats shows how unwanted the white people are, because they impose on the black people.

A strong metaphor clear panes is like a physical representation of the social barrier. It lets the wealth of the white people be seen. This is emphasised by the contrast of images created. Linen falls, the single rose are compared to bunny chows and plastic tables. Here a clear gap of living standard is shown.

I think the most important image in the poem is leaving a small mean O of small mean mouth which describes the circular mark of breath on the window. This shape will disappear, and metaphorically describes how his voice of protest is lost within him.

The imagery that Agard uses imagery is based around these of mix and half. Opposites like black and white and light and shadow shows two extremes which in people should be accepted as equals. He also says things like half of mih ear , half of mih eye and half-hand these are unrealistic concepts which is mocking the term half-caste. He uses a metaphor of Tchaikovsky writing a symphony and Picasso mixing colours. The use of an artist and a composer gives out a message universally. Also using art and music, pleasant things, shows how wrong and unpleasant using the term half-caste is.

Finally, the change in imagery at the end of the poem shows Agards encouragement of open mindedness. He uses whole and tomorrow which suggest in the future the prejudice can change.

Overall both poems show a protest although I think half-caste is defiant outwards protest that chalenges the reader with clever imagery and language. Nothings changed seems to show protest and anger held within or inwards turning anger. It also shows frustration of accepting the harsh life of being an inferior in South Africa.

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