The poem “Strange Fruit” by Abel Meeropol is very dark and twisted as it paints a mental picture of past events in the southern USA. The poem refers to lynching, which is the act of hanging African Americans, slaves, and other protestors in public venues for a spectacle.
Surprisingly, Meeropol was a Russian Jewish immigrant who felt very strongly about this terrible event. Lynching is still used to this day in the south as a very violent form of punishment.
Throughout the poem, Meeropol uses a variety of poetic devices to increase the significance of lynching. He repeats the words “strange fruit” and “crop” many times.
Those words are extended metaphors for the people that were hung, usually African Americans. From the usage of this metaphor, the reader was able to deeply understand how these poor souls were treated. They were simply treated like bad crops, left outside for the birds to eat.
Furthermore, in the poem, Meeropol describes the sweet smell of magnolias, and then suddenly juxtaposes it with the smell of burning flesh. This juxtaposition is useful in contrasting the two scents, while also appealing to human senses. This poem conveys an extremely deep message while educating us about the extreme punishments given in the south.
A line that is quite prominent is, “Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees” (Meeropol 4). From this line, the reader was able to identify the extremeness of lynching and also a clear illustration of people hanging from the trees.
The idea is portrayed in a casual manner, perhaps hinting at how common this atrocity was at this time. (Poplar trees are common trees in the south, and they were often used for lynching due to their thick and strong branches).
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