Theme: Prejudice/discrimination & How people learn hard lessons

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Type: Blank verse

Background

  • Written by Wole Soyinka – first African to win the Nobel Prize for literature
  • The poem is about a man trying to rent a flat from an English landlady
  • Her attitudes towards him changes when she hears he is African
  • She is clearly racist, and the absurd conversation shows her inferior intelligence
  • The theme of the poem is prejudice/discrimination based on the colour of skin

Language

  • Sensory language is used to evoke a picture of the woman and her character
  • Irony is used countless times – the woman making assumptions about the caller on basis of appearance not personality
  • Diction reveals the man’s superior intelligence
  • Pun – in “hide and speak” can be interpreted that the woman is speaking but hiding her real feelings and that they are both hidden from each other as it is over the telephone
  • The fact she feels the need to simplify the question for him it is ironic that she is revealed to be the unintelligent one
  • Repetition – “Madam” – emphasizes the poet is well-bred and refined contrasting to her rudeness
  • Alliteration is also used – “Flight of fancy”
  • Enjambment
  • Colour imaging – reflecting the theme of prejudice based on skin colour

Form

  • Free verse appropriate given it is a conversation

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