Fear and Persona
West Indies, U. S. A – Literature Notes Cruising at thirty thousand feet above the endless green 1. the island seems like dice tossed on a casino’s baize, some come up lucky, others not. Puerto Rico takes the pot, 2. the Dallas of the West Indies, 2. silver linings on the clouds as we descend are hall-marked, 1. San Juan glitters like a maverick’s gold ring. All across the Caribbean we’d collected terminals – 1. airports are like calling cards, cultural fingerprints; the hand written signs at Port-au-Prince, Piarco’s sleazy tourist art, the lethargic contempt of the baggage boys at ‘Vere Bird’ in St. Johns …. And now for 4. lush San Juan. But the pilot’s bland you’re safe in my hands drawl crackles as we land, ‘US regulations demand all passengers not disembarking at San Juan stay on the plane, I repeat, stay on the plane. ‘ 3. Subtle Uncle Sam, afraid too many 5. desperate blacks might re-enslave this Island of the free, might jump the barbed electric fence around 6. ‘America’s back yard’ and claim that vaunted sanctuary ….. 3. ‘give me your poor ….. ‘ Through toughened, tinted glass 7. the contrasts tantalise; US patrol cars glide across the shimmering tarmac, containered baggage trucks unload with 8. ierce efficiency. So soon we’re climbing, low above the pulsing city streets; galvanized shanties overseen by condominiums polished Cadillacs shimmying with pushcarts and as we climb, San-Juan’s 9. fools-glitter calls to mind the shattered innards of a TV set that’s fallen off the back of a lorry, all painted valves and circuits 1. the road like twisted wires, the bright cars, micro-chips. 10. It’s sharp and jagged and dangerous, and belonged to some-one else. This is the OPINION of one individual, which might not coincide with the views of others.
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LITERAL MEANING The persona is travelling in a plane, looking down at San Juan, Puerto Rico as the plane descends. He is saying that this island is the wealthiest in the Caribbean because it has won the jackpot, it has come up lucky. He then points out that he, and others, had travelled to many Caribbean islands and received a hint of the flavour of each island through it’s calling card, – its airport – all of which fail when compared to plush San Juan. As they land, they are instructed to stay on the plane if their destination is not San Juan.
The persona takes offence and states that America does not want blacks in San Juan, implying that they might be a disruptive force. He notes the efficiency with which things flow, enabling them to take to the skies once more. During the ascent, the persona notes the contrast between the influences of the Caribbean and America. He likens San-Juan to a broken TV, it Iooks good on the outside, but broken on the inside. LITERARY DEVICES 1. SIMILE * Line 2: Puerto Rico is compared to dice that is tossed on a casino’s baize, it can either come up with winning numbers, or losing numbers.
Puerto Rico comes up with winning numbers in the game of chance, as reflected in its wealthy exterior, which is supported by America. * Lines 7-8: San Juan’s glitter is compared to a maverick’s gold ring. The word maverick implies non-conformist, an individualist. This implies that San Juan, Puerto Rico is in the Caribbean, but not a part of the Caribbean. It belongs to America. * Lines 10-11: Airports are compared to calling cards. This means that, like a calling card, the quality of the airport gives you an idea of the island’s status economically. The airport is also compared to a cultural fingerprint.
A fingerprint is an individual thing, therefore the airport gives the traveler an idea of the island’s cultural landscape. * Line 39: The road is compared to twisted wires. This means that the roads, from above, look both plentiful and curvy. This does not carry a positive connotation, but implies confusion. 2. ALLUSION * Line 5: Dallas is an oil rich state in America. Therefore, many of its inhabitants are wealthy, and the state itself, is wealthy. By stating that San Juan is the Dallas of the West Indies, it implies that it is a wealthy island in the West Indies. Lines 5-7: An allusion is being made to the well known cliche; ‘every cloud has a silver lining’. It means that behind everything that is seemingly bad, there is good. In the context of this poem, it means that the good, the silver lining, has a mark, or stamp, that authenticates its good quality; it is hallmarked. this implies that it will always have its silver lining showing. 3. SARCASM * This statement means the exact opposite of what is stated. The persona is disgusted that Uncle Sam (America) would have such a regulation. This regulation bars anyone from stepping a toe on Puerto Rican soil, if it is not your intended destination.
You just have to remain in the air craft, no matter the waiting period, until it is time for takeoff. The persona believes that the Americans are being blatantly discriminatory, and are attempting to camouflage it through the use of regulations. He does not believe that they have achieved their goal of subtlety. * The persona implies that America is all talk and no action. They really do not want the poor because they bar them from entering and expediently sends them on their way when they enter their airport. The statement is sarcastic because it is loaded with an alternate meaning, due to the contrast in statement and action.
IMPORTANT WORDS/ PHRASES 4. ‘plush’ This word implies soft, like a teddy bear. It also implies luxury. So San Juan is all of these things. 5. ‘desperate blacks might re-enslave this Island of the free’ These ‘desperate blacks’ to whom the persona is referring are the poor people of the Caribbean. If they converge on the glistening San Juan, sucking up its resources, then it might become re-enslaved by poverty. 6. ‘America’s back yard’ A backyard means one of two things for people. It is a haven where you relax, therefore you decorate it and invest time and money in it.
Or, you ignore it and spend all your time indoors, not investing any time, energy or money in it. America viewed Puerto Rico as the latter, a prize in which it saw value. Therefore, when the persona uses this phrase,heis implying that while it is valued, it is still at the back. Slight sarcasm is being used here. 7. ‘the contrasts tantalise’ When something, or someone, is tantalising, it implies that it is intriguing. The persona, by using this phrase, is trying to draw the readers attention to to the jarring contrasts by stating that he finds them intriguing. 8. fierce efficiency’ The word fierce, used to describe the level of efficiency with which the people worked to get the plane off the ground, shows the extent to which they were not wanted on the island. 9. ‘fools-glitter’ This implies that the flashiness of San Juan was not authentic. 10. ‘It’s sharp and jagged and dangerous, and belonged to some-one else. ‘ This implies that San Juan is not safe. The cultures are not melding, but jarring against each other. The reason for this is because it belongs to someone else. CONTRAST The contrast in this poem is found in stanza 5.
The American cars etc, against the pushcarts. The American culture versus the Puerto Rican culture. MOOD/ ATMOSPHERE The mood of the poem is sarcastic. TONE The tone of the poem is slightly bitter, which is fueled by the sarcastic atmosphere. THEME The theme of the poem is experiences. The persona is on a journey and discovering things along the way. Once Upon A Time – Literature Notes The physical structure of this poem has been altered from the original layout in the text. 3. Once upon a time, son, they used to laugh with their hearts and laugh with their eyes; but now 4. hey only laugh with their teeth, while 1. their ice-block eyes 5. search behind my shadow. There was a time indeed they used to 6. shake hands with their hearts; but that’s gone, son. Now they shake hands without hearts while their left 7. hands search my empty pockets. ‘Feel at home’! ‘Come again’ ; they say, and when I come again and feel at home, once, twice there will be no thrice – for then I find doors shut on me. So I have learnt many things, son. 2. I have learnt to wear many faces like dresses – homeface, officeface, streetface, hostface cocktail face, with all their 2. onforming smiles like a fixed portrait smile. And I have learned, too. to laugh with only my teeth and shake hands without my heart I have also learnt to say, ‘Goodbye’, when I mean ‘Good-riddance’ ; to say ‘Glad to meet you’, without being glad; and to say ‘It’s been nice talking to you’, after being bored. But believe me, son. I want to be what I used to be when I was like you. I want 8. unlearn all these muting things. Most of all, I want to relearn how to laugh, for 2. my laugh in the mirror shows only my teeth like a snake’s bare fangs! So show me, son, how to laugh; show me how
I used to laugh and smile 3. once upon a time when I was like you. LITERAL MEANING A father is talking to his son and telling him how things used to be. The father tells his son that people used to be sincere, but are now superficial and seek only to take from people. The persona tells his son that he has learnt to be just like these people, but he does not want to be. He wants to be as sincere as his son. LITERARY DEVICES 1. METAPHOR The people’s eyes are as cold as ice. This means that there is no warmth or real feeling in the words that they say, or how they behave.
This metaphor literally allows you to visualize a block of ice, cold and unwelcoming. 2. SIMILE * Stanza 4, lines 20-21 emphasizes how constantly changing the persona’s face is. If you think of how often a woman changes her dress, then that is how often the persona adjusts his personality to suit the people around him. The list of faces that follow this line emphasizes this point. * Stanza 4, lines 23-24 compares peoples faces to smiles in a portrait. If you think about a portrait, it is usually very formal and stiff, even uncomfortable. Therefore, the implication is that the smiles are actually fake and stiff.
They are conforming, or trying to fit into, a preconceived mold that is set up by societal expectations. * Stanza 6, lines 38-40 compares the persona’s laugh to a snakes. When you think of a snake, words such as sneaky and deceitful come to mind. Therefore, the implication is that the persona is fake, just like the people he despises. 3. REPETITION This phrase is repeated at the beginning and the end of the poem. This usually signals the beginning of a fairy tale. Therefore, it is implied that the persona is nostalgic about the past. IMPORTANT WORDS/ PHRASES 4. ‘they only laugh with their teeth’
This emphasizes the insincerity of the people around the persona. To laugh with your teeth means that only the bottom half of your face is engaged, the laugh does not reach the eyes. 5. ‘shake hands with their heart’ To shake hands with your heart implies a strong handshake that is sincere, this is the opposite of what now occurs between people. 6. ‘search behind my shadow’ This implies that the person cannot look the persona in the eye, they are looking everywhere but there. Looking someone in the eye during a conversation implies that one is sincerely interested in what you have to say.
Not being able to do so implies shiftiness. 7. ‘hands search my empty pockets’ People are only ‘seemingly’ nice to get something from you. So, they smile with you, but it is not sincere, they are seeking to get something from you. 8. ‘unlearn all these muting things’ The word mute means silence, think of what happens when you press the mute button on the TV remote. Therefore, there is an implication that the insincere actions that the persona describes are muting, they block, or silence, good intentions. Hence, the persona wants to unlearn these habits. MOOD/ ATMOSPHERE The mood of the poem is nostalgic.
The persona is remembering how things used to be when he was young and innocent, like his son. TONE The tone of the poem is sad. The poet’s response to his nostalgia is sadness. THEME The major theme in this poem is childhood experiences. The persona reminisces about how things used to be when he was young and wishes that he could still be like that. It is IRONIC that he is behaving in the exact way that he despises, however, and there is an implication that things cannot go back to what he remembers, due to the influence of societal expectations. 1. I wish my teacher’s eyes wouldn’t o past me today. Wish he’d know it’s okay to hug me when I kick a goal. 1. Wish I myself wouldn’t hold back when an answer comes. 2. I’m no woodchopper now like all ancestor’s. 1. I wish I could be educated to the best of tune up, and earn good money and 3. not sink to lick boots. 1. I wish I could go on every crisscross way of the globe and no persons or powers or hotel keepers would make it a waste. 1. I wish life wouldn’t spend me out opposing. 1. Wish same way creation would have me stand it would have me stretch, and hold high, 2. my voice Paul Robeson’s, my 4. inside eye a sun.
Nobody wants to say hello to nasty answers. 1. I wish 2. torch throwers of night would burn lights for decent times. 1. Wish 2. plotters in pyjamas would pray for themselves. Wish people wouldn’t talk as if I dropped from Mars 1. I wish only boys were scared behind bravados, for I could suffer. I could suffer a big big lot. 1. I wish nobody would want to earn the terrible burden I can suffer. LITERAL MEANING The poem is about a black boy who wishes that he could have the regular things in life. Things such as a congratulatory hug, to be educated to the highest level and to travel without harassment. he persona yearns to stop fighting for the basic right to be successful as well as to suffering. LITERARY DEVICES 1. REPETITION: 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. 2. ALLUSION: * Stanza 1, lines 6 and 7, alludes to slavery, the state of lacking control over one’s own life and destiny. The fact that reference is made to this hints to how the persona feels about his life.
He does not feel as if he has control over it. * 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 alludes 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 . ‘not sink to lick boots’: This refers to the concept of being subservient. To have no choice but to kowtow 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. TONE The tone/mood of the poem is one of sadness. The persona is thinking about how he is treated and he reacts to this in a sad way. He keeps wishing that things were different. THEME: 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. Brave flowers, 1. that I could 5. gallant it like you, and be as little vain; You come abroad and make a 6. harmless show, And to your beds of earth again; You are not proud, you know your birth, For your embroidered garments are from earth. You do obey your months and times, but I would have it ever spring; My fate would know no winter, never die, nor think of such a thing; Oh that I could 2. my bed of earth but view, 1. and smile and look as cheerfully as you. Oh teach me to see death and not to fear, But rather to take truce; . How often have I seen you at a 6. bier, And there look fresh and spruce; You fragrant flowers then 7. teach me that my breath like yours may sweeten and perfume my death. A Contemplation Upon Flowers – Literature Notes LITERAL MEANING The persona wishes that he could be as brave as the flowers, who know who they owe their life to – the earth. They know their place and obey the order, or cycle, of life and death. The persona wishes that he could be this way because he is the opposite, he wants to live forever. The persona wants the flowers to teach him NOT to fear death, but to accept it. LITERARY DEVICES 1. SIMILE Stanza 1, line: The persona is wishing that he could be as brave as the flower. This implies that the persona does not think that he is brave, but a coward in the face of death. * Stanza 2, line 14: This is another comparison between the persona and the plant. The persona wishes that he could look death in the face and be cheerful, like the plant. Again, this emphasizes that he lacks. 2. EUPHEMISM This phrase is a replacement for the word death. It softens death and makes it appear welcoming and pleasant. 3. IRONY It is ironic that the flowers look so fresh and alive when it is facing its very mortality, on the top of a casket.
Death is a sad affair, and the flowers are at their best when ushering people back to the earth. 4. PERSONIFICATION The persona is speaking directly to flowers and giving them human qualities, therefore, the whole poem is an example of the use of personification at it’s best. He even goes as far as to ask the flower to teach him things that will make him be like it. IMPORTANT WORDS/ PHRASES 5. ‘galant’ This word literally means brave or heroic. The word, however, also brings to mind adjectives such as charming and attentive, like a knight would be in olden days.
So the plants are not simply brave in their acceptance of death, but they are also gracious. 5. ‘harmless show’ The word harmless sticks out in this phrase because it implies that the flowers are demure and quiet in their beauty. 6. ‘bier’ This is a movable frame on which a coffin or a corpse is placed before burial or cremation, or on which they are carried to the grave. 7. ‘teach me that my breath like yours may sweeten and perfume my death’ This implies that if death is not feared, then the person will go into deaths arms joyfully, without any sorrow, remorse or bitterness.
TONE The tone of the poem is admiration, because the persona literally admires the flowers for its accepting attitude towards death. MOOD/ ATMOSPHERE The mood, or atmosphere of the poem is a pensive one. The persona is thinking about death, how he relates to it versus how others relate to it. CONTRAST A contrast in this poem is the persona’s fear of death, versus the flowers’acceptance of it. THEME Death is the overwhelming theme in this poem. The persona admires the way in which the flowers deal with death and wish to emulate it. Death is a very scary prospect for the persona.