Consider the poems "Dreaming Black Boy" and "Epitaph".
a) Compare the ways in which these two poems deal with the experience of oppression and racism.
b) State which of thevtwo 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.