An Analysis of Derek Walcott's Poem "A Far Cry from Africa"

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An analysis of Derek Walcott's poem "A Far Cry from Africa"
on the influence of colonialism in his language

Introduction

The so called post colonial literature is actually a body of writings that aim to express response to colonization. Most topics and themes of post colonial literary pieces revolve around the issues demanding freedom of the people from political and cultural colonial rule. Post-colonial literature also attacks literary works insinuating racism or colonial hints. Recently, post-colonial literature proponents began to criticize modern post colonial discussions. Some post colonial critics are trying to re-examine traditional literature. These critics focus their reaction on social discourses of traditional writers and explore the influence of social fantasy of European racial domination particularly on their literary pieces. According to Baugh (1978, p. 19 – 28), the process of post colonial writers is “writing back”, “re-writing”, and “re-reading” in composing literary pieces. Colonialism exploits another community and gain wealth, power, and pleasure through vicious force. Native are the most common victims of colonialism. Because of much suffering from colonial powers of European countries, post colonial overviews emerged to challenge the tradition and legacy of traditional literary works. Hence, post colonial writers do not legitimize using power to conquer other race of people. One proponent of post colonial literature is Derek Alton Walcott who is a Caribbean poet, playwright, writer, and visual artist. He was born on January 23, 1930 in Castries, Saint Lucia (Hamner, 1993, p. 12 – 34). His distinction came from the Nobel Prize awarding body when Walcott was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. The influence of post colonial mentality is clearly noticeable in more than 25 plays Walcott wrote and staged in different universities and colleges in Europe and the USA. Most of his literary works if not all deal directly or indirectly with colonial status of West Indies (Brown, 1991, p, 110 – 126). Walcott’s lovely poem, “A Far Cry from Africa”, illustrates the influence of post colonial thinking. Being an African descent, Walcott lived and experienced life in the southeast corner of the American sphere that had no influence of West Indies’ independence. Baugh (1978, p. 23) claims though Walcott is an independent black West Indian, he is far from Africa and never encounters the cruel hatred of white people against the black people and the black people against the white people. Derek Walcott speaks French-English language. He has white grandfathers but both grandmothers are black. He experienced being an outsider in the midst of white people because his parents were middle class and Protestants. This kind of environment molded and shaped Walton’s desire to express his sentiments against discrimination among rich people and poor people, white people and black people, Catholic and Protestant but above all, the continued colonial influences on the native people of European culture and traditions. In “A Far Cry from Africa”, Walcott talks about the “Kikuyu” tribe and rebellion in Kenya. Walcott considers this event as violence in “paradise.” He reiterated the Statistics that has no meaning and scholars who are products of colonial mentality. The author’s anger can be considered just and in the standards of the 60’s can be said to be controlled (Terada, 1992, p. 210-212). The words of astonishment and fear and his longing to love Africa surge as he describes “he long rushes break/ In an white dust if ibises whose cries/ Have wheeled since civilization dawn…”

Walcott’s “A Far Cry from Africa”

The opening lines of “A Far Cry from Africa” put the reader to the settings of the poem depicting the African plain. Africa is compared to a lion with “tawny pelt”. Tawny is a light brown to brownish orange which is the familiar sight of an African landscape. In the first...
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