Dove’s History Lesson
“Parsley” by Rita Dove is a poem that tells the story of true events that happened in the early 1900s in the Dominican Republic. Dove tells the story of how the dictator of the Dominican Republic had over 20,000 Haitian workers killed because they couldn’t pronounce the word “perejil,” which is Spanish for parsley, correctly. The poem is broken up into two parts; the first part is given from the Haitians’ perspective, while the second part is from the dictator Rafael Trujillo’s perspective. This is a significant structural element of the poem because it allows readers to have it allows readers to understand the thought processes of the victims of the massacre, the Haitians, but at the same time understand the thought processes of the facilitator of the massacre, Trujillo. The first part of the poem is titled “The Cane Fields” and is the part which is given from the Haitians’ perspective. It starts out with the Haitians describing their work. The narrator talks about the sugarcane in the swamp and says that “we cut it down” (4). Cutting sugarcane down was a job that most migrant workers from Haiti did. While they were doing their work the narrator describes how Trujillo “searches for a word” (5). The word he is searching for is “perejil,” and he kills everyone who doesn’t pronounce it right. This is a tough task for the Haitian workers because they “cannot speak an R.” The Haitians pronounce the word “pelejil” because they can’t roll the letter “r,” so Trujillo kills them. This helps readers understand why the Haitians are getting killed and feel sympathy for them. There are many readers who can’t roll the letter “r,” so those who can’t sympathize with the workers even more because they realize that if they were in the same predicament they would have been killed too. The fourth stanza shows that Trujillo had no mercy, not even for young children. This is shown in the line where the narrator says “The children gnaw...
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