Telephone Conversation

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A Hard Place To Be In

In Wole Soyinka’s Telephone Conversation, the poet communicates his anger and disappointment about being discriminated in society by white people, only because he is African. He portrays this in a telephone conversation between himself and a potential landlord. The poem is put together as if Wole Soyinka’s thoughts of being discriminated against just flew out on the paper on which he was writing. The reaction of both the caller and the landlord are Soyinka’s own stereotypes of what the white and black sides of the conversation would be. Rather than discussing the aspects of the apartment rental, the color of skin was more relevant in this conversation, when in fact skin color should never have been mentioned.Soyinka shows this with some humor and even proves that white is not better than black.

"Madam," I warned, "I hate a wasted journey—I am African." The caller in this poem has to sell the idea that his skin color is acceptable enough for the approval of a well-bred woman, which is the way the potential landlord is described as being. The caller seems as if he’s been through this before. He would rather tell the landlord what color he is now rather than waste the trip only to be denied the apartment. The concern for his own color is alarming. A man having to worry about where he is able to live because of the color of his skin is completely unjust.

"HOW DARK?" . . . I had not misheard . . . "ARE YOU LIGHT OR VERY DARK?" This reaction is one that cannot be mistaken. It is the reaction of a woman who would not rent her apartment to a person who is very dark. The caller then responds to with a word used mostly in white culture “ brunette” maybe to exaggerate the that brunette is just as dark as dark brown. Telling the landlord this shows a bit of humor in the sense that dark is dark no matter what type of person has it. “Considerate she was” not.

Wole Soyinka uses a bit a sarcasm in this poem as well. “ Facially I’m brunette,...
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