Telephone Conversation

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“Telephone Conversation”
“Madam, I warned,/ I hate a wasted journey- I am African” (4-5). This gives the reader instantly the subtle wit that is being portrayed due to the ignorance of having to be apologetic for something the writer cannot control. Wole Soyinka’s poem “Telephone Conversation” gives us a prime example of the aggressive humor and irony of the racial profiling handed out to the negro community where one’s education and merit does not trump racism in the view of the wealthy white woman. The diction used by Soyinka shows an educated, honest, direct black man seeking a place to stay, but even his educational level which is not common amongst the negro community was not enough to subside the racism in her mind. The hue of his skin is the main and only factor that she is concerned with, showing her benightedness. The sound device of the landlords repetition of wanting to know the color of his skin “how dark?... are you light or very dark?/ are you dark or very light” (15/18)? shows her bias mentality and lets the reader know she is standing firmly in what she was taught to believe about Negroes. The writer tries to persuade the landlord to change her view on stereotyping him by using his highly educated choice of words and also by trying to describe the background of where he is making the telephone call to reassure her that the savage negro that she has in her mind is not who is on the other end of the phone. “Red booth.. red double tiered Omnibus” (13). The description shows that he is in a civilized part of town and that his standards are not that of a savage. Wole Soyinka’s structure as a free verse poem is wonderfully written yet the contrast of the wealthy woman’s questions and his comically sarcastic educated response shows the sarcastically humorous tone of the poem, making the reader question why does the poet take the serious issue of racism against the color of Negroes and make it humorous. The paradox of racism is...
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