Telephone Conversation

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The Nigerian poet Wole Soyinka uses the poem the telephone conversation to express the apathy one, particularly the black has, against Apartheid. Through an ironical dialogue over the telephone the poet criticizes the strong feeling of hatred that has arisen due to racial discrimination. The poem starts on a mild note where the poet negotiates the renting of an apartment with the landlady over the telephone. They were agreeable on the ‘price’ the ‘location’ and privacy. The price was ‘reasonable’ to the poet, the location, has been described as ‘indifferent’. It may mean that the poet is not bothered with the neighborhood or it might indicate that the neighborhood is free of racism about which the poet is touchy. Another factor which was favourable to the tenant is that the landlady lived ‘off premises’ that is, the property ensured privacy and independence. In the second phase of the dealing begins with a ‘self confession’. The very word self confession in the poem signifies the bitter experience the poet has gone through because of skin colour. The black poet knows the adverse effect his skin has on the white society, hence the ‘self-confession.’ It is ironic that this is called a self-confession since the poet has done nothing wrong to confess his wrongdoing. As a warning he points out to the landlady that “I am African”. He says this as a precautionary measure against a ‘wasted journey, as if the poet knows the immediate reaction the white lady would have. He derisively condemns the polite English woman whose so called ‘good breeding’ does not allow her to come up with the aversion which the poet knows she has for the black. Hence his admission is met with silence. Irony is used in the description of the landlady. The landlady is described with nothing but positive terms. The speaker mentions her "good breeding", "lipstick-coated voice"; these qualities suggest the woman is a dignified and respectable woman. In the expression of "long gold rolled cigarette...
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