October 14, 2010
“To Hell and Back, with Cake” By: Safiya Henderson-Holmes
The title of the poem “To Hell and Back, with Cake” is exactly what the young girl in goes through to get cupcakes, a desirable treat or reward. The poem has a lot to do with racism and discrimination. It is written in first person and as a narrative with many different poetic techniques such as alliteration, sibilance, oxymoron, personification etc. Holmes offers very vivid and descriptive details explaining what these cupcakes mean to this little girl. Being the reader, you can almost smell the cupcakes with the visuals the author gives. Holmes uses many different metaphors and similes leading this poem to be a very emotional and dramatic poem. The tone of the poem goes from happy and joyful to sad and angry. The little girl has her mouth watering for these vanilla and chocolate cupcakes yet the cruel and racist bakery lady diminishes her desire for black and white cupcakes, since that is all the bakery had.
The contrast between the bakery counter lady's and the little girl's view of the cupcakes signals the difference between "childhood" knowledge and the "real world" knowledge. The cupcakes are called chocolate and vanilla by the little girl who is viewing race as differences in flavor. Both the cupcakes are desirable and are a baked good, but they are different in flavor. The point is that they still are both cupcakes. The little girl is forced to reconsider her ideas when the bakery counter lady tells her sharply that they sell only black and white cupcakes. This is to symbolize that in the real world outside of childhood truths, people are viewed and judged according to their color--and not what they are made of. People are not seen as all being people, but are separated by skin color; they are black, brown, or white. This is different from the child's view of the cupcakes differing only by flavor.
The last line is interesting to note,...