Ballad of the Totems
This ballad (look at the characteristics of a ballad as listed under "Mulga Bill's Bicycle") is written in a strict metrical and rhyming scheme which bounces along jauntily and matches the lack of seriousness in tone of the poem; both content and form are comic. Some, however, might argue for an element of serious content, as this poem portrays conflict within a marriage and between cultures.
Plot wise, in a marriage between partners of different clans and with different totems (symbolic and sacred animals), a conflict arises because the totem of the husband is killing the wife's chickens, but is beyond punishment because of tradition.
In verse 1 we see the two parties introduced, father with a formal dignity suggested in the archaic form "whom none must ever slay" which is undermined by the colloquial nature of mother's assertion that "carpet snakes/ were nothing but a pest."
Alliteration -"Steady slithering sound" and onomatopoeia "yelp" and "squawk" are used to enhance the jolly nature of the poem, along with the cartoon like simile
"she looked as innocent as the cat
that ate the pet canary."
In the final verse we see the ultimate debunking of superstition, as the dead father's tribal totem is eaten-
"I think we all had snake for tea
one day about that time."
This, and the fact that the whole poem is a piece of shameless doggerel, may suggest that Walker is ridiculing the superstitions and traditions held dear by her father.
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