English 9 L2
6 January 2015
“The War of the Wall” Literary Analysis
The short story “The War of the Wall,” by Toni Cade Bambara takes place someplace during the mid to late 1960’s to the mid 70’s, shortly after America’s integration and in the middle of the Vietnam War. The Vietnam War era was a very troubling time and effected almost everyone living in America at the time. The war was to prevent and resist communism in Vietnam. America was losing the battle, and they didn’t have enough volunteers for an effective military. This is why they started drafting men to serve in the war. When someone was drafted, they had no choice but to go to war. This was very troubling and sometimes tragic for the families and loved ones of the men who got drafted, especially when they didn’t return from war. In “The War of the Wall,” the children on Taliaferro Street are troubled by the fact that a woman had come to their neighborhood looking to paint a wall on their street that had been dedicated by the children to a man called Jimmy Lyon who had been killed in the war, and also to the legacy of the children and their families in a time of segregation. The wall was clearly very important to them, and the narrator and his brother Lou planned to stop the woman from painting over it. In the end they fail, and the woman succeeds in painting their wall, and the kids of Taliaferro Street are shocked by what the woman, who turns out to not be a stranger at all, has created. “The War of the Wall” is a beautiful piece of literature that honors the history and struggles of America and also teaches not to make assumptions about people and their intentions. Bambara’s use of irony, suspense, and a powerful theme make the message of her story extremely powerful and shocking to the reader, who will surely remember it long after they’re finished reading.
One literary device used by Bambara to give her story meaning is the use of a strong theme. The strongest recurring theme in this story is segregation, and the story remembers the struggles of African Americans in their battle to gain their basic human rights in a country built against them. It is stated in the beginning of the story that “Big kids have been playing handball against the wall since so-called integration when the crazies ‘cross town poured cement in our pool so we couldn’t use it.” This quote portrays the effect that segregation has had on the children’s lives, even after integration, by the fact that they were forced out of their own swimming pool evidently by white people who didn’t agree with the integration. The narrator also refers to integration as “so-called integration,” which is a use of sarcasm by the author, suggesting that integration has not been successful. This also shows how the children came to claim ownership of the wall as an effect of the segregation, which is doubtlessly part of its legacy and value. The children of Taliaferro Street were outraged at the fact that she was painting on their wall, which had so much value to them because of what the wall meant to them, but the painter, instead of erasing the children’s history from the wall, decided to honor it by painting a representation of the history of Black America and all of the heroes who fought for the rights of all people and who’s lives and legacies had such a major impact on the lives of the children.
Toni Cade Bambara’s use of irony in the ending of “The War of the Wall” is what makes the story memorable and gets the message across. The falling action occurs as the narrator and Lou are on their way to spray-paint graffiti the wall so the artist woman couldn’t complete her project. At this point in the story, the reader is routing for the narrator, and most likely expects the kids to spray-paint over the wall and protect it from the woman, who the reader along with the narrator assumes intends to erase Jimmy Lyon’s legacy and the children of Taliaferro streets’ legacy and...
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