Derek Walcott utilizes a variety of literary devices to create an elaborate metaphor of Barack Obama’s presidency, as well as the history that has led up to his inauguration. Obama is presented as “a young Negro at dawn in straw hat and overalls,” an image that features heavily throughout the poem. This figure plows through acres of land, sculpting it with his own hands to create something entirely new and different. By removing the cotton crops (an allusion to the days of slavery), this farmer is literally rebuilding his past so that the future can spring forth from the tattered ground. The last four lines reflect the effort that it takes to do this, as “the young ploughman feels the change in his veins, heart muscles, tendons…” Obama has endured much criticism for promising the somewhat empty words of hope and change. By taking office, however, Obama has indeed brought a change, both historically and literally.
This presidency will be watched very carefully, due to the nature of the economy and the state of America today. Walcott depicts “crows of predictable omens” and a “court of bespectacled owls’ that watch over the young ploughman, a clear metaphor for how Obama is seen through both critics and the media, respectively. In addition to this, there seems to be an intense rage surrounding all of the ploughman’s actions, such as the “gesticulating scarecrow,” the “moaning ground,” and “the lynching tree.” Each of these are symbols of fear and death, yet the young ploughman carries on with his work. Like his the work the young man does, Obama defies the negative history, the hateful past, and has proudly marches on with, as the poem puts it, a “tornado’s black vengeance.”