Monday, January 26, 2009

Forty Acres: A Poem for Barack Obama

Derek Walcott's Forty Acres: A Poem for Barack Obama is a beautiful poem that exemplifies the struggle of the African-American race. "Out of the turmoil" (1) of history comes "a young Negro" (2) to lead the way and to plow the field ahead of him. The poem shows the power of one man moving forward to lead the rest. Also his followers are not all Black, some include whites who are a field of snow-flecked cotton" (line 5-6). Later on, cotton is used again to denote "cotton-haired ancestors" (line 9) of Obama (the ploughman) to show how the two races are intertwined and based on age, Blacks get white hair just as Whites do to signify wisdom in old age. These ancestors, Black and White, plowed the way before him earlier. He picks up the plow to plow and sow the field so that others may follow and sow more seeds and reap the benefits.

Walcott uses personification to show the resistance to the ploughman from the "gesticulating scarecrow stamping with rage at him," "the moaning ground, the lynching tree, the tornado's black vengeance" (line 13, 15-16). Even nature is against the ploughman. History, nature and time have been very cruel to the Negros, but they have persevered to push through and plough the field to gain better equality and more rights for the next generation.

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