Monday, January 26, 2009

Forty Acres

This poem is an incredibly poem simply because it speaks to individuals in very specific ways. Depending on an individual's background, one can make many different interpretations. This poem can have different meaning for an African-American from the South than it does for Caucasian college student from Indiana. With this in mind, I believe the poem is filled with many literary devices that describe a theme of change and hope. Walcott uses plenty of metaphors to portray this theme of change. It is best to start at the top of the poem and plow through it.

The first line is very important. It begins with the words "Out of the turmoil" followed by alliteration of emerges, emblem, and engraving. Turmoil is the word that is in question. What is this turmoil? First impressions would be that turmoil stands for the difficult past of African Americans in the United States, but I believe the word stands for something else--simply past and present with no emphasis yet on the future. The use of the word turmoil sets the stage and gives more meaning for the literal change that occurs at the end of the poem.

From this turmoil comes a Negro at dawn. Dawn is used twice within the poem. It appears in lines 2 and 19. Dawn is a very important word to examine. When we first see dawn it is referring to time. The second time we see "dawn" it is a noun claiming the light streaks. I believe this difference is important to notice because of the two different meanings. Dawn used as time could be a metaphor signifying the time of Obama's era. The second use of dawn is referring to the change that Obama is bringing in his term as president. I believe the use of two different meanings of dawn is important because it highlights the change that the poem is all about.

We see a literal change of the Negro during the last several lines of the poem. It is as if the young ploughman has become supercharged by some force--possibly all of the subjects referred to throughout the poem--and has ploughed the field. Ploughing is simply preparing the field for the seeds. By keeping this in mind, one could interpret the ploughman to not be Obama, but instead be all of the African Americans who came before him, preparing his way for presidency. Ploughing is incredibly tough work, and all of the work that Malcolm X, W.E.B. DuBois, MLK Jr, and many others was incredibly difficult, but because of what they have done, Obama is able to be the first African American president. These people were enraged, motivated and grew, just like the ploughman's muscles, tendons, and most importantly heart have grown. These men have ploughed the way for Obama's seeds of change to grow. I believe this poem is not just a tribute to President Obama, but it is also more of a tribute to African-Americans who have endured their tough history in American society.

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