Derek Wolcott’s poem, Forty Acres: A Poem for Barack Obama uses numerous literary devices to develop a deeper meaning. A key literary device prevalent in this poem is Wolcott’s use of foreshadowing of the events leading up to President Obama’s inauguration: “Out of the turmoil emerges one emblem, an engraving” (1). To further the understanding of this foreshadowing Wolcott employs metaphors, as well several synecdoches.
Throughout the poem the young African American male is depicted as a “young ploughman.” Corresponding to the first line of the poem, “one emblem” will emerge “out of the turmoil,” this emblem is the young ploughman (1). From this turmoil emerges an emblem with an “impossible prophecy”, the oxymoron created by this makes events that recently occurred inevitable. Although this metaphor is important an understanding the poem, there is a synecdoche that demands thought.
Furthering the alteration occurring in the ploughman, Wolcott writes, “and the young ploughman feels the change in his veins. / heart, muscles, tendons,” (17,18). The veins that Wolcott speaks of in this line can be understood has the African American ethnicity. The change that is occurring in the veins of the young ploughman has changed, and that changed has placed its presence in the heart, muscles, and tendons of the race. The last line of the poem sums up the change that has occurred, “light streaks the field and furrows wait for the sower” (20). No longer will the constraints held upon African Americans be present.
The transformation of the “young ploughman” that Derek Wolcott depicts in this poem demonstrates the path that the African American race traveled in its “impossible prophecy” (3).