A Far Cry from Africa Commentary
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The poem, A Far Cry From Africa, by Derek Walcott, is that of the poet’s indecisive feelings towards his motherland of Africa compared to the English in him. Derek Walcott is a poet who is mixed race; both sets of his grandparents were mixed color marriages. This background on Walcott is what gives the poem depth, as it is in the first person from the point of view of Walcott being the narrator, and it deals the Walcott’s duel identity and the proceedings of being two races. From research on Walcott and the poem, it is set in the town of Kikuyu in Kenya during the 1950’s when there was violence in Kenya between Kenyan rebels and Europeans countering them. This divides Walcott even further and helps understand more about the poem.
Throughout Walcott’s poem, it is expressed that he has a certain home-like love for Africa, but, being both African and European, he cannot choose whom to settle with in times of conflict. Walcott states when referring to this conflict that, “I…am poisoned with the blood of both” (26). He makes this point clearer to the reader by questioning himself right after, “Where shall I turn, divided to the vein?” (27), letting it be known that not even himself can make decisions of where his blood, and therefore allegiance, lies.
Furthermore, the style in which the poem is written adds to it immensely. How Walcott chose to narrate, punctuate, and present his work makes it rich and does nothing but add to the poem. The narration of “A Far Cry From Africa” is handled by Walcott playing the role of the narrator who is reflecting on personal feelings of the situation at hand.
Therefore, it is only his opinion with a sort of stream of conscious technique being used, as it is just a rapid succession of thoughts, just like how it could happen in reality, adding a further realism to Walcott’s poem. The punctuation of this poem is rather unique; very few lines have full stops, or any sort of punctuation after them making the poem flow much more rapid. Also, many rhetorical questions are posed to the reader to draw in the reader, making it feel like the narrator is directly asking advice to the reader.
A final point about Walcott’s “A Far Cry From Africa” is about how Walcott views violence. Due to the fact that this poem is about conflict, violence is prominent throughout this poem. In the fourth line of the poem, he describes Kikuyu as looking like, “Corpses are scattered through a paradise”.
In short, meaning that the people of the “English tongue” (30) that Walcott loves so much, have caused his paradise to be ravished; “…brutish necessity wipes its hands upon the napkin of a dirty cause” (22-23) due to this violence in Africa which personally Walcott is torn about. Furthermore, Walcott thinks this conflict is rather pointless. He believes that “The violence of beast on beast” (14) is a natural fight, however, that the violence of man is not necessary and that man “Seeks his divinity by inflicting pain” (17).
In conclusion, this poem strongly deals with conflict. Both conflict between man (violence), and an inner conflict (who to side with). Both questions that Walcott posses that cannot be answered, even though I have greater compassion with Walcott’s personal troubles than the conflicts between man, because those conflicts have become (almost) nature. Furthermore, this poem is structured, with its style and punctuation, to serve as an insight into the mental conflict Walcott has with where he should side. And lastly, Walcott’s view on violence is a further driving factor that adds confliction to where he should side.