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Compare And Contrast “Telephone Conversation” And “You Will Be Hearing From Us Shortly”

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The two poems “Telephone Conversion” by Wole Soyinka and the poem “You Will Be Hearing From Us Shortly” by U A Fanthorpe are both about people being interviewed. In the poem, “You Will Be Hearing From Us Shortly” there is a candidate edgily sitting in the interviewing room being humiliated and slowly being pushed into the ground and gradually rejected by the interviewer. The candidate is being humiliated in a private room whilst, in the poem, “Telephone Conversation” there is a student, who has come from Africa and he wants to rent a flat from a landlady. He is talking on a public telephone to the landlady; the landlady is humiliating him even on the phone because of his colour. The student does not like to waste his time so he confesses he is African. He thinks the public are watching his degradation in the street so he is getting embarrassed; all he could see is red,

“Red booth. Red pillar – box. Red double tiered

Omnibus squelching tar.”

The poet also uses a metaphor to show he wants to hide in the public phone box although it is in the full view of the public.

“Public hide and speak”

In the poem, “Telephone Conversation” we can also hear the student’s point of view as well as the landlady’s but we sympathise with the student. Most times we take the narrators side and we feel distressed for him. Even though there is not a narrator in the poem: “You Will Be Hearing From Us Shortly”, we still feel we want to be on the candidates side because she is being humiliated and embarrassed for no particular reason, but the interviewer picks holes, for example her looks, education, her accent, her address and even the fact that she was born, and the poor candidate is just sitting in the interviewing room, maybe having a red face and being embarrassed.

“Your qualifications, through impressive are

Not, we must admit, precisely what

We had in mind.”

The interviewer is suggesting that her qualifications are not good enough for the job. The candidate is not as capable enough as they thought she would be.

In the poem, “Telephone Conversation” The landlady was shocked into silence when he said the student was African. She was well brought up to reject him at first

“Silence. Silenced transmission of pressurised good-breeding.”

The student was trapped. The student imagines how the landlady looked, after hearing her voice he imagined her to be a highly sophisticated, upper class women, as this metaphor shows,

“Voice, when it came,

Lipstick coated, long gold- rolled

Cigarette holder piped caught I was, foully.”

The offensive words the interviewer said in “You Will Be Hearing From us shortly” is,

” And now a delicate matter: your looks.

You do appreciate this work involves

Contact with the actual public? Might they

Perhaps, find your appearance


This question the interviewer asks is too personal and rude, She is going beyond her limits of power as an interviewer. Her language is too sophisticated and snooty in other words the interviewer is trying to say to the candidate ‘You are too ugly’.

The abusive and offensive words the landlady asks is,

“HOW DARK?’… I had not misheard… ‘ARE YOU LIGHT

OR VERY DARK?’ Button B. Button A.”

The landlady is very nasty she even wanted to know what shade of brown the student was. This was a very rude, humiliating and ridiculous question she asked and it was hard for the student to reply because he couldn’t believe how racist some people are. As this poem is set in the 1950 people where openly racist at the time.

The landlady’s speech is displayed in capital letters.

In “Telephone Conversation” the student can’t believe what the landlady has said to him. He uses short sentences and he misses words out like. ‘A’ and ‘the’ and ‘was’ because he is flustered and panicky, he also wants to say whatever he wants to say before she slams the phone down.

“‘Was’ Voice, when it came,

Lipstick coated, long gold – rolled

Cigarette holder piped caught I was foully.”

The languages of both poems are like an ordinary speech they are colloquial and lines run onto next line.

“The price seemed reasonable, location

Indifferent. The landlady swore she lived

Off premises.”


The interviewer in the poem, “You Will Be Hearing From us shortly” uses high classed and superior language, whilst speaking to the candidate she uses the word ‘we’ and ‘us’ instead of ‘I’ throughout the entire poem. The language is rather snobbish. The candidate feels worthless by the harsh and malicious words used by the interviewer. We cannot hear the candidate’s part in the poem but we can feel how distressed the candidate must be and we can almost feel the reaction of the candidate. We want to be on the candidate’s side because we feel compassionate by the spiteful words the interviewer uses.

” Not, we must admit, precisely what

We had in mind.”

As the poem progresses the interviewer becomes more personal and ruder, she becomes more direct and she is patronizing her applicant. She uses formal language to insult the applicant’s age.

“Now your age perhaps you feel able

To make your own comment about that,

Too? We are conscious ourselves

Of the need for a candidate with precisely

The right degree of immaturity”

In other words the interviewer is saying to the candidate, ‘don’t you think you are a bit too old for the job’, ‘we were looking for someone young and suitable for the job’.

The interviewer from talking about the qualifications not being good enough, starts to talk about her looks then she starts suggesting about, the candidate should not have had children to pass on her bad qualities.

“Married, children,

We see the usual dubious

Desire to perpetuate what had better

Not happened at all.”

At the end the interviewer asks her,

“And you were born-?”

Yes pity.

So glad we agree.”

The interviewer is questioning her why were you born. The interviewer is very crafty because she hides whatever she wants to say she says it in an indirect way. She doesn’t say why were you born.

In the poem, “Telephone Conversation” the landlady says whatever she wants to say in the student’s face not knowing how this is affecting the student.

In the poem “You Will Be Hearing From Us Shortly” there is a comment at the end of every verse such as ‘Ah’ or ‘So glad we agree’ I think after the verse the interviewer says, something is then said by the candidate but we cannot hear the candidate. Upon this the interviewer makes a negative comment. The interviewer is unsupportive she makes no positive comments to the candidate throughout the poem which makes the candidate feel lonelier and less confident of herself. In the poem, “Telephone Conversation” there is no comment at the end of each verse but when the landlady talks, every sentence she speaks is short unlike the interviewer who speaks quite long sentences. The landlady asks,


At the end of the poem “Telephone Conversation” lines run onto next line when the student begs and pleads to give him a chance and the student also use wit and humour to persuade the landlady, to show how ridiculous and narrow minded she is being.

“Not altogether.

Facially I am brunette, but madam, you should see

The rest of me. Palm of my hands, sole of my feet,

Are peroxide blonde. Friction caused-

Foolishly, madam – by sitting down, has turned

My bottom raven black – one moment madam!”

The landlady is about to slam the phone down because she can’t be bothered with the student she has discriminated against him racially and the poet shows this with the following metaphor,


Her receiver rearing on the thunderclap.”

In the poem ” Telephone Conversation” the technique used to make it more effective is by using a dialogue because we could hear the words directly coming out of the landlady’s mouth, it creates more tension, which makes it dramatic, you can really feel the student’s embarrassments

In both poems the landlady and the interviewer are abusing their position of power; they are gradually rejecting the interviewee because of their prejudiced.

In the poem, “Telephone Conversation” the landlady is using racial prejudiced and in “You will Be Hearing From Us Shortly” the interviewer being simply prejudiced about someone from a different social class.

In the poem, “You Will Be Hearing From Us Shortly” The interviewer is deliberately cold hearted, insensitive, using elaborate and pitiless language to dismiss her job applicant. But in “Telephone Conversation” the landlady does not know the effect on her words. The landlady does not say all the cruel offensive words deliberately.

The poet is showing us how prejudiced and insensitive some people are. They are treating others like sub humans. Everybody is equal but the landlady thinks she is superior; she is treating the student as if he has no feelings. She doesn’t have respect for the student because he is coloured. The landlady is also from a different class and therefore thinks she is superior. People in power often like taking advantage of those without power. They often try to frighten or intimidate those who are powerless. Both the landlady and the interviewer are abusing their position of power.

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