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‘Telephone Conversation’ by Wole Soyinka and ‘You will be hearing from us shortly’ by U A Fanthorpe

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The poems ‘Telephone Conversation’ by Wole Soyinka and ‘You will be hearing from us shortly’ by U A Fanthorpe both discuss prejudice and discrimination through the use of tone and language. The poem ‘You will be hearing from us shortly’ uses the voice of the interviewer to convey the prejudice.

The first line in the poem, ‘You feel adequate to the demands of this decision?’ immediately implies that the interviewer is well educated, from the use of sophisticated language, but that they are also snobbish and rude and this sets the tone for the rest of the poem. The first stanza involves talking about the people’s qualifications and we are able to see that the interviewer already has negative thoughts about the interviewee, but at this moment, her prejudice is more subtle then at the end of the poem. Ageism is the next prejudice that the interviewer embarks on and again they say, ‘Perhaps you feel able/To make your own comment about that,’ which shows their condescending tone towards the candidate. The interviewer is also showing her superiority over the candidate, as she knows that the candidate will not try to question her.

When they say, ‘ And now the delicate matter: your looks,’ here it looks as is they are trying to implement some subtleness but they are not doing so and are still they are awfully blunt and offensive. The colon in the line furthermore indicates the candour of the prejudice. Then at the end of the stanza there is a change in structure as there is now a shortened lined followed by one word. This line reads, ‘Perhaps, find your appearance /: Disturbing?’ this enjambment emphasizes the word, ‘Disturbing?’ as does the question mark and the gap created by the shortened line. The repetitions of the question marks in the fifth stanza imply that the interviewee has a lack of intelligence and once again, the interviewer is enforcing their superiority. In addition, the constant repetition of educate, ‘Of your education?’ and, ‘Where were you educated?’ followed by a question mark also implies the condescending tone.

This also shows a difference as the interviewer is only interested in people who attended high-class public schools such as Eaton and Harrow school. The use of the enjambment in this stanza emphasizes the questions as the original line structure is now ignored and the lines are now set out in order to emphasize the questions. Finally, in the last stanza, the interviewer is completely dismissive of the candidate thinks that they should not have any children, this implies that the interviewer thinks that they are in a very different class, and is completely undermining the candidate. Although the interviewer is polite, the subtext is very in insulting and as the poem progresses their tone becomes more supercilious and the voice more verbose.

The candidate, in contrast to the interviewer, has no authority and as they do not try to react to the interviewers comments. They seem disappointed and disheartened at what they hear so they do not say much. However a brief moment in defiance is shown when they say, ‘So glad we agree,’ this implies that the candidate does have some pride and is entitled to their own thoughts. This overall is faltered by the fact that the interviewer has all the power and is allowed to undermine candidate. Therefore, by the end of the poem the candidate has no power and can do nothing about the prejudice that has just been inflicted upon them.

In the poem ‘Telephone conversation,’ the writer, Wole Soyinka, also uses the tone and expression of the main character to convey a sense of prejudice. The first comparison apparent is that in the first poem, there is only one voice and in this one, there are two. The effect that this has on the reader is that now the conversation is not so one-sided and now there is now a conversation where both sides of the conversation can be heard. In addition, in this one, we get to read the narrator’s interior monologue and this helps create a better understanding of his feelings and what he is saying.

Furthermore, in this poem there is also the use of enjambment but the poem as a whole is not all fluent as the first one but is more poetic, due to Soyinka’s poetic techniques such as assonance and onomatopoeia. As in both poems, a use of imagination is needed, as we do not know what any of the people look like or how old they are. In the first poem, we have to imagine the reaction and feelings of the interviewee and in this one; we have to imagine what the feelings of the landlady and narrator. In both of the poems, the prejudice is enhanced because none of the couples has ever met and that both conversations are done on the phone. This is shown by the shock that the landlady has when she is told that the man is black.

The Landlady in this poem is the person who shows her prejudice and she firstly uses it when she discovers the narrator’s race. In both poems there are constant techniques used to emphasize silence. In the first poem, enjambment and a change in line structure is altered whereas in this poem the repetition of the word, ‘silence,’ and the use of it in a one word sentence furthermore emphasizes it and convey the prejudice. When the landlady asks, ‘Are you light or very or very dark?’ she is giving the narrator little option but does expect him to answer, as opposed to the first poem where the interviewer does use questions but they are rhetorical and does not expect them to answer.

Both these techniques nonetheless convey their prejudice. The landlady in this poem, it seems, is trying to exert her superiority in this situation by asking lots questions, however she is just showing that she is ignorant and that she is no match for the man’s superior intellect. Similarly, the interviewer in the first poem tries to employ her superiority by asking lots of questions and undermining the candidate. Therefore, both the superior figures in both poems show prejudice but it is only in this poem that we get to see the reaction of the narrator.

In his opening words he shows that he has experienced prejudice before when he says, ‘Nothing remains but self-confession,’ which implies that he is trying to forestall prejudice with honesty. His reaction to this prejudice shows the degree of anger and amazement towards the landlady’s ignorance. With the use of ellipsis when he says, ‘ I had not misheard,’ conveys his shock at this prejudice. This a stark contrast to the first poem because we do not hear the reaction of the candidate. Throughout the poem, we learn that the narrator is very intelligent and even more so than his oppressor the landlady. He uses phrases and vocabulary that the landlady does not understand and so he is questioning her authority and intelligence.

His voice is similar of that of the interviewer where that he is starting to undermine the landlady. What is not similar is the way that the narrator uses humour to strengthen his intellectual superiority whilst the interviewer is very blunt and straight to the point. The narrator himself does have some prejudice toward the landlady, in that he is concentrating on her stupidity and ignorance. But this is a much more acceptable prejudice because the landlady firstly tried to act more superior but when she shows hers true colours she is nowhere near as intelligent as the narrator. Therefore, even though the landlady is predominantly prejudice the narrator is also prejudice in his own right.

In conclusion, the first poem is more prejudice in that it is completely one-sided and that the candidate does not respond. However, in the second poem there is prejudice on both sides and power shifts continuously in this one. Nevertheless it is both the interviewer and the Landlady who, by the end of the poems, show who has the superiority.

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