Theme and tone in ‘Telephone Conversation’ by Wole Soyinka
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Telephone Conversation was a poem concerning the racial discrimination between the Caucasian and African. In the poem, the poet wanted to rent a house from the landlady originally. However, after he stated that he was African, the conversation turned to discuss the poet’s skin color swiftly and it lasted till the end of the conversation.. Repetition was used to emphasize on the issue of racial discrimination. ‘Dark’ was repeated to show how much did the landlady care about the poet’s color, because ‘dark’ usually connects with the dark skin color of African. The landlady was obviously discriminating other races. It could also be shown from the question she repeated asking, ‘are you light or very dark?’After the poet told the landlady that he was African, the landlady’s tone changed at once. Alliteration like ‘clinical, crushing’ was used to emphasize the coldness in the landlady’s tone when she knew the man was African.
Metaphor liked ‘spectroscopic’ was used to compare the landlady’s mind with equipment which was used to judge a color. The significance of using this metaphor was to show the landlady was eager to find out what color the poet was.
Throughout the whole poem, the poet used different techniques to show how Caucasian discriminated the dark. He criticized it was not appropriate to judge a person with his skin color. Instead, they should know each other through direct contact and interaction, ‘madam, you should see the rest of me. Palm of my hand, soles of my feet are a peroxide blond.’To conclude, the poet brought out the message that there shouldn’t have racial discrimination existed.
Tone in ‘Telephone Conversation’ by Wole SovinkaThe poet conveyed his feelings on racism through a telephone conversation with a landlady. The tone of the poem was satirical and playful. He compared the education level between himself and the landlady and expressed his anger towards this incident; on the other hand, he also mocked the landlady as his own enjoyment.
Diction was used in two aspects.
First, the poet used diction to express his anger, such as ‘red’ was repeated use to emphasize the anger of the poet when the landlady kept asking him, ‘are you light or very dark?’, because ‘red’ usually associates with ‘burning fire’.
Second, the poet used difficult diction, such as ‘sepia’, ‘brunette’ to insult the landlady of her ‘not as well-educated as he was’, because he knew the woman didn’t understand what these words meant, actually he was mocking the landlady and was totally enjoying in it. This kind of sarcasm added on to the ironic tone of the poem.
Imagery like ”Stench of rancid breath’ was used to show the dissatisfaction of the poet towards racism. Since people would feel annoying and unsatisfied when they smelled something ‘stench’ and ‘rancid’.
To conclude, the poet carried a satirical and playful tone throughout the poem, at the same time, he also expressed his dissatisfaction towards racism.