How does Imtiaz Dharker explore  attitudes towards terrorism in "The Right Word?"

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think that Dharker is able to bring out the challenge in defining what terrorism is in the modern setting.  The struggle to find "the right word" to describe what is seen is a part of this process.  Language is shown to be expansive in describing the figure standing outside the speaker's door.  Just as with the modern lexical association with terrorism, there are many words used to describe what is perceived to be reality.  The struggle here is that the "right word" is elusive.  Is it "terrorism?"  Is it "freedom fighter?"  The need to find "the right word" is an impossible task.  Dharker's poem cannot settle on "the right word."  In this, an attitude towards terrorism is evident in that there is a struggle to define and to understand it.  The challenge to find "the right word" about terrorism might be a reflection of the individual's struggle to understand their own preconceptions and attitudes about that which is around them.  In doing so, Dharker is able to fully delve into how the way to find "the right word" might be to transcend language.  When struggling in mighty futility to define the figure at the door, the speaker invites the figure inside to dine with the speaker's family.   When the figure enters, removing their shoes, it is a moment where words might have failed, "the right word" could not be found.  Yet, there is a welcoming that transcends language and helps to build bonds.  It is here where Dharker might be suggesting that our attitudes towards terrorism might have to move from the realm of verbal definition, and pure understanding through actions and emotions.  In this, "the right word" might not be found.  The right sentiment is all that matters.


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