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In "Problems with Hurricanes," the poet Victor Hernandez Cruz creates a humorous tone about the serious subject of hurricanes.
The poet does this by describing how some people are killed in hurricanes by
Green plantains and bananas
flying into town like projectiles.
The poem states that death by drowning "has honor"; by contrast,
to suffer a mango smashing
or a plantain hitting your
Temple at 70 miles per hour
is the ultimate disgrace.
This image is, of course, humorous in a macabre sort of way.
Despite its lighthearted tone, the poem can be seen as an existensialist statement. It describes mankind as a helpless victim to the elements of nature. Still, a person can maintain a certain dignity by submitting to his fate without fear:
Don't worry about the noise
Don't worry about the water
Don't worry about the wind.
In addition, the fury of nature is not without beauty:
If you are going out
beware of mangoes
And all such beautiful
Victor Hernandez Cruz creates a humorous tone about a serious subject in the poem "Problems with Hurricanes" by first being a bit capricious with the title of the poem. The title “Problems with Hurricanes” sounds a bit flippant, and does not have the seriousness to it that a title such as “The Destructive Force of Hurricanes” has, or something similar.
In the first stanza, as noted above, the humorous tone is created by referring to small fruits that sail on the tempestuous winds in town and cause havoc. Here, Cruz is saying that it’s not massive sheets of plywood or crashing bricks and stones that can kill or injure someone – a simple tender fruit can be just as lethal. This is black or dark humour here, meant to convey a real truth through the sheer oddball way that a hurricane can wreak its destruction.
In the second stanza, the poet continues the description of death by something as benign as fruit. Again, the reader may find his or herself stifling a chuckle when reading that a family member must relate to someone that a family member “… got killed by a flying Banana.” You catch yourself almost feeling guilty at recognizing the humour because the subject of hurricanes and the death and injury they cause is such a serious matter.
Into stanza three, the disgrace of being killed or maimed by a piece of flying fruit continues. The poet Cruz says that dying by drowning or being slammed by torrential winds is more honorable than being killed by “…a plantain hitting your Temple at 70 miles per hour…” Again, the humorous tone of this poem is maintained by pointing out that bizarre occurrences involving minor objects can be a reality in life.
In the final stanza of the poem, Cruz continues the tongue in cheek tone against the backdrop of a serious weather event by saying beware of mangoes, more so than noise or water or wind when it comes to hurricanes. The humour here is that no one would typically think of this when a hurricane hits. To have this mentioned elicits chuckles until one realizes that death by flying fruit can happen and is a serious condition to take note of and prepare for when a hurricane threatens.
Other meanings about life that the poem has include us not taking life for granted. In a split second, at any time, tragedy can befall anyone, even from situations that do not at first appear life-threatening. In the case of this poem, someone may prepare for a hurricane and batten down the hatches on the home front and board up the windows, and set up sand bags to prevent flooding, only to step outside and be killed, as the poet says, by a flying banana.
Furthermore, another meaning concerning life in the poem is that human beings, despite their best efforts, are still often held in the grip of forces greater than we are, whether we like to think that way or not. We can do all we desire to prepare and confront weather systems, only to be tossed aside by the immense power of such forces.
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