What are some of the various figures of speech used in the poem "The Patriot," by Nissim Ezekiel?

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vangoghfan | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Nissim Ezekiel uses a variety of figures of speech in his poem “The Patriot,” including the following:  

Lines 2-3 use “anaphora,” because both lines begin with the same word (“Why”). In this case, the anaphora helps intensify the questioning quality of the poem, not only be offering two questions in a row but also by making those two questions sound alike, so that the speaker’s voice sounds emphatic.

Line 2 uses repetition (“fighting fighting”) to suggest the intensity of the speaker’s emotions and the strength of his preoccupation with violence.

Line 9 uses alliteration, or the repetition of consonant sounds (“for fashion or foreign), to help enhance the musical qualities of the poem.

Line 9 also uses internal rhyme to intensify the musical quality of the phrase “for fashion or foreign.”

Lines 10 and 11 use what might be called “near repetition” for playful emphasis and to enhance the rhythmic quality of the poem:

Other day I'm reading . . .

(Every day I'm reading . . .

Lines 12-13 use assonance to enhance our sense of the connection and flow of sounds between the two lines (“goonda” / “threw”).

Line 16 uses an allusion to William Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar (“Friends, Romans, Countrymen”) for several reasons: (1) to draw parallels between the violence and political struggles of ancient Rome and those of modern India; (2) to help characterize the speaker as a man who is literate and who is conscious of his literacy and interested in displaying it; (3) to enhance our sense of the speaker as a slightly comic figure who seems a bit pretentious but in ways that are naïve and thus charming.

Line 19 uses a list of long, multisyllabic, Latinate words so that each word is emphasized, but also to create a somewhat naïvely comic effect.  See also line 35.

Line 20, like many lines in the poem, uses a malapropism, or incorrect word (“Be patiently,” which should be “Be patient”) to help characterize the speaker as a good-hearted man whose command of English is not yet perfect.

Line 21 uses internal rhyme (“glass lassi”) to enhance the musical quality of the poem. Line 26 uses the same technique to achieve a somewhat comic effect: “I'm the total teetotaler.”

Line 32 uses a cliché (“All men are brothers”) to suggest the unoriginal nature of the speaker’s thoughts and language but also to suggest how a lofty ideal can come to sound merely trite.

Lines 40-41 use ironic juxtaposition (“coming” / “going”) to enhance the subtle comedy of the work.

Lines 42-45 complete a pattern of ironic symmetry: the poem had begun by emphasizing conflict between groups; it ends by emphasizes concord between individuals.


Something extra:Ezekiel's poem is a splendid example of imitating a colloquial dialect. The speaker's words seem artless, but making them seem that way is paradoxically one of the accomplishments of Ezekial's art. In order to make the speaker sound naive, the poet must be sophisticated and clever. In order to make the speaker sound unlettered, the poet must be highly artful and literate. The poem is far more effecitve as a piece of naive colloquialism than it would have been if it had been written is a style that was more formal or conventional. Part of the reason we take this speaker so seriously is, paradoxically, because he seems to have no serious agenda to push and no elaborate thesis to express as slick propaganda.


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