How do I analyze the poem "In the Shadow of Signal Hill" by Essop Patel?

2 Answers

litteacher8's profile pic

litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Tone and imagery are elements that can be analyzed in this poem.

Signal Hill overlooks Cape Town and the Atlantic coast of South Africa. It is popular with tourists and campers now, but this poem discusses its darker days.  The poem discusses “the ruins of district six.”  When it was destroyed, all of the residents were evicted and had nowhere to go.  This additional hardship and abuse explains why the poem rings with anger in every line. 

The “howling wind” and “murky waters” are repeated images.  These are gloomy and speak of destruction.

The poem’s tone is something that you can describe in an analysis.  The tone of this poem is melancholy and irate.  The poem describes the effects of apartheid.

children of colour
gather shells
and hold them to their ears
and listen to the lamentations of slaves

The word “lamentations” is strong and speaks of a deep-seated grief and injustice.  All of this contributes to the overall mood of the poem, which is dejected and irritated at the past.

karythcara's profile pic

Karyth Cara | College Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

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One part of poetic analysis is determining the theme of the poem. This poem thematically represents a call to non-white south Africans to listen to the voices of the "heroes from the island," from Robben Island, which is seen in the shadow of Signal Hill, as they cry out for redress of wrongs done by apartheid rule. Signal Hill is close-by Langa township where displaced blacks would have gone after the destruction of their former homes in District 6.