Wole Soyinka

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How are the speaker's feeling conveyed to us throughout the poem? How do we know he is stung by the landlady's insensitivity?

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In "Telephone Conversation" by Wole Soyinka, as soon as the narrator hears the landlady ask how dark his skin is, he starts taking stock of the objects around him:

Button B. Button A. Stench
Of rancid breath of public hide-and-speak.
Red booth. Red pillar-box. Red double-tiered
Omnibus squelching tar. It was real!

Although he is used to racism, this is a new variety of color prejudice in which, apparently, the precise shade of his skin matters. The narrator is so incredulous that he looks around him to ensure that he is still inhabiting the real world. When he is sufficiently convinced by the solid objects around him, he bitterly describes himself as shamed and his silence as "ill-mannered" before ironically calling the landlady "Considerate" for laboring her point.

When she has repeated her question, the narrator employs devastating sarcasm. This is lost on the landlady, who agrees that she does mean "like plain or milk chocolate." He goes on to dehumanize himself further by describing himself like a paint color, then dissecting his body according to how dark each part of it is. The reader clearly senses his chagrin, but the landlady is obviously not the sort of person who understands satire. In the end, he can only give up and suggest she see for herself, reversing their positions by sounding like a landlord unable to describe a lodging precisely enough for a particularly fastidious potential tenant.

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