How can we analyze the poem "A Far Cry from Africa" by post-colonial criticism approach?

Asked on by ihemmati

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

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From a postcolonial point of view, Walcott's poem brings out a condition that has been caused by the presence of the "master" over "the slave."  In this colonial dialectic, the pain and suffering endured is not something that exists on one side.  Walcott brings out that the landscape of Africa that has become marred with violence is a result of the colonial policies where European aggressors did much to ruin the balance and harmony that might have existed prior to what is presented in the poem.  The result, as can be seen in the ending, is that there is a genuine feeling that what is present in Africa and what has been in Africa causes a feeling of displacement because both realities and those who have perpetrated it have moved far from the original identity of Africa.  Additionally, Walcott points to a hybridity of violence, a condition where there is enough blame to pass on from the colonizers to the colonized.  The theme of a hybrid identity is inverted a bit when Walcott questions both the British and the African leadership that has brought violence, pain, and suffering to continent and people.  At this, Walcott seems to be loyal to both ends, though disappointed with them, providing the reader with a hybridity of unhappiness.

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teachersage | (Level 2) Senior Educator

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Post-colonial criticism analyzes literature from the point of view of the colonized, the people who are oppressed by colonial power. It expresses the subaltern point of view, often called the view from below. 

While Walcott, a poet of mixed African and European descent, feels torn in his loyalties, the poem primarily depicts the damage caused by rationalizing the destructive force of colonialism. 

Corpses are scattered through a paradise.

Only the worm, colonel of carrion, cries:

“Waste no compassion on these separate dead!”

A colonel would most likely be a colonial official, here likened to a worm feeding on the flesh of the dead. While the colonizer uses "statistics" to justify the brutality of "colonial policy," the narrator juxtaposes the cold rationality of colonialism, a system which for a long time brought great wealth to the colonizers, to the damage it does to both the colonizer and the colonized. The narrator says the statistics mean nothing either to the "white child hacked to death" or to "savages" (how the colonizers characterized native peoples) who he ironically calls as "expendable as Jews."

Acknowledging that he contains the "blood of both" European and African, the narrator wonders how to choose

      Between this Africa and the English tongue I love?

He cannot turn away from the bloody violence wrought by colonialism. At the same time, he has internalized the culture and values of the oppressor and values "the English tongue." At the end of the poem, he expresses a common post-colonial theme: that of one's identity being torn between two cultures.

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