A Far Cry from Africa

by Derek Walcott

Start Free Trial

How does "A Far Cry from Africa" depict the Mau Mau rebellion?

"A Far Cry from Africa" depicts the Mau Mau rebellion in ambiguous terms. At various points in the poem, the speaker shows sympathy for the aims of the guerrilla organization while refraining from endorsing its violent methods.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

As someone of both English and African ancestry, Derek Walcott feels torn between the two sides in the brutal conflict between the British colonial authorities in Kenya and the Mau Mau insurgents. As he puts it, he is "poisoned with the blood of both," which makes it nigh impossible for him to take sides.

At the same time, Walcott, as a Black man, cannot help but feel sympathy for the anti-colonial cause and frames the conflict in one-sided terms as that between a gorilla and a superman. The implication here is that the insurgents cannot hope to prevail against much stronger opponents.

Walcott may have sympathy for the overall aims of the Mau Mau, but he cannot, and will not, endorse the violent methods that they use. He refers to "the white child hacked in bed," a clear reference to the indiscriminate slaughter that the Mau Mau routinely inflicted on white settlers as part of their struggle.

And yet, the speaker cannot forget how he himself has cursed "The drunken officer of British rule." No fan of colonialism yet at the same time repulsed by the violence of the Mau Mau, the speaker doesn't know where to turn. In his inability to take sides in this conflict, he feels that he is betraying both parts of his heritage.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team