Other than the tree/book symbolism, how does Sujata Bhatt explore the concept of language in "A Different History"?

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

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Outside of the tree and book symbolism in the first stanza, I think that the use of language as a means to control is another symbolic construction in the poem.  The symbolic understanding of English is of vital significance in the poem.  In the second stanza, language is used as a means to control.  Bhatt describes this as something symbolic of language's legacy:

Which language

has not been the oppressor's tongue?

Which language

truly meant to murder someone?

The symbolic use of language is evident here.  The language that is used to articulate is the same that has been used to oppress.  This symbolic conceptualization of language is seen in how Bhatt closes the poem.  The language that "conquered" previous generations is also the same linguistic construction that "unborn grandchildren" have learned to "love."  In this, Bhatt explores how language can be both one of sell- affirmation and self- negation.  Language is shown to possess a symbolic quality in the poem.

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