How might one analyze the poem titled "Western Civilization," by Agostinho Neto?
The poem “Western Civilisation,” by Agostinho Neto, presents a grimly ironic depiction of a life lived in crushing poverty and hard work – a depiction that contrasts satirically with the poem’s title. That title suggests lofty cultural development, an achievement of high standards of culture and of social development. The conditions depicted in the poem, however, suggest quite the opposite. The title suggests that western civilization is in some way connected with, and perhaps even responsible for, the conditions the poem describes. The title suggests that the people who live “civilized” lives in the western countries (especially in Europe and North America) benefit materially from the exploitation of the kind of people the poem depicts. Such exploitation contradicts the ideal of civilization.
The poem opens by describing appalling living conditions. The opening presents a “house” that hardly even deserves to be called a shack:
Sheets of tin nailed to posts
driven in the ground
make up the house.
Some rags complete the intimate
The tin, the posts, and the rags all suggest the flimsiness of this structure. The word “intimate” is especially ironic, since intimacy is usually associated with privacy and comfort. The word “house” is carefully postponed until the very end of the third line, so that it comes as a kind of shock to think that people actually live in such conditions and consider this kind of habitation a home. Obviously this kind of “house” can offer little comfort and little protection from the weather. The word “landscape” is a bit surprising; a word such as “abode” might have seemed more appropriate. Perhaps, however, the word “landscape” was...
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