A Far Cry from Africa

by Derek Walcott

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What is the idea of the following excerpt from the poem "A Far Cry from Africa" by Derek Walcott? "The gorilla wrestles with... tongue I love"

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In this poem, Derek Walcott wrestles with his biracial heritage. In the first stanza of the poem, he refers to the violent Mau Mau uprising, in which Kikuyu people in Kenya revolted against the British from about 1952-1960. He refers to their violence, as they "Batten upon the bloodstreams of the veldt." In the second stanza, he represents the British as "the worm, colonel of carrion" who justify their policies of colonialism with "statistics." However, these policies result in a white child being killed in bed by "savages"--the word that the British might use to describe the natives in Kenya. In the third stanza, he compares the natural act of hunting for prey with the senseless killing conducted by humans.

In the excerpt that begins "the gorilla wrestles" to the end of the poem, Walcott wrestles with his own heritage as a descendant of both whites and Africans. The "gorilla" perhaps stands for Africans, while the superman represents Europeans. He feels he is "poisoned" by both heritages, or types of blood. He wonders where to turn, as he feels "divided to the vein," or in his blood. He finds it difficult to choose between Africa, which he loves, and the English language, which he also loves. He wonders how he can witness the slaughter both the English and the Kenyans perpetuate and remain loyal to them, and he wonders if he should betray his loyalty to them. But, in the last line, he wonders how he can renounce his tie to Africa and remain alive, as this connection is so vital to him. He seems to say that he will be able to somehow reconcile his divided loyalties and remain committed to both heritages. 

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