A Far Cry from Africa

by Derek Walcott

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What is the effectiveness of Walcott's decision to end the poem "A Far Cry from Africa" with a series of rhetorical questions?

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Derek Walcott's "A Far Cry From Africa" is a poem predominantly about the violence of white, British colonialism in Africa. Towards the end of the poem, the poet reflects upon his own difficult situation as a black poet writing in the English language. Walcott himself came from a mixed racial background. He was born in the British West Indies and later lived and worked in Canada and England.

At the end of the poem, Walcott poses a series of rhetorical questions, beginning with, "I who am poisoned with the blood of both, / Where shall I turn, divided to the vein?" He is essentially caught between his love of European culture—and specifically the English language—on the one hand, and, on the other, his love of his ancestral roots in Africa. He is uncertain as to where his loyalties should lie—or, more exactly, how to reconcile the two sides of his ancestral heritage. The repetition of rhetorical questions at the end of the poem simply compounds his sense of uncertainty, or confusion. Significantly, there are no answers to the questions he poses, implying that the poet remains in some kind of inescapable cultural limbo.

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