A Far Cry from Africa

by Derek Walcott

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What figurative language is used in the poem "A Far Cry from Africa"?

Quick answer:

The figurative language in “A Far Cry from Africa” comprises the words and images that aren’t meant to be taken literally but which help Derek Walcott illustrate the violence that Africa has had to confront.

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In Derek Walcott’s poem “A Far Cry from Africa,” the figurative language consists of words, phrases, and images that aren’t meant to be read literally. At the start of the poem, Walcott describes a wind “ruffling the tawny pelt” of Africa. The wind could be a literal wind; however, it’s unlikely that the tawny pelt is meant to be read literally. Africa is a continent, not an animal. Here, the figurative language reflects tropes that Walcott tackles throughout his poem. The figurative language calls attention to how people from Africa have historically been portrayed as less than human, savages, or beasts.

In the third stanza, Walcott incorporates more figurative language to draw attention to the lethal conflict between Africa and Western nations like England. The British aren’t actually wiping their hands on “the napkin of a dirty cause.” This image isn’t meant to be taken literately. However, as with the figurative language in the first stanza, the figurative language in the last stanza supports the theme of Western cruelty and indifference.

Of course, the second stanza is not absent of figurative language. Think about how the “worried beasts” and the war dance to the “tightened carcass of a drum” amplify the racism and violence that’s present in Walcott’s poem.

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