As the essay title states I am going to analyse a Poem written by Grace Nichols. Grace was born in Georgetown, Guyana, when finished school she went to university and then had several jobs before moving to England in 1977. Nichols then wrote poems mainly about racially sensitive topics, motherhood and sexuality. The poem, which I shall analyse, is called ‘Fear’. The main storyline in this poem is that a woman is worried and fears for her child living in England. I think this poem has a deeper meaning, basically about black people trying to adapt or not accepting the fact that they have to adapt to the way in which white people live.
The writer of this poem sees it as blacks against whites, she feels very uncomfortable living in England, and maybe she feels out of place? Out numbered? In this poem there is much racial tension as she does not see the population to be as ‘one’, as equals. She uses words like ‘our culture’, and ‘your own’. This clearly shows that she sees white coloured people as being different to blacks. I think that she sees the world population split into two – black people against the rest of the world. In ‘fear’ there is a big culture clash and this is what Grace Nichols wants us to think about.
The culture clash is the main theme running through this poem. In the first two lines of this poem – ‘ our culture rub skin’ and ‘against your own’, we can see here that the technique used is enjambment. In these two lines we see the first signs of a tension felt by Grace Nichols between the two cultures. We know this because of several words, firstly ‘our’ here we can see that Grace is sectioning her culture off, to make it us against them. Then on the next line we see ‘against’, this highlights a sense of difference, so in a different country and not around her own people.
The word ‘your’ suggests that she thinks she is not included in the white community or she is on the outside. From these first two lines of the poem we can see that Grace feels great tension between the two cultures and we know she feels that she is not one of us. The theme does not just occur in ‘fear’ but also occurs in the other poems in which Grace Nichols has written. In ‘two old black men on a Leicester square park bench’, we also see this culture clash, these men feel unwanted in England and so lament about there homeland making themselves think that London is such a bad place to live and that the Caribbean is more like heaven.
To want to go back to the Caribbean so much they must feel that blacks are unwanted and are not treat as equals. The theme in ‘fear’ continues throughout the poem because we can see it in the last two lines as well as the first two, – ‘I think my child’s too loving’ and ‘for this fear’ – here again we see that the technique used is enjambment and the effect that this has is that it makes us think about the two lines as one. We see a culture clash in these two lines, again, because of specific words, which have been used. Firstly ‘my’, when she uses this word, we see that she is sectioning herself of from anybody else.
Everyone loves their child very much but I think that Grace Nichols thinks that her love for her child is better than anyone else’s. When she says ‘too loving’ I get the feeling that she has replaced the word ‘loving’ from ‘good’, she thinks because she is black and living in England her life is so much more difficult than an average white coloured persons life, and therefore her child should not need to go through what she has been through. She thinks her child is too good to live in England because the majority of the population are not black and therefore her baby will not be accepted and treat as an equal in this country.
I will now analyse the mood and atmosphere in this poem, and try to show the feelings of the reader. In ‘fear’ I feel that the mood is very uncomfortable because we are reading about someone who is not content with everyday life of living in England. As we are English citizens who are reading this poem, we obviously do not agree with what Grace Nichols thinks and because we are content with the everyday life of living in England this I think therefore makes the mood and atmosphere very uncomfortable.
Another way in which this poem could be said as being uncomfortable is in the way Grace Nichols feels. It is obvious she is uncomfortable with the fact that she is living in England and this therefore makes the mood and atmosphere of the poem uncomfortable. “Ask, ‘are you going back sometime? ” – This quote is one, which shows the atmosphere and mood, it does this by almost suggesting she is not wanted. Grace Nichols feels as if this question is what us white people are always thinking, as if we feel that she doesn’t belong here which shows a sense of being uncomfortable.
When the reader reads this poem they are almost forced not to agree or accept the point that Grace Nichols is putting across. She is basically saying that blacks are not accepted in England, which would therefore make us racist. When the reader realizes what Grace is saying, we think she is prejudice because she thinks all whites don’t accept blacks, she does not know all white people and so therefore is prejudging many of us. When reading this I am sure many readers feel anger. The reason for this is that many readers will feel Grace is prejudice. ‘And here?
Here’ – this quote in particular may make readers feel anger and the reason for this is that Grace dismisses the thought of London straight away. She has just described her homeland and in the next stanza she does not bother to compare it to London. ‘Here’ is repeated to create the effect of dismissing the thought of London and that she obviously doesn’t have much positive to say about the city. So therefore when readers from this city or country read this line they may feel great anger towards the writer, as she cannot say one decent thing about London.
In the next section of this essay I am going to try to analyse how the poem is written and the way in which the language is used. To do this I shall pick out interesting words and phrases from the poem and describe what effect they have on the poem. When reading this poem several times, one of the most noticeable lines is ‘home is where the heart lies’ this is very interesting because it could have two different meanings. In this line Grace has been very clever and left spaces to emphasise the word ‘lies’.
This word could mean one of two things, lies as in where the heart rests or lies as in not telling the truth. If taken as where the heart rests then the author is conveying a sense of homesickness. If taken in the sense that at home the heart doesn’t tell the truth then we know that Grace is feeling no homesickness at all. Personally I think the author is feeling homesickness and so when writing this line meant it to be where the heart can rest. Obviously the heart never rests, otherwise the author would be dead but in this line the word ‘heart’ is a metaphor and stands for feelings, emotions and soul.
In relating this line back to the whole poem I feel that because of the author’s homesickness, this could be a reason why she has such a dislike for England, she misses her homeland too much and England just cant match up to the place where she feels most comfortable. This technique of writing a line in which can be taken as two different meanings does not just occur in this poem. In other poems that Grace Nichols has wrote we see her leaving the reader with several options to think about.
For example in the poem ‘childhood’ the line – ‘half stunned I watched’ is a line in which could be taken as two different meanings. From earlier lines in the poem we know that a little girl is watching a fish being killed, but when coming to this particular line is it the fish which is half stunned or is it the little girl who is half stunned? So here we can see that Grace obviously finds this technique effective in her writing and uses it in more than just one poem. Another line in which I found to be intriguing was – ‘ You say you’re civilised’, in this line I get the impression that a bit of sarcasm is used.
When writing this line does Grace Nichols mean she has seen no sign of civilisation yet from the English people or does she mean that we are civilised people but that isn’t enough for her, she wants something more than civilisation. On the word ‘You’ emphasis has been used by using a capital letter, this maybe suggests that she is directing this phrase at a particular person and if this is correct it suggests anger towards this person. If anger is shown to somebody then does this not mean that the narrator isn’t being civilised? Someone might even say she has contradicted herself in this line.
I think that when Grace Nichols wrote this line she was almost asking a question of the white community. When telling us we say that we say we are civilised she is wondering where this civilisation is because she feels like she is not treat as an equal in England. Almost challenging the white people to come out and prove that they are civilised and prove that Grace Nichols’s opinion of England and her opinion of white people in England is wrong. When looking at the four lines in the fifth stanza we can see that Grace is talking and reminiscing about her homeland. ‘I come from a backyard Where the sun reaches down
Mangoes fall to the ground’ In the first two lines here we see the technique of enjambment. In this first line – ‘I come from a backyard’ in using the word ‘I’ she wants us to feel sorry for her. This line is fairly easy to understand and is just saying that she has never really had a luxurious life and has always been from a poor family with little money. This is probably one of the reasons why she moved to England, she would be able to receive more income. When linking this line with the second line – ‘where the sun reaches down’ we can see that by using the technique of enjambment, another language technique is used.
This is personification, and this is because Grace is trying to show that the sun reaches down into her backyard. So therefore the sun is picking her country above all others, so she thinks her country is special. As well as personification this line is also a metaphor because the sun does not actually reach down. I think Grace likes to see herself as a special person from a special country because on the next line there is more use of personification. ‘mangoes fall to the ground’ – in this line Grace is showing the reader that the idea of exotic fruits pick this country out as the sun did.
Her country is special because they get excess amounts of mangoes and other countries get no exotic fruit falling to their ground at all. In these three lines in which I have just analysed we can see that Grace is very proud of her country and thinks that it is special. The structure of these three lines is also important when reading the poem. Grace firstly tells us that her country is poor so we therefore will feel sorry for her; she then says that the sun picks this country above all others to be hot and then she lets us know that exotic fruits drop on the ground of this particular country.
These three lines are structured this way because if the first line was not first then the technique of enjambment could not be used and if this technique was not used then we would not look at the second line as being personification. So if these two techniques were not used in this section of the poem then these lines would have less significance and not have a deeper meaning, so we can conclude that this poem writing was good because she used the words that she had in the best possible way. I find this poem to be very interesting and intriguing and this is the main reason why I chose to do my essay on it.
There are many interesting lines which have a deeper meaning that what is wrote on the surface, for example – ‘home is where the heart lies’, in this line I saw much opportunity to expand on what Grace is trying to say, there is a much more deeper, sensitive meaning to this line. To have an opinion on this poem I think that you would have had to maybe spend some of your childhood living in Grace Nichol’s homeland because at least then you might understand where she is coming from in some lines.
For example ‘I think my child is too loving for this fear’ – what fear? I understand that she is worried that her child will not be accepted in England but she says it as if all white people are going to murder black people the second they step outside, when we and her both know that this is not true. This is why I find it hard to have an opinion on the poem because if maybe I had grown up with Grace in this wonderful special country that she describes, then I might understand a bit more about this so called ‘fear’ that she has.
I chose this poem above the rest because as I stated before I saw many lines with deeper meanings and I feel it was a more personal poem than the rest. The feelings in this poem are real feelings that someone feels and I wanted to try and find out why she felt this way. I now have a better understanding of her feelings. This poem was my favourite because I felt it had more meaning than the others and a more interesting way of expressing the author’s feelings.