Theme of Racism in Two Poems: Comparison

This sample essay on Racism Poems provides important aspects of the issue and arguments for and against as well as the needed facts. Read on this essay’s introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion.

In this essay I will be exploring, comparing and analysing two poems that explore the theme of racism. The poems that I have been studying are “Half-Caste” by John Agard and “Nothing’s Changed” by Tatamkhulu Afrika. John Agard was born on 21 June 1949 in British Guiana (now Guyana).

He moved to England in 1977 where he became a touring lecturer for the Commonwealth Institute. Now he is a famous poet and playwright. Also he is the author of many children’s books. Tatamkhulu Afrika was born in Egypt in 1920 and moved to South Africa as a young child.

He published his first novel at the age of 17 and many more after that. He died on the 23rd of December 2002 at the age of 82. My comparison and analysation of the two poems will be portrayed in the paragraphs below.

“Half-Caste” is a poem about racism towards mixed race people. The correct terminology of “Half-Caste” is mixed race. The poet is trying to provoke a response through emotion, from racists by directly attacking them in this poem. In the poem “Half-Caste” a mixed race person is directly attacking a racist through words.

He is establishing sentiment in order to awaken a reaction from the racist in order to make them understand that having two cultures is better than one. On the other hand “Nothing’s Changed” is a poem about apartheid- separation of blacks and whites.

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This poem depicts a society where rich and poor are divided in the apartheid era of racial segregation in South Africa. Rage has arisen within the poet because, despite the abolishment of apartheid everything hasn’t changed, hence the name “Nothing’s Changed”. His anger is expressed through the line “… Hands burn… which indicates that he’s angry and wants to take action.

Two Poems With The Same Theme

Both the poems are used to convey the feelings of the poets about racism. The form of the poem is related to its subject, as John Agard uses non-standard English, in the form of Afro-Caribbean patois. This shows how he stands outside mainstream British culture. John Agard pokes fun at the idea of “caste” with ironic suggestion of things only being half present and by looking at work of artists who mix things. In the poem “Nothing’s Changed” the poet describes how everything in post-apartheid South Africa has not changed.

The quote “… No sign says it is: But we know where we belong” shows that he is describing how although there is no official segregation the sentiment of inequality lives on. This shows us that the feelings of depression still reside within him and that anger has risen within him. The poem “Nothing’s Changed” is set in South Africa at the time when apartheid was abolished. The main area in which it has been set is “District Six”. “District Six” is the name of a poor area of Cape Town.

Although there is no sign there, the poet can feel that this is where he is: “… y feet know, and my hands,” In the poem half-caste John Agard uses both metaphors and similes to express his feelings towards racism. The quotation ‘yu mean when light an shadow mix in de sky’ shows a natural image – that there is nothing wrong with the mixture of colours as it occurs in nature. It is also a form of imagery and personification as it presents the image of colours mixing and is providing human-like features to the light and shadow as they mix. On the other hand, Afrika uses many metaphors and similes such as; ‘for a stone, a bomb’.

This indicates his anger towards racism as he perceives the stone to be a bomb like figure. He also uses sensory description to make the reader feel the emotion and see what is happening. This is shown by the quotation ‘small round hard stones click’ the word click is also a form of onomatopoeia as it represents a sound effect. This enhances the effect of the harsh and bitter mood that flows through the first and second paragraphs. In the second stanza of the poem the repetition if the word ‘and’ shows that his anger is begging to rise.

Both poems convey the message of anti-racism. Tatamkhulu Afrika has broken up the poem into crisp and short stanzas. There are 7 stanzas of which 5 consist of 8 lines each. The 6th stanza has been split up into 2 thus creating a 7th stanza, whereas, in “Half-Caste” the poet John Agard doesn’t have many clear stanzas. In ‘half-caste’ Agard starts of the poem by poking fun at the term ‘half-caste’. He uses sentences such as ‘standing on one leg’ indicating that because he is ‘half-caste’ he is only half of what he is meant to be.

Another way that he pokes fun at the term ‘half caste’ is by using symbolism such as; ‘in fact some o dem cloud half caste till dem overcast’ implacing a very weak pun on the term caste and cast. Agard ridicules the term by showing how great artists mix things. Such as when Picasso mixes colours; “yu mean when picasso mix red an green is a half-caste canvas/” , and Tchaikovsky mixes black and white keys in his symphonies; yu mean tchaikovsky sit down at dah piano an mix a black key wid a whit key is a half-caste symphony/” .

These quotes show that he is expressing his emotion towards racism through the use of a metaphor. He carries on employing fun at the term “half-caste” by the quotes such as “I’m sure youll understand why I offer yu half-a-hand an when I sleep at night I close half-a-eye”. The quotation “yu mean when light an shadow mix in de sky” is the poet presenting a natural image- showing us that there is noting wrong with colours mixing. Furthermore, he uses a chatty tone which can be discovered from the quote; ‘well in dat case’ implying that he is reasoning with someone in an argument.

In the poem ‘Nothing’s changed’ Afrika starts of with a serious tone and he uses alliteration; ‘cuffs, cans’ to make the tone snappy and hard hitting. Then his anger starts to rise throughout the poem. This is shown by the repetition of ‘and’. In the poem ‘Nothing’s changed’ Afrika tries to convey the idea that despite how close the areas of the blacks and whites are, the difference can be heavily felt. The quote ‘I press my nose to the clear panes’ which supports the idea of the inequality between blacks and whites.

He also declares that black people have been living separate from whites for so long that it now seems natural to them. The quote ‘it’s in the bone’ sustains this idea. The quote ‘boy’ indicates that he is once again a black person and is no longer what he wishes to be; a respected person. He also feels rejected. This is shown by the quote ‘small mean’. In the poem ‘half-caste’ Agard changes the mood of the poem from slightly angry, to angry and then very angry. His poem follows the chronology of anger.

He uses the words; ‘and when im introduced to yu I’m sure you’ll understand wht I offer yu half a hand’ to isult the racist and make him feel small and ineffective. However, at the end he changes the mood of the poem to being calm and relaxed as he uses his intellect to outwit his opponent. He alos suggest that the person who he is talking to is narrow minded. The quotation ‘but yu must come back tomorrow wid de whole of yu eye an de whole of yu ear an de whole of yu mind’. The poem ‘half-caste’ has a mixture of languages. Agard uses both Standard English and Afro-Caribbean patois to validate his feelings in the poem.

Words like ‘yu’ and ‘dem’ indicate that he has the best of both cultures. The poem also creates much imagery about the term half-caste as he portrays himself, in the poem, to be half of what he actually is. It doesn’t have much rhythm and rhyme but doesn’t have much punctuation either as the feeling of equality can be expressed through this method. On the other hand, ‘Nothing’s changed’ contains lots of punctuation and only Standard English is used throughout the poem. The poem contains lots of imagery about the places in the poem and what he, as the person, is feeling.

However, they are both similar as they both don’t implement much rhythm and rhyme. I think the poem ‘half-caste’ was written so that the poet could convey his feelings of racism towards mixed race people and express it out loud to the world. He also wants his culture to be known to the people as he doesn’t want them to be racist towards his culture. The poet feels very sensitive about this topic as it is something that he wants to be changed as he is being affected by what is happening in the poem. The title of the poem helps me to understand it because it is what the poem is mainly about.

In the poem ‘Nothing’s changed’ Afrika wants his opinions on the apartheid to be expressed to people so that a change can be made. He wants to change the tradition that has been going on in the past few years so that everyone is equal. The poet is very sensitive to the subject as he is conveying his emotions through the poem, indicating emotional use. The title helps me to understand the poem because it is the main message that is going through the poem. My personal response to the poems ‘half-caste’ and ‘Nothing’s changed’ is that everyone should be treated equally no matter their colour and creed.

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Theme of Racism in Two Poems: Comparison. (2019, Dec 07). Retrieved from

Theme of Racism in Two Poems: Comparison
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