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Half Caste, by John Agard Essay

Half Caste, by John Agard Essay

Poetry is used by writers’ world wide to express them. Many of these poems are very negative and show it in the use, and misuse, of language. Other poems are more positive. Poets often use their work to express difficult situations. ‘Half Caste’ is a good example of this because it portrays the writer in a negative situation that the writer expresses his opinions about. ‘Unrelated incidents’ is a similar type of poem with a varying, but overall alike problem. The poem ‘Not my business’ is a more literal poem.

The poem is similar because it shows the poet in a difficult situation but the way the poet expresses himself is completely different.

In Half Caste, by John Agard, the difficult situation is one of prejudice. The writer is expressing his dislike of the prejudice he suffers because he is of mixed race or, in his words, ‘half caste’. The word half-caste is shown to be the culprit in this poem and the entire poem ridicules the word and those who use it.

The writer uses various strategies to achieve this goal. In the first paragraph the writer immediately draws the reader’s attention with an apology, “excuse me,” he says. This draws the reader’s attention because it is a very abrupt way of starting a poem and the reader continues to read to see what he is fact sorry for.

Immediately, Agard shows that he was in fact being sarcastic. He uses the ridiculous imagery of a man standing on one leg to show the stupidity of the word half-caste. Agard continues to be ridiculous like this throughout the poem. Agard doesn’t confine himself to ridiculous imagery though, he uses imagery of famous western icons to prove his point, “yu mean when Picasso mix red an green is a half caste canvas”. This is effective because to create a good painting an artist will probably have to mix colours, Agards point is that paintings with mixed colours are any worse so why should he be.

He uses similar imagery using British weather and Tchaikovsky to prove the same point. The constant use of such imagery shows the reader the difficult situation rather than describing it, in Half Caste the writer uses it to show why e hates prejudice and by doing so tells the reader the prejudice he suffers. . Not my business also uses imagery, but the imagery is not as subtle and more literal. The poems starts with imagery of brutality “beat him soft like clay”. The imagery is very violent and suggests constant repetitive beating. The few words say masses; “soft like clay” suggests broken bones and tenderness.

The imagery is very violent and portrays a very violent regime or lifestyle. This instantly shows the difficult situation in which the writer is in. Later in the poem more imagery is used. The constant repetition of “savouring mouth” and the personification of objects “hungry hand” and “bewildered lawn” create imagery of consumption. These constant images of consumption and brutality lets Osundare express his situation fully and more interestingly than if it had been written in prose. John Agard also uses a Jamaican dialect in Half Caste.

In the entire poem he uses no punctuation, and spells everything phonetically according to the dialect. This deliberate misuse of the English language is an obvious rebellion to English standards. He writes in English but in a Jamaican dialect showing his problem of being ‘Half Caste’. This simple use of dialect says many things about his views on his stereotyping. He is rebelling against people who want him only to act English and people who are prejudiced against him. The use of dialect says that if English people discriminate against him then he will discriminate against the English language.

“Unrelated Incidents” also uses dialect to show a difficult situation, this time the dialect is Scottish and its use is obvious. By using a Scottish dialect the writer instantly shows the difference between him “scruff” and the ‘BBC’ accent he is opposed to. The difference in dialect shows the prejudice Leonard claims to suffer. The prejudice is not one of a different culture but one inside Britain. He is saying by using dialect that no one trusts him, or other Glaswegians because of their accent and their home. He says this in the poem as well by saying “if a toktaboot thi trooth lik want to yoo scruff yi widny thingk it wuz troo”.