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Meditation on Yellow by Olive Senior Essay

Olive Senior is a Jamaican poet who explores Caribbean history. Her poetry often conveys her displeasure of colonization and the suffering Caribbean people endured. Meditation on Yellow explores the colonization and exploitation process carried out by the Europeans. This poem strong conveys Senior discontentment as it relates to the exploitation of the land and the Amerindian tribe. It through the use of symbolism, language and repetition the brutality of colonization is conveyed. Symbolism is used to portray the harsh reality of colonization. In Meditation on Yellow “yellow” is symbolic of the innocence of the Amerindians and the purity in their mind and soul upon encountering the Whites. This is noted in the phrase ” but we were peaceful then child-like in the yellow dawn of our innocence.” The fact that these Amerindians had no idea of what was to come their way and that they offered the best of what they had to the Europeans makes this encounter even more sad and advantageous.

Furthermore, yellow is symbolic of sickness and infection. This is reflect in the minds of the Europeans as it was infected with the yearning for wealth and power. Due to this “infection” the Amerindian we turned into slaves, the land was exploited and the Europeans began colonization. The use of symbolism conveys the extremes which these two set of people existed, the Amerindian being kind and pure and the Europeans being cold-hearted and greedy. Senior’s use of language is certainly a powerful tool in expressing her displeasure as it relates to the enslavement of the Amerindians. Throughout the poem she uses sarcasm and humor which highlights her mocking and belittling of the Europeans. The phrase ” had I known I would have brewed up some yellow fever grass and arsenic” is an example of sarcasm. In this phrase there is a contrast between the gesture of hospitality of ethnic which is the “fever grass” and the bitter sinister intentions of killing the Europeans with the ” arsenic poison.”

The sarcasm continues in the phrase ” despite the differences in our skins, our piss was exactly the same shade of yellow.” This highlights that regardless of ethnic and racial differences we are all the same. The striking, crude comparison stresses the need for equality and for readers to take note. Furthermore Olive Senior educates us that these Amerindian displayed passive resistance as they deliberately burnt the bread of the Europeans since they we treated badly. The phrase ” for which management apologizes” certainly indicates they there was no remorse or sorry for these actions. The use of sarcasm highlight Senior’s hatred towards the colonization process and her view on the Europeans. Repetition is also used to place emphasis on the greedy and materialistic nature of the Europeans.

This type of repetition is known as anaphora. The line ” but it was gold in your mind gold in your eyes gold in the crown .. gold the prize ” highlights the obsession these Europeans had with gold and their gluttonous nature. Moreover, their unreasonable wants and desires are also highlighted through repetition. This is noted in the line ” want it strong wan it long want it black want it black want it green want it dread.” Additionally there was repetition in the in line ” silver was you armor silver the cross of your Lord … silver the bullet I bite…” This repetition emphasizes the many different forms of silver and the destruction that the silver symbolizes . The silver was representative of Iron Age Technology and represents the European’s military superiority over the stone age Amerindians. Collectively the repetition of these lines alerts readers of the suffering these Amerindians endured to please the cold hearted Europeans. The use of these techniques clearly depicts Senior’s displeasure and the unfortunate struggles of colonization.


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