Telephone Conversation and Nothing Said

Categories: JusticePhoneRacism
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Her words are described as ‘crushing’ and it is at this point that Soyinka shows a clear change in the narrator, “You mean-like plain or milk chocolate? ” The narrator then goes on to banter with the landlady, playfully taunting the arrogant woman. Soyinka uses alliteration to depict the landlady’s thoughts, “Silence for spectroscopic flight of fancy,” This description allows us to see the landlady’s ignorant nature, and the narrator uses sarcasm and wit to seek revenge for the humiliating situation he has been placed in.

He comments on the fact that the areas of his body that are clearly visible to the landlady e.g. ‘palm of my hand’ are a lot lighter, ‘peroxide blond’, then the areas of his body which she cannot see e. g. ‘my bottom raven black’. Many of his comments are humorous and he appears to ridicule the landlady for her racist and discriminating attitude.

Wole Soyinka displays the fact that racism should not be put up with in society and the black community should not be afraid to stand up for their rights.

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The landlady clearly believes that she is superior to the Black African, however in today’s society everyone is supposed to be treated as an equal.

The narrator realises in the concluding lines of the poem that his mockery of the landlady has offended her, and with the ‘receiver rearing’ he begs the landlady to meet with him, “Madam wouldn’t you rather see for yourself? ” The reader is left unaware of how the poem concludes, but we feel grateful to the black narrator for refusing to stand for her ridiculous questioning and for defending his rights.

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‘Nothing Said’, by Brenda Agard, displays the view of many black British citizens in the early 80’s, following the Deptford fires, which left lives devastated.

The title sets the theme, stating the fact that speech is prohibited, and the opening lines create the atmosphere of a protest march, using rhyme to capture the reader’s attention. This use of rhyme does not continue throughout the poem, however the careful use of punctuation and language engraves the poem in the readers mind. Within the opening lines the reader quickly sympathises with the pain of the marchers, “Until the pain goes away we will march some more” although we are yet to discover the cause of the march. Within the second stanza, Agard reiterates her protest theme, using chants and bold lettering to create the image of a march,”What do we want? JUSTICE When do we want it? NOW. ”

This emphasises the anger of the black community over this injustice, and creates imagery of a march by using simple statements. We are still yet to uncover the reason for the march, yet Agard clearly sets out to publicise the disgust felt. The third Stanza sheds light upon the awful disaster that has occurred, and, although Agard uses little detail in her writing, we are informed that members of the black community have died, “We felt for our sisters and our brothers who had died. We wanted that feeling to be carried worldwide”.

These simple rhythmic statements carry a very clear message; that the black community wish to speak out about racial injustice. The following lines inform us of the feelings of the black citizens, and the use of bold lettering heightens the message, “THIRTEEN DEAD NOTHING SAID” This also attributes to the imagery of the march, and the reader could view this rhyming couplet as a chant. Agard goes on to talk about the publicity the march received; however there is a negative spin placed upon the protest by the newspapers, and the title “BLACK RAMPAGE” clearly depicts the controversy between the black and white members of society.

Whilst the black community were merely trying to seek justice, the white community saw this as an act of misconduct and chaos. The pain and hurt of the black community is displayed in the following lines, with Agard choosing the violent word ‘slashed’ to describe the distress this bias headline has caused. Agard next talks about the inquest, using two couplets to break up the outcome of the protest. After telling us “We got our wish An inquest” The reader believes that justice will prevail and equality will reign within society.

However, the following lines prove otherwise, with the verdict being ‘left open’. These lines are told in an angry manner, and the use of ellipses pauses the reader before discovering the outcome of the case. The break up of these lines perhaps represents the hope of the black community being destroyed. The last stanza of the poem is exceedingly similar to the opening stanza, representing the fact that the black community still wishes justice to be done. Agard’s writing is ambiguous, as in these closing lines she says the black community will have to ‘march’ all their lives.

This is a clever use of imagery to represent the fact that these people will constantly have to fight against racism and injustice. We are left feeling saddened by this injustice, and Agard’s writing accomplishes its goal of illustrating the pain felt following this unjust event. Both ‘Telephone Conversation’ and ‘Nothing Said’ use free verse to display the prejudice that confronted black British citizens. This helps the poems to flow with the rhythm of speech which both poets wish to demonstrate.

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Telephone Conversation and Nothing Said. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from

Telephone Conversation and Nothing Said
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