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The struggle for identity in poems from different cultures Essay

Identity is formed in many different ways, as explored through the six poems, Hurricane Hits England (HHE), Search for my Tongue (SFMT), Presents from my Aunts in Pakistan (PFMA), Half-Caste (HC) and Unrelated Incidents (UI).

In HHE, for example, the poet looks at how identity is formed through location, as she has moved to a new country away from her previous residence, and is finding it hard to settle in and adjust. When a hurricane then visits her new home, she finds herself reminded of her previous abode, as shown with ‘back- home cousin,’ used to describe the hurricane. This is also shown through the poet starting the poem in third person, talking about herself, but soon switching to first person, to more effectively convey her own thoughts and feelings.

PFMA has a similar theme to this, looking at nationality and culture, and how they help in- or exclude people from society. For example, the narrator feels that despite loving the traditional clothing of her culture, she cannot wear it around her friends, as they do not see it in the same way as her, but simply find it quite odd. The narrator therefore feels that she is not an equal to the clothes, and that they are too good for her, shown with metaphors such as describing the clothes as ‘aflame.’ I believe the poet is saying that although everyone has their own, very unique identity, there are many people that may hide their true selves in order to fit in with their peers or society in general.

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Another poem exploring the theme of fitting in is SFMT, in which the poet looks at how she feels as though she is leaving behind her first language, and how this is affecting her, as she dreams in her ‘mother tongue,’ and illustrates this through writing part of the poem in this language. However, she also compares her ‘mother tongue,’ which she appears to be trying to lose, to that of a flowering bud, which is beautiful imagery, and shows how she is perhaps hiding from her true self. Again, this explores the theme of trying to fit in, as the writer feels she must speak this new language to truly integrate herself into society, even though she is essentially the same person whatever language she speaks.

UI also uses language to make its point, with the poet writing phonetically to illustrate the Scottish accent he is talking about. He asks why people are judged so much simply for the way they talk, for example, why is it that everyone who presents the news speaks in perfect English, rather than with an accent. He therefore feels held back by his accent, and also wonders if people feel as though things are only true spoken in a BBC accent. The poet ends the poem with the phrase ‘belt up’ – possibly telling those that are prejudiced towards different accents to ‘get real,’ as he feels they are talking rubbish, shown with the sarcastic tone used throughout the text.

HC does not use a particular dialect to make its point, although it does use some phoneticism, such as ‘dat,’ to show the way in which the narrator speaks. The poem explores how by being referred to as ‘half-caste’ makes the narrator feel like half a person, and therefore inferior to his peers. This is shown strongly through the imagery used in the poem, such as asking if when Tchaikovsky wrote his symphonies he used ‘half a black key and half a white.’ The poem explores how identity is formed strongly through race, and how being prejudiced to someone because of it can make them feel inferior.

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