Half Caste - Sample Essay

When we talk about identity we signify how a person is portrayed. Agard’s poem ‘Half Caste’ presents the idea of originating from another culture negatively whereas Dharker’s presents the idea positively. Agard does not use any punctuation in his poem ‘Half-Caste’. Dharker on the other hand uses Standard English. John Agard was born June 21st, 1949. He originates from Guyana although he moved to the UK in 1977. His poem ‘Half Caste’ strongly relates to himself, as he is not fully British.

Although not proven he could be writing about himself and his experiences. The poem was written in the 70’s and so reflects the time period. At this time racial attitude was a lot more negative and being called a half-caste would have been more likely. Agard wrote the poem the poem in the UK and that’s why it has been written in English. The purpose of Agard’s poem is to share his attitude of fairness and equality between black and white. For the English public to understand the poem it had to be written in their language.

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Imtiaz Dharker was born in Lahore in 1954 to Pakistani parents, but she was brought up in Glasgow where her family moved during her teens. Her poem ‘This Room’ relates to her because the poem based on starting afresh in a new country. This is something that Dharker was exposed to at a young age. The poem was written in 2001 but based on her experience as a teen and so like Agard she may have faced vast amounts of racism. She has written three books of poetry, conceived as sequences of poems and drawings.

The main themes of her poetry are home, freedom, journeys, geographical and cultural displacement, communal conflict and gender politics. Unlike Darker, Agard doesn’t use caesura in ‘Half-Caste’. This may be because he wants to capture the mood of the persona, which is increasing anger. He writes the poem in short lines with no pauses. This could indicate that the persona was speaking quickly in their fury towards the person who has insulted them. On the other hand he could have chosen not to use caesura because the persona cannot speak Standard English or chooses not to.

This would make it clear that persona has not fully integrated into British society. Dharker on the other hand does use caesura in ‘This Room’, for example when Dharker writes, “breaking out/ of itself, cracking”, she may be using it because she wants to prove that although she originates from Pakistan she can fluently speak English and also use it to create poetry. Alternatively she might want to show that she feels part of the British culture. In ‘Half Caste’ Agard’s persona uses metaphors such as “when I sleep at night/ I close half-a-eye” to retort the insult he received.

Referring to everyday examples of mixed colours, for example “when light an shadow/ mix in de sky/ is a half-caste weather? ” he puts his point across strongly. On the other hand Dharker’s poem ‘This Room’ has hidden meanings that need to be analysed. One of these metaphors which has a hidden is “The bed is lifting out of/ its nightmares”. On first glance it is hard to see the theme of this quote, however it could be argued that this is referring to Dharker moving country and leaving her nightmares behind her. Enjambment is used in both poems, although maybe they are used for different reasons.

In half-caste there are multiple reasons. Agard uses a lot of enjambment and this could be because he wants to demonstrate his anger of being insulted and so has to stop to catch his breath. For example when Agard writes “Explain yuself/ wha yu mean”, which is a phrase that is repeated through out the poem, this is a point where his anger is peaked, which may the cause for the use of enjambment. The short lines which are used through out the poem could represent the fact that he is half caste and that in some peoples minds he only deserves to write in half sentences.

In ‘This Room’ Enjambment is also used however as I mentioned earlier for different reasons. Dharker’s poem does not contain anger and so the enjambment cannot portray this. She may use the device simply to highlight parts of the poem. An example of this is when Dharker writes, “The bed is lifting out of/ its nightmares”. The word “nightmares” is highlighted which hints that there used to be severe problems possibly from Dharker’s origins. Perhaps she uses it to demonstrate that the physical changes are happening right at that moment and so she has to wait before she is able to report what else has taken place.

When it is written “in celebration, clang/ past the crowd of garlic, onions, spices” there is enjambment before “past the crowd… ” The persona may have waited before they were able to tell the reader about the new position of the pots and pans. Neither ‘Half Caste’ nor ‘This Room’ contains rhyme. This could be because both poets want to put their meaning across strongly and including rhyme would mean that they would need to alter their language for the words to fit. Resultantly the poems would lose their effect on the reader. There are a number of metaphors in’ Half Caste’.

They may be used to portray how the term half-caste is so outlandish. Agard’s repetition of metaphors creates an effective feel; the persona is so furious of the insult that they acquire a mocking attitude. When Agard writes “Ah listening to yu wid de keen/ half of mih ear”; he has stretched the idea of being half-caste and is trying to prove that just because of the colour of his skin, it doesn’t mean that he isn’t a whole of a person. Dharker uses and extended metaphor to put her message across and in the poem it is obvious that she is excited and joyful.

Dharker has chosen to use metaphor and this makes the poem difficult to interpret, as there are no literal meanings. Metaphors such as “Pots and pans bang together/ in celebration” depict an event in Dharker’s life. Although not certain it is most likely that the celebration is for the move from Pakistan to Britain, which occurred, when Dharker was young. Agard uses visual imagery effectively. When Agard writes, “I offer yu half-a-hand” and “I close half-a-eye” he creates a powerful image in the mind of the reader.

The repetition of this imagery could be because Agard feels that the British public needs the message repeated over and over before they can understand it. Alternatively he may feel people are ignorant to the full extent of racism and so he must continue to explain a different way to each person so they can appreciate the significance of racial discrimination. Dharker, like Agard also uses imagery. The imagery, which has been used in ‘This Room’, is very different from that used in ‘Half-Caste’. She has written, “From dark corners, chairs/ are rising up to crash through clouds”.

This is more symbolic than that used by Agard because Dharker’s poem is based on a personal experience where as Agard’s poem, although it is possibly based on his own encounter has the chance to have happened to wide range of people. The main similarities between ‘Half Caste’ and ‘This Room’ are that they both refer to identity. Agard’s persona wants to bring up to date someone who has insulted them by racial discrimination by cleverly using literary devices, which back up their argument. Dharker’s persona wants to inform the reader of new changes in their life.

She mainly uses extended metaphor and imagery to do this. Differences of the poems are that each poet had chosen to use different techniques to put their message across. This is because Agard wants to explain in his poem where as Dharker wants to inform. Another difference is that ‘This Room’ is joyful and open to change while ‘Half-Caste’ is based on anger. I think identity is a main focus of both poems however there are some other themes, which take precedence. In ‘Half-Caste one of these themes is a plea for tolerance.

Agard’s persona wants to feel that they belong to British society and that’s why they have tried to defend themselves against the insult of half-caste. Another possible theme is art. The poem makes two references to art. One being “Tchaikovsky/… mix a black key/ wid a white key/ is a half-caste symphony? ” and “Picasso/ mix red an green/ is a half-caste canvas? ” I think Agard not only wants to use art as a metaphor to back up mixes of colour but also wants to prove that people from different cultures are included in society, as Tchaikovsky is from Russia and Picasso from Spain.

A theme from ‘This Room’ is celebration. Dharker’s persona is not only moving to another culture but also relishing the opportunity. The poem makes it clear that the changes in the persona’s life are benefiting them. This is proven when Dharker writes, “time and place/ to be alive”, “Pots and pans bang together/ in celebration” and “In all this excitement”. Another theme is movement. Dharker makes constant references to the moving of furniture and the room itself, such as, “This room is breaking out”, “The bed is lifting out” and “chairs/ are rising up” which I think could be symbolic of her moving country.

From ‘Half-Caste’ I think the theme of art is most effective, as referring to such legendary people from two completely different parts of the world lets people see how discriminating against someone on the bases of where they originate from is so unreasonable. I think the most effective theme from ‘This Room’ is celebration because it allows people to understand that moving away from your roots is not always a bad thing as Dharker demonstrates. In some cases is can be a joyful experience.

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