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The notion of identity in Derek Walcott’s poetry, with reference to the following poems: ‘A Far Cry from Africa’, ‘Names’, and ‘The Sea Is History’.
This paper will first attempt to examine the ways in which the question of identity is handled in each poem individually, and then finally attempt to pinpoint a cohesive notion of identity that threads its way through Walcott’s poetry as a whole.
The very first image evocated in ‘A Far Cry from Africa’, one of the most graphic of Walcott’s poems,; is that of death, for a “wind is ruffling the tawny pelt/ Of Africa”. The tawny pelt calls to mind a dead lion. Instead of prowling through its natural habitat, the Savannah, with its grasslands and breezes that aid its hunting, the lion has been hunted. Africa is a paradise scattered with corpses - the first living voice we hear is that of the worm, telling us to waste no compassion on the dead. The rest of the poem is peppered with similarly intense images: such as the “white child hacked in bed” - an interesting reference, for it shows that in the constant bloodshed between the colonised and coloniser, there is innocence and loss on both sides – and the rushes being threshed by beaters. Threshing is an agricultural term, connected with grain, food, nourishment. With the description of the beaters beating the bush, an antithesis is created. “The violence of beast on beast is read/As natural law”, man’s wars dancing “to the tightened carcass of a drum”, “brutish necessity” wiping ...