Oppression in ‘Dreaming Black Boy’ and ‘Epitaph’
These poems clearly illustrate the oppressive hand of the colonial power. In ‘Epitaph’ the oppression is overt where is given a cruel death and everyone can see the blatant disregard for human life. ‘Dreaming Black Boy’ on the other hand is more sedate and calm in its illustration of oppression. The persona just ‘wishes’ for a better life and the oppressor is subtle.
In ‘Epitaph’ the oppressors are the slave masters and the colonial people. In this poem, the slave is hung from a tree and this seeks to erase his dignity. He is left hanging overnight, with no regard for the feelings of his family or friends. This is a psychological tactic which seeks to induce fear in the hearts of the onlookers. This oppression is not only physical but psychological; the whit e man is doing all in his power to keep the black man in an inferior position.
‘Dreaming Black Boy’, on the other hand, is more subtle in the way James Berry conveys the suffering of the persona. The boy here is experiencing all aspects of suffering, pain and exclusivism of living in a world of racial discrimination.
The persona expresses the desire to be recognized when he is successful in the classroom or in the field. He too deserves to be hugged and to receive the same attention as the next child. In this situation he feels powerless. Although he’s young he can see that he is already stereotyped as being fit only for menial work and he wishes that he could get an education that would propel him into a good job.
He is anxious to travel the world but he fears being discriminated against by ‘powers or hotel keepers’. Oppression is seen in the way he is wishing, begging, for an opportunity to stretch, to expand his horizons.
Both of these poems are laden with suffering and pain and whether it is visibly racist or hidden behind the system, it is indeed oppression.
How does the writer create a sense of cruelty or sympathy in these poems?