The poet has now decided to mention one particular character. This is the first time a character appears in the poem, “Daddy lifted the tongs to his right shoulder…. a winch uncoiled the steel cable from its oily scrotum;” There is now a character who has been introduced, “Daddy”. He is working at the logging mill where he is performing manual labour. We have not yet been told who he is and this adds as evidence towards my theory of the poem being written from a child’s perspective or of a childhood memory. In the quote above is a pause in between “right shoulder” and “a winch”. This is an example of a dramatic effect.
This could be informing us that “Daddy” is thinking or it could be that the poet wants to focus particularly on “Daddy”. “Uncoiled the steel cable from its oily scrotum;” could be describing a piece of machinery for example a crane. The word scrotum could mean a part of the crane in which a cable is pulled up. It also gives us the impression of the workplace being a male environment. The poet then describes the co-ordination of the logging mill and how the workers work together, “He waved to the winch man and iron teeth bit into the pine”. This is another example of personification, which reflects towards a violent and aggressive atmosphere.
I believe that the continuation of the foreshadowing is preparing us for a drastic event, which will take place and turn the poem upside down. The next three lines tell us that the factory exports materials, “yellow forklifts darted with lumber to boxcars marked for distant cities”. This is again very straightforward and it shows that people are working very quickly and most probably on a tight schedule. The whistle is very important on line thirty-three because it tells the workers what time they can go for lunch, “At noon, Daddy would walk across the field of goldenrod and mustard weeds, the pollen bright and sullen on his overalls”.
This quote builds atmosphere through nature. The mustard is known to be hot and this compares to the high temperatures. The flowers mentioned deflect “Daddy’s” mood by colour. On the outside, he looks bright and cheerful, however on the inside he looks very sullen and down. The poet has described what “Daddy” eats for lunch, “He’d eat on our screened-in back porch—red beans and rice with ham hocks and cornbread, lemonade and peach jello”. This tells us what types of food he would eat. This also shows his culture and it could be classified as extra background information.
This part of the poem is separated by the next part of the poem. This represents the break from their hard working day. The importance of the whistle is very crucial in line forty-one and is as important as line one and line thirty-three because it controls the workers lives and when they can do certain things, “The one O’ clock bleat burned sweat and salt into afternoon”. This gives us the impression of hard manual labour because they have just had their lunch hour and it is now time for them to burn off their fat.
We know they carry out hard physical work because the poet has described this, “the wheels within wheels unlocked again, pulling rough boards into the plane’s pneumatic grip”. The phrase “pulling rough boards” shows us how hard the work was. The phrase “wheels within wheels unlocked again” gives us an image of non-stop work because wheels are objects, which always move, and they have been unlocked meaning that the wheels will begin to move. This emphasises the hard work the men carried out. The “pneumatic grip” is a compressed air grip, which is a heavy-duty piece of machinery used in the logging mill.
Throughout the whole poem, Yusef Komunyakaa has used nature to create a contrast between a strange and mixed atmosphere. “Wild geese moved like a wedge between sky and sagebrush”. This simile is a very effective way of showing how the geese moved. The geese moved between the sky and the bushes. This gives us the impression of the geese just taking off for flight. This could have been because the geese were stunned or frightened of something. The poet has used nature as a symbol. The bird image is very effective because birds represent freedom and they are free to fly wherever they please.
This reflects towards the feelings of the workers and “Daddy” because it seems to be that they do not have much freedom and their lives evolve around work. By the workers being trapped, we get the impression that they are trapped by poverty and oppression. We know this because the poet is repeating the fact that they have to do different types of physical work. In a way, they could be called slaves, but doing physical work does not necessarily mean that they are slaves, it is honest work. “As Daddy pulled the cable to the edge of the millpond and sleepwalked cypress logs”.
The poet has described “Daddy” to be “sleepwalked cypress logs” and this gives us an idea of “Daddy” walking on one spot as if you are using a treadmill. Line fifty-one tells us that the day changed, “the day turned on its axle”. “Daddy” has always been mentioned as hardworking and this implies to some extent that he is jailed by his job. The reason “the day turned on its axle” is that the workers have been given a substantial amount of work, “pyramids of russet sawdust formed under corrugated blowpipes fifty feet high”. The words “pyramids” and “fifty feet high” imply that the amount of work they have been given is huge.
There is a sibilant sound in this quote, which is, “sawdust”. This linguistic devise is very effective because it reflects on what he is and how he is treated compared to the foreman. In those days, racism was a big problem, which never seemed to be solved. It symbolises that “Daddy” is considered dust compared to the foreman because he is black. The day is now over when the whistle blows again for the last time and the way the poet has described the whistle makes it seem as though it has gone off very loudly and aggressively, “The five O’clock whistle bellowed like a bull, controlling clocks on kitchen walls:”.
The simile is very effective and good for creating dramatic effect because it compares the loudness of the whistle to a bull. This yet again foreshadows aggression and violence, which is yet to come. The image of a bull also gives an impression of a male environment. The image of control is also effective because the clocks are also controlled, “controlling clocks”. This tells us that there is a specific routine and a time and place to do certain things. Now is the time for the workers to go home to their families after a hard day at work, “Women dabbed loud perfume behind their eras and set tables covered with flowered oilcloth”.
This tells us that the workers wives appreciate the fact that their husbands work all day and they come home to a nice supper. We get the impression that families in those days were very close and united together. Part one as a whole sets the scene and prepares us for what will happen in part two. Although part one prepares us for part two, the context is mainly irrelevant. Throughout the whole of section one the poet is always describing work and this gives us an impression that a meaning of this poem could be that work controls lives.
So far in the poem (section one), the workers do the same thing day after day until a turning point occurs in section two. In section two all the aggression, which was previously foreshadowed, is revealed, “when my father was kicked by the foreman, he booted him back”. This was a very strange, unusual and unexpected event to have occurred. The foreman is white and “Daddy” is black. With this piece of information, we develop the understanding of a racist attack. Although you would have thought if you were kicked you would kick back, but in those days, it was different.
However, on this occasion “Daddy” kicked the foreman back. This was the first sign of protest and this links to the 1960’s when the first protests for equal rights began. This relates to a film based on a true story involving a woman named Rosa Parks. She was a black woman who lived in America during the time of the bus boycott, which she started. The film was produced in 2001, which was to tribute her courage. The film “Ride to freedom” shows exactly how hard life was back in those days and how black people were actually treated.
In those days, the black population were those who used buses most often. Rosa Parks was sitting in the black section of the bus and there were no empty seats remaining. A white civilian got on to the bus and due to the reason Mrs Parks was ordered to move. She remained seated and did not move because she was sitting in the correct place and she was entitled to a seat, especially in the black section of the bus. This then caused revolt and the driver threatened to call the police and have her arrested due to an inadequate reason, to my belief.
She was eventually bailed out and from this point onwards, began the bus boycott. Due to Rosa Parks’ great efforts, she was recently presented with an award for her courageous attitude during the period from President Bill Clinton. Mrs Rosa Parks is undoubtedly similar to “Daddy” because she stood up for her rights when she was on the bus, as did “Daddy” when he kicked back the foreman, he retaliated by booting him back. Although “Daddy” defended himself in this incident, he feels as though he did something very wrong and unjustified, which also gives him a guilty conscience.
“His dreams slouched into an aftershock of dark women whispering to each other”. This quote tells us that whatever he has achieved throughout his career and his entire life has been a waste of time and is now ruined. The reason why the dark women are whispering is that their husbands have done something wrong which has made them wanted by the foreman. The whispering is probably because they are scared of the consequences they may suffer due to their husband’s mistakes and this symbolises the fear within the women.
By this understanding, we can imply that the women want to keep quiet and do not want to be found because something dreadful could possibly occur. Although we have been told that the women are whispering, it has not of yet been identified exactly what is being said. My implementation is that they are whispering about the fact that they have never had the chance to experience equal rights and that they never will see equal rights between all different types of people from different backgrounds, also that the black and minority ethnic groups in society are treated unfairly and to some extent are disadvantaged.
The women will also be worried about their husbands and “Daddy” because he booted a foreman and for this reason, they are hoping that the white people would not terrorise them or their families. The poet describes the women, “Like petals of a black rose”. We understand that roses symbolise beauty and this quote gives us the impression that the black women who were waiting for their husbands are very beautiful. The poet emphasises the ladies’ beauty by saying that the petals of the roses are, “In one of Busby Berkeley’s oscillating dances in a broken room”. This shows regular movement, back and forth.
The phrase “broken room” gives us an idea of what is actually meant. You could say that this scene looked like a kaleidoscope with lots of beautiful colours. This piece of imagery emphasises on the ladies beauty. Busby Berkeley was born in 1895 with the name ‘William Berkeley Enos’ to a theatrical family in Los Angeles, California. He is well known as an American stage and motion – picture director and dance choreographer, especially for his innovative direction of lavish dance routines for the big screen. The poet has now used some words to describe fugitives, “Shadows, Runagates and Marys”.
We understand that the poet is describing fugitives because the word “shadow” gives us an image of darkness and secrecy, hiding from someone or something. This is exactly what a fugitive does and in this case, the poem tells us that “Daddy” is the fugitive, on the run from the foreman. “The steel – grey evening was a canvas zigzagged with questions”. This piece of imagery is very effective because it tells us the colour of the evening. It also shows that the sun has just set (dusk) because the sky is made up of many different colours, not only one.
The colour used to describe the sky is “steel – grey”, this colour reflects towards “Daddy’s” mood and feelings which are dull and sad. He sun has just set and by this, we can imply that it is a dusty area, “Curling up from smokestacks, as dusky birds brushed blues into a montage”. This gives us an image of hard physical work, again because the birds are piling up all the dust to one area. The following quote links to this one and makes this image a lot easier to understand, “Traced back to L’amistad and the psychosis behind Birth of a Nation”.
The L’amistad was a slave ship, which ironically meant “friendship”. This was the setting of one of the historical slave revolts led by Black Africans in 1839. The slaves were later freed by the US Supreme Court in 1841 and were returned to their homeland Africa. The poet has compared the birds with the slaves of L’amistad. “Birth of a Nation” is a novel, which was later made as a silent movie in the year 1915. The movie was about inequality and portrayed racism throughout the film by showing how people were treated unequally because of their race or culture.
This also represents slavery as well as inequality. The poet then goes on to describe an event, which seems to be going on secretly however there is also somebody trying to find out what the secret is exactly, “with eyes against glass and ears to diaphanous doors, I heard a cornered prayer”. This image of looking through glass and listening through transparent doors makes us feel that you cannot miss the slightest, of what was going on. The next quote gives us a clearer understanding of what the “cornered prayer” actually was, “Car lights rubbed against our windows, ravenous as snow wolves”.
The poet has used the language device, personification to describe the car lights with the human characteristic of rubbing against windows. This shows that the cars were very close to the windows. The simile, “Ravenous as snow wolves” shows that the snow wolves are acting like warriors and showing total desperation for something. The snow wolves represent the Ku Klux Klan (KKK). The KKK entering at this point of the poem is very effective because they portray an image of being sly, spies and vengeful.