The first lines of this poem depict Africa as a complicated and ridiculously hot woman who is eternally beautiful. We are not at all envious in this stanza. Things take a turn for the worse in the second stanza, as brigands conquer Africa and rob men and women. Some citizens are murdered, and some are forced to convert to another faith. All is dreadful. As the third stanza continues, Africa begins to amass some strength for itself. At this moment, the passive woman who has been struggling for the whole year is ‘rising,’ ready and able to take on the universe. Maya Angelou’s “Africa” is a recount of Africa undergoing destruction by the Europeans that took African children into slavery. Rhythm and personification enhance both the tone and the imagery of this poem. African countries are personified as to conceive vivid images, while the rhythmical patterns help in altering the pitch from pleasing to unpleasing to contemplative. The personification of Africa creates vivid imagery and provides humans strong feelings about their continent. Simultaneously, the whole poem represents a metaphor of Africa being an attractive woman, embodied as a woman who deserts her hair, hills her breasts and two Niles her tears (Maya).
Recounting enlivens vivid imageries over the continent. In the twenty-first line, Africa “screams loud and vain. This onomatopoeia and personification implies that Africa became distressed when people were being evicted from their own homelands. In addition, the word ‘her’ and ‘she’ are used repeatedly in the poem. Within the 24th line has an imagery, “she is striding” that denotes resurrection of a continent following its destruction. Africa is also personified as being a mother where the whites takes her young and strong daughters and sons respectively. This contrast lures our responsiveness to the destruction of the woman.
The three sections or stanzas carry with them distinct tones via rhythms of the meters. These tones are dynamic and are pleasant, unpleasant, and finally introspective. The initial two stanzas have dactyls trailed by defective stressed trochees and feet while the final stanzas entail spondees and iambs.
“Escapes from the Old Country”, Adrienne Su
Adrienne Su’s Escape from the Old Country encompasses an immigrant that leaves her country to a foreign country, America (Su). Symbolism takes form to demonstrate hope at first. In the first stanza, reveries and remorse cloud the subject, something that gives her the current state of a troubled guest in a foreign land. Before, there were aerogrammes, but they no longer come. The poet images a longing for something, but it cannot happen. Here, the figurative language is intense, where the poet considers the choice of words to have the attention of the readers.
The first stanza places us in the immediate context of an immigrant, who obtains a job “a babysitter” in America and is treated differently due to her culture, dialect or origin. Sarcasm is evident, “babysitting” while spending for ones earnings is limited. There are limitations for immigrants’ ways of spending their earnings America, and thus they can only spend on novels, shoes, and movies. This symbolizes attempts to hide identity in mimicking emotional torture. In the statement “the neighbor stays empty,” the poem images loneliness, there is no socialization.
The second stanza is a characterization of the real situation between Americans and the immigrant (cultural, ethnic or racial identity). In a way, there is alliteration where events seem connected. Still, the trouble with the subject is the lack of an American identity and not the journey, dialect or the new land that now has proven harsh, contrary to her initial expectations. Acid rain is applied in the third stanza to characterize the epitome of suffering and self-denial that immigrants go through to hide their identity. The fourth stanza unravels several themes indicating the immigrants suffering due to their different cultural identities in US soil. The metaphor, “semblance of freedom,” denotes pretense of Americans to claim their country is democratic and free to all, but a total lie. An immigrant has no peace in doing anything as they are ridiculed everywhere, forcing them to limit their movements.
All immigrant suffer under the hands of the native Americans. The subject claims that “here in America, no one escapes.” Due to the harsh treatment given to immigrants, they are unable to continue living under the harsh conditions and are forced to go back to their country, “the old country” in essence, symbolizes where one is born.
This poem is divided into five stanzas, each with mixed thoughts and taking a specific representation and tone. Stanza 1 engulfs a nostalgic tone. Stanza 2 demonstrates self-discovery and reality. Actually, it is not what one expected. Stanza 3 wears a tone of suffering, confusion, and uncertainty amongst immigrants who travel to America hoping to find good treasures. One is convinced beyond doubt that they are willing to make a change but do not know how. The fourth stanza introduces a superstitious tone. The subject thinks the ancestors are haunting her due to attempts to disown her identity. Finally, there is relief in going back to the old country, a metaphor denoting home.
Comparison and contrast of the two poems
Both “Africa,” by Maya Angelou and “Escapes from the Old Country” by Adrienne Su are representations of identity in two different dimensions. In the “Africa” poem, there is a strong identity of the African continent, undergoing colonization and enslavement of Africans. Here, Africa is identified as a woman, with terms such as sugarcane, Niles, and religious conversions digging into the African elements. In the “Escape from the Old Country,” racial and cultural identities are imminent. The subject is afraid of her identity as an immigrant.
The two poems demonstrate a capacity to exchange experiences succumbed abroad. The “Africa” illustrates life in a foreign land, where those sold go to labor for the Europeans. On the other hand, “Escapes from the Old Country” entails an immigrant who goes abroad expecting good things only to be met with hostility due to her cultural identity. In both, there is the component of slavery, even though circumstances leading to slavery in each are different. In “Africa”, slavery is through coercion while in the “Escapes from the Old Country”, slavery is voluntary.
The two authors, Maya and Adrienne appear to come from different regions of the world. as their names suggests, Maya is an African while Adrienne is an Asian. Each of them approaches their subjects based on the existing historical facts, where Africans were colonized while the Asians were migrating to America hoping to find greener pastures. In both poems, the poets use imagery to paint a picture in the readers mind. For instance, we are told of a woman who deserts her hair, golden her feet, etc. This creates a picture into the readers mind when Africa was peaceful before invasion by the whites. The second poem applies imagery by describing home as an old country. Personification is achieved well in the poem “Africa” where the woman represents the continent. On the other hand, “Escape from the Old country” has personification but weakly applied. Here, immigration is personified as a woman, symbolizing the sufferings of the immigrants. There is rhyme in Maya’s poem while this is lacking in Adrienne’s.
The two poems evoke emotion differently. In “Africa,” the author first places readers on a peaceful somber mood, changes to sudden anger and suffering and ends with inspiration, victory and a growing strength for liberation. The “Escape from the Old Country” starts with placing readers in a sad mood. All through the poem, there is sadness, which is only done with if the subject has to return to the Old Country.
Maya organizes her poem into three stanzas, each of which carries a distinct theme, calmness, agony, and finally freedom. On the other hand, Adrienne poem maintains the same theme in all the five stanzas, which is suffering and hopelessness. The two poems seem to deal with the same conflict, that of racial suppression and oppression. The relevance of the two poems is on those who think their race is not superior, and why they should stand for that. While Maya’s poem embodies strong identity as an African, Adrienne’s poem seems to dwell on denial of one identity. The two poems provide answers to societal problems of self-identity with one’s culture.
Maya, Angelou. Poem Analysis: Africa By Angelou, Maya. October 2010. 05 December 2017.
Su, Adrienne. Escape from the Old Country. December 2017. 06 December 2017.