Even though racial differences are said to be decreased and in some cases, eliminated, this problem is still acute in the American society. The question of unequal opportunities for ethnical minorities in the US is still not solved. African Americans are still judged by their appearance and are still considered as derelicts, not deserving to be equally perceived with the White society members. This topic is extensively discussed in poetry, since it provides a wide variety of literature tools for reflecting the situation’s imagery. Therefore, this paper is to examine two poems concentrated on the issue of racial discrimination – “Telephone Conversation” by Wole Soyinka and “On the Subway” by Sharon Olds.

The two poems address the same question – racism and ethnical minorities’ discrimination. However, there is a slight difference between topics of the poems. Wole Soyinka discusses the tendency to judge the person’s character, abilities and personal traits by his/her skin color. Conversely, Sharon Olds stands for the cooperation of ethical minorities in the US, i.e. she claims that white ethical and African American do have a different skin color, but simultaneously they have a lot in common, diminishing the difference in the race and highlighting the need for cooperation.

Imagery is an extensively used tool for both poems. Soyinka uses imagery to describe the characters. At the beginning of the poem, when describing the woman the author writes: “lipstick coated, gold rolled cigarette holder piped” providing the image of an upper-class representative. This phrase reflects her imagery - from the very sound of her voice the man understands that she is the representative of the higher class and can guess her appearance. Olds, in her turn, extensively uses black-and-white and animal imagery. In other words, the author directly contrasts the skin color in terms of the outfit and materials used for character’s clothes. Moreover, the attire is also used as the imagery for similarities between characters. The boy is wearing red, and the speaker is in fur – they represent the inside and the outside of the same creature (animal, as meant by the author).

On the background of the similar topic and symbolism use, the authors use different techniques to convince the reader of the importance and ridiculousness of the racism. Soyinka widely uses irony by interchanging the educational and partly social position of the characters at the end of the poem. At first, the lady seems to be intelligent, polite, educated and appealing. She is attractive to such extent that the speaker decides to confess about his skin color. However, afterwards she loses her manner and turns into a racist and shallow person. On the contrary, at first the speaker was a modest man of rather low social position. Afterwards, he is represented as tolerant and educated person, using complicated language (“spectroscopic” and “rancid”) and retaining better manners. Such use of the irony helps the author highlight the absurdness of judging people by their appearance.

Conversely, to prove the leading point of the poem, Olds uses stereotypes to express the connection between the boy and the speaker. It allows us to see that despite the close ties they have with each other, the gap between them is enormous. “He could take my coat so easily”, i.e. he is genetically a felon and could probably take the fur coat, says the author. Here, the author expresses the stereotypical fear of the speaker, which highlights and deepens the ridiculousness of the racism.

Summing up, both poems address the same issues, but the authors go slightly different paths. Such poetic representation of racial discrimination problem shows that the problem not only still exists in the American society, but has different illustrations and is, in fact, ridiculous. It affects personal life of not only ethnical minorities, but of White people as well, making them shallow, uneducated and racist people.

About the author:
Jessica King is working at literature review writing service If you want to order a very interesting article you can visit the website of service which is called Exclusivethesis and buy it there.