Comparing and Contrasting Two Poems


Comparingand Contrasting Two Poems


Thetwo poems, focus on the theme of racial discrimination. They show howracism is widespread and how some people propagate it as others tryto stop it. The poem “Telephone Conversation” is based on thenarrator’s personal experience when he calls a white woman so thathe can rent an apartment. The poem, On the Subway, expresses arelationship between a black boy and white lady. The speaker brings adisparity at the beginning, but towards the conclusion, she presentsan interrelationship that links the two characters which shows arelation with the American culture.


Theuse of Imagery

Inboth poems, literary elements are portrayed. First is the use ofimagery. In the poem “On the Subway”, the boy is wearing blackshoes with white laces. The white zigzags are described as“intentional scars.” The scars represent the harm caused to theblacks when they are discriminated against by the white society(Bachman &amp Barth, 2004). The use of the adjective “intentional”denotes that white people decisively hurt the blacks. The image drawsa contrast between whites and blacks, exposing the whites as powerfuland blacks as submissive.

WoleSoyinka has used imagery to put his message across (Milne, 2008). Thenarrator builds a mental image of the woman as coated with lipstickand piped like a cigarette holder rolled with gold. The man getshungry and feels humiliated when the woman asks the question, “Howblack are you?” He sees red everywhere. The phrase, huge bussquelching the black tar, is an indication of the dominance of thewhites over the blacks. The word “dark” is repeated several timesto indicate the specificity of the landlady on the color of thespeaker.

Theuse of Tone Shift

In“On the Subway”, the first section of the poem is mainly finitephysical descriptions. The second section sounds more philosophicaland points out the speaker’s apprehension. The writer noted thatshe never knew whether the boy in her power or whether she was in hispower (Bachman &amp Barth, 2004). This phrase indicates that thereis a gap that exists between the whites and blacks, but theirboundaries have no clear cut lines. The speaker began to perceive theimage of the powerful white and a submissive black painted in thefirst section as incorrect.

Theword “life” is repeated to indicate the interconnection betweenthe characters. The third section brings out an additional change intone. The speaker exposes a strong difference in the first section,“He is black and I am white” (Bachman &amp Barth, 2004). Theimage of “black cotton” and scars eludes the white man injuringthe black man. However, in the third section, the speaker indicatesthat a black man can break a white woman just like their backs arebroken. The expression signals equality since both white and blackcan hurt each other.

Inthe “Telephone Conversation”, change in tone comes in line 27when the landlady asks the question “That’s Dark. Isn’t It?”(Waters, 2001). The speaker remains calm and his response appears tobe polite, formal and short, yet sarcastic since he explains thecolor of different parts of the body. The climax of this tone is inline 30 where the narrator when he says “friction caused…” andasks for patience from the landlady. Towards the end of theconversation, the tone becomes more submissive when the narrator asksthe lady to see for herself. Though the question is not answered, theoutcome is clear that the lady does not want to see for herself andthe narrator saves himself “a wasted journey.”


Bachman,S., &amp Barth, M. (2004). BetweenWorlds: A Reader, Rhetoric and Handbook.New York: Pearson/Longman.

Milne,I. M. (2008). Poetryfor Students: Presenting Analysis, Context and Criticism on CommonlyStudied Poetry.Detroit, Mich: Gale.

Waters,F. (2001). Poemsfrom Many Cultures.London: Evans Bros.