'Telephone Conversation' by Wole Soyinka - analysis

Essay by dorakhy September 2007

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In 'Telephone Conversation', the poet conveys his disappointment and anger about being discriminated by the Caucasian unfairly just because he is an African by portraying the telephone conversation between himself and the British landlady.

The poem is in the form of free verse. It is because 'conversation' isn't something well-planned; instead, the speakers speak what they want during the conversation. Also, with the aid of end-stop lines and run-on lines, the outlook of the poem gives readers a sense of randomly formation, which fully suits the way of 'telephone conversation' flows.

Instead of talking something about the price and things concerning the house renting, the two speakers talk about their skin color. This issue was bought up by the landlady at first. There was a pun, 'indifferent', to shows the intention of the landlady. From the word 'indifferent', the landlady seems not too aware who her house is rented to, however, she does aware.

From what she asks the caller, 'are you light of very dark', she determines not to rent her house to an Africa, she's obviously discriminating the dark people, which cause the speaker angry.

It is then the man decides not to rent the house, instead of telling the woman how dark he is directly, he play word tricks on the woman.

The poet describes the woman 'lipstick coated, long gold-rolled cigarette-holder piped', it seems that the woman is wealthy and well-educated, it's a bit ironic, from the outlook of the woman, it seems that the poet want to convey the idea that the woman is good and 'considerate', however, the poet actually want to point out the outlook of a person doesn't mean anything, the woman is actually arrogant and impolite in the view of the poet.

The most sarcastic point is the woman doesn't understand what the man means when he says 'sepia' and 'brunette', which both mean very dark in color. From the words the man uses, he wants to convey that racism is not fair in the society because the Caucasian judge the African low class and uneducated only by looking at their appearance, however, he simply plays the word tricks on the woman, although it's a bit rude, and it show African can be more educated than the one who is white, this reinforces the point that African deserves high status in the society, it is not only the white people can take charge over the African.

In the last part of the poem, the poem make use of humor because the woman doesn't seem to understand what he is talking about, so he asks the woman if she wants to look at his whole body to see if it is whole black in color, he especially states 'his bottom is raven black'. Although the woman wants to suppress her anger and be polite, instead, she can't stand any longer and she offs the conversation first at last.

The poet thinks there shouldn't have any racism existed, people can't judge other by only looking from their appearance, instead, they should see and know others fully so as to judge what kind of people he is.