Soyinkas Telephone Conversation Essay

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Summary: The poem "The Telephone Conversation", written by the African poet Wole Soyinka, depicts a West African man's attempt to rent an apartment from a white landlady and the landlady's refusal to grant his request based on his skin color. Three instances -- the speaker's "self-confession" about his skin color, the description of the landlady, and the speaker's use of high diction in making the landlady appear foolish -- exemplify Soyinka's use of irony to depict the absurdity of racism and create comical effects.


The poet uses irony to depict the absurdity of racism and create comical effects in the poem.

In the beginning of the poem, the speaker starts his "self-confession" when he reveals his skin color to the lady. It is ironic that this is called a self-confession since the poet has done nothing wrong to confess his wrongdoing. It sounds like the speaker is genuinely apologetic and regretful, for he has committed a "sin" of being a dark West African, which is something he was born with and has no control over. Also, after listening to the silence the landlady has responded with, the speaker says "Caught I was, foully." Again, the expression connotes that something wrong has been done by the speaker and he is now being caught committing his crime. By making the speaker feeling guilty and sorry for his skin color, the poet illustrates the silly...

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This section contains 473 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)

View a FREE sample

The Telephone Conversation By Wole Soyinka

The Telephone Conversation by Wole Soyinka

The "Telephone Conversation" by Wole Soyinka is a poem that's title is
very casual and straight forward. The poem's title shows the reader
that what they are meant to read is realistic and free flowing.

Like most poems there is a general theme that is carried on from start
to end. The "Telephone Conversation" has two main obvious themes;
these are racism and the lack of education and understanding that some
people may have. As the reader reads through the play they become
aware that the persona is African and therefore has a darker skin tone
than white skinned people.

The poet has given the persona as well as the landlady different forms
of speech. The persona appears to speak a little more formally than
the landlady and this could perhaps be to lack of education and
understanding towards the landlady or even that she feels the persona
is unclear of the English language. The persona tends to be more
formal and use more official ways of speaking,

"Down in my passport."

The speech of the landlady is written in capital letters. This could
have been done deliberately by the poet to emphasize how the landlady
imagines the persona to look like.

"ARE YOU DARK? OR VERY LIGHT?"

This illustrates to the reader that the landlady speaks slowly and
clearly to the persona as she may see the persona to be dumb and
unfamiliar with the words coming out of her mouth.

The poem's form is different to most other poems. The "Telephone
Conversation" has been written to make the reader feel more at ease
and relaxed when reading it. It is written in blank verse and
therefore there is no rhyme in the poem and this could the poet's way
of expressing and emphasizing the way in which the poem is a
conversation,

"The price seemed reasonable, location / Indifferent."

The poet has used quite a bit of enjambment through out the play and
this has helped make the play flow more easily and sound more
realistic.

The poet has included the use of mockery and sarcasm in the speech of
both the persona and the landlady,

"You mean - like plain or milk chocolate?"

Along with mockery and sarcasm there is humour, however this humour is
ambiguous. The conversation has a mixture of language forms. It jumps
from having mockery and sarcasm along with humour, to a form of
desperation and panic, "I pleaded". With the persona being "West
African sepia" they are worried about the way they will be treated by
the landlord and are afraid that they will not be accepted the way
that they would like.

The poet has shown the emotion of panic from the persona through the
use of personification. Although there is the suggestion that the
persona is put under the pressure of trying to describe their exact
tone to the landlady,

"Button B. Button A."

...

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