Coleridge Jackson, written by Maya Angelou, who was a black American during a time when there was a lot of racism and discrimination in the United States of America. I think the poem would have been written during the 1960's as this was a time when many black icons and leaders were becoming well known, such as Mohamed Ali, Martin Luther King, and Malcolm X, due to their involvement in the civil rights movement. I think the poem was written in order to gain support and sympathy for the black Americans in their steps for equality and civil rights.
The poem tells the tale of a strong black man who is racially abused by his weak, white boss at work. It tells the reader how he takes the abuse from his boss but then takes out his anger and frustration on his family when he gets home.
Stanza one and two describe Coleridge Jackson, it says he has 'nothing to fear' and that, 'he weighed sixty pounds more than his sons and one hundred more than his wife'. This gives the image of a strong, big black man who is dominant as he has nothing to fear and weighs so much. It then goes on to say that his, 'neighbours knew he would not take tea for a fever'. This tells us two things, one, that his neighbours knew that he is strong and dominating, and secondly, he seems invulnerable. We are then told that the, 'gents at the pool room walked gently in his presence', which shows even the men had respect and fear of Coleridge. Overall the stanzas give a sense of strength and dominance about Coleridge.
Poem Poses Many Questions About The Life of Coleridge Jackson.
Stanza three then goes on to shock the reader by telling of the way Coleridge takes abuse from his weak boss. The stanza starts by saying that, 'everyone used to wonder why', showing the shock and disbelief which follows the lines. We then learn that Coleridge's boss is 'puny' and 'a little white bag of bones', with 'squinty eyes'. This description is so shocking as the man who is about to abuse Coleridge is so pathetic and weak. The use of metaphors increases the impact of the description as it is said he actually is a 'puny white bag of bones'. The stanza then goes on to explain that Coleridge is, 'sneered at' while working and is racially abused by his boss when he is called a 'sorry nigger'. This shocks the reader as it shows the amount of white superiority at the time and shows how direct the insult from the boss to Coleridge actually is. Also the boss is called a 'skinny piece of man-meat, which is another negative and weakening description, establishing the true nature of power in society as Coleridge Jackson's physical power cannot help him in the workplace.
Coleridge's reaction to the abuse is very out of character. He keeps, 'his lips closed, sealed, jammed tight. Would not raise his eyes, held his head at a slant, looking way off somewhere else.' This reaction is timid, and weak, as Coleridge does not even question his boss. Also Coleridge's body language shows things such as fear and intimidation. Overall I think stanza three is very effective at putting across the issue of racial abuse and it also shocks the reader, which helps them remember the events.
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