ENG201Y: Test #2, partial key (selections from the most popular/least unpopular extracts)


This key has been compiled for the benefit of those of you who consistently earn grades of less than “B/-“ so that you can see how well synthesized and contextualized observations about specific details can support an argument about the passage and about the poem. Thanks to those of you whose answers I have plundered. I’ve selected only a few from the many that I could have – so don’t be offended if your fine answer does not appear here.


1. Wheatley


“The words “view”, “race”, and especially the last word in the line “eye” introduce a theme of perception that is based solely on external characteristics, namely race. The fact that rhyme emphasizes the word “eye” shows the importance placed on the visual: the entire poem is about how “negros” are perceived because of their race, what can be seen. The point that the speaker is trying to make is that “Negros, black as Cain” have the same chance at salvation as anyone else. The last two lines unite the two seemingly distinct groups, whites and blacks, into one category …  the “angelic train” seems to be what these two groups can be unified into.”


“She describes her people as “sable” – thereby evoking a rich exoticism which acknowledges the difference of her people while not maintaining or contributing to the negative myths of Otherness commonly espoused. Indeed, the poet aims to draw parallels between the African and Anglo-American cultures especially through their common Christianity. By using words such as “some” to introduce the racist scorn contained in the quotation, the speaker appeals to us as readers in a different category from the racists. We are meant to read these lines and realize how similar we all are…”


“Wheatley uses lineation and punctuation in order to have her reader question their assumption that there is a distinction between blacks and Christians. She separates the line “Their colour is a diabolic die” from the implied speakers, “Some”, calling into question just whose colour is a diabolic die. As a result, she blurs the line between black and white and subsequently the division between black and Christian. Wheatley also uses commas to illustrate that all people (Christians, Negros) are capable of goodness (“th’angelic train”) and evil (“black as Cain”). The commas are used instead of words like “or” or “and”, once again calling into question the distinctions between the two.”


“…”Christians, Negros, black as Cain” are separated suggestively by commas that implicate all humans as marked, imperfect souls, awaiting refinement, striving to join “th’angelic train” …


“Wheatley reminds white people that it is not necessarily black people who are figuratively “black as Cain”. Here there’s a subtle hint at the true reason the “sable race” was brought over from Africa. “Cain” is a play on “sugar cane”, which is “refined” to a white colour – just as the Negros’ black souls are refined to join the angelic train. It ties in with the “fortunate fall” idea that dominates the poem: though Wheatley and other slaves were taken from their homes, they were rewarded by finding God.”


“On being brought from Africa to America” is written in iambic pentameter, indicating Wheatley’s assimilation to English poetic tradition, just as the poem’s subject matter is about assimilation. As in many poems about race, colour imagery is used: “sable race”, “black as Cain” as well as “die” (“dye” in modern spelling). The theme of transformation is also embedded in these images; a “die” implies a change of state (potentially reversible), as does the verb “refined” …”


4. Sandburg

“…reflects upon humankind’s ability to wage war and then conveniently “forget” what has happened, bury events in memory, and again travel down that same path … By leveling all wars into one homogenous description, Sandburg begins to question the individual value of war when humans appear to forget so quickly”


“The use of anaphora (“And pile them high … And pile them high …”) emphasizes the mechanical destruction and its pointlessness, as well as the idea that we never learn, making the same mistakes over and over through history. The images of passengers riding over a (presumably) now unified territory and wondering idly “What place is this? Where are we now?” is ironic in its contrast of peacetime obliviousness to the sacrifices of war, and the indifference of the grass to both…”


“the passengers on the train are traveling through the battlefields not interacting directly with them and therefore are distanced from the reality of history. Their questions … expose their ignorance”


“This poem is about the healing process, the time it takes and the danger it warrants. The first three lines include the words “pile” and “shovel”, two obviously cruel words to use in reference to human bodies. It brings out the horror of such great loss but also calls attention to the hastiness that the survivors, those at home, must watch out for when striving to move on. The second part illustrates where healing nations may be in “two year, ten years” – asking questions, already forgetting the sacrifices of the war. A word that is used twice is “work”. This indicates that the healing will indeed be difficult and will involve a great deal of effort. The “grass” then represents healing, and the poem is about striking a balance in post war life. It is saying, allow the grass to grow, allow the ground, yourselves to heal and be renewed, but do not forget what the grass is covering. For symbolically the bodies feed the grass, and so without the sacrifice this new life could not happen.”


“…Sandburg gives the grass self-identification, “I am the grass” and occupation, “Let me work.” It is as if the grass is the important part of the equation instead of the human life. Perhaps Sandburg is asking us to look at the futility of their deaths and see them as part of a natural cycle, but I think that by giving the grass such a difficult occupation, Sandburg is pointing out the deep and earth-bound damage that war inflicts …”


“”Grass” highlights nature’s ability to renew, even after the horror of a massive war. The poem takes an unusual perspective: instead of speaking from the grave, as do the dead in “In Flanders Fields”, the poet chooses the grass as his speaker. The effect this has is to further distance the reader from the dead and the events of the war … The repetition (“What place is this? Where are we now?” and “Let me work”) emphasizes nature’s indifference and the indifference of future generations.”


“it soon forgets what once seemed so indelible … the effects of humanity upon the world, what it might consider to be immeasurably significant and permanent, are effectively trivial. When something so slight and inconsequent as the grass can without effort wholly erase such scars how is it possible to regard our endeavours as anything but in passing?”


“…a pastoral peacetime indifferent to the sacrifices of men” …


5. Yeats


“In this poem the speaker is becoming aware of his own mortality and aging body. He longs for Byzantium, a city which although artificial is beautiful in that it is eternal, being of something greater than nature. The first two lines illustrate that theme as they both speak of the natural or mortal world. “Once out of nature I shall never take/My bodily form from any natural thing” means that when he is done with the body he has been given he would not choose another so weak. He would move on to something “goldsmiths make/of hammered gold and gold enamelling” because such a “body” is eternal, forever, unchanging/unaging. The very last line encompasses all time: “Of what is past, or passing, or to come.” The entire poem is about his longing, in a realization of life’s impermanence, to be eternal.”


“the speaker opts instead for an artificial form of immortality – much as a poet does through publication … we may regard the speaker has having a rather noble even spiritual conception of poetry and the poet since the poet rejects what is given (the life of youth) he must construct a being for himself in largely the same manner as a craftsman would .. through contrivance and artifice the poet builds his legacy. The life of the poet (who being counterposed to youth must be the “old man” of the poem) may itself by “paltry”, but what he leaves is truly a “monument” in contrast to the forgotten ectasy of the historically silent”


“Does this excerpt betray Yeats’ anxiety about what his poetry will do for his country Ireland? Does poetry make nothing happen, as Auden was to write in 1939 at Yeats’ death? Perhaps its effect in imperial England is the equivalent only of “keep[ing] a drowsy Emperor awake”. But Yeats had written “Of what is past”, of mythic and recent Irish history, not only to ennoble his readers with lasting literature but perhaps also to inspire “lords and ladies” like Lady Gregory to affect “what is to come”. That the excerpt and the poem ends with “to come” suggests a more confident attitude to poetry and its creator than the potentially trivial and superficial implications of a gold-covered bird that sings to a king – and indeed no birds are mentioned in this well wrought poem, just an explicitly non-“natural” “form” that by singing can help both poet and audience transcend their mortal limitations..”


8. Plath (key incomplete –ed.)


“the general theme of a problematic father-daughter relationship stereotyped into the conflict between Nazi and Jew (“the dark and controversial appropriations of holocaust imagery”). The blunt, childlike diction and imagery (“… stuck me together with glue”) as well as the sing-songy rhythm and rhyme are suggestive of the childlike mentality of the speaker as she confronts the image of her father …”


“…the speaker’s child-like voice, with an author who seems to have grown up in most ways (she knows about torture devices) but is still stuck in the memory and vocabulary of childhood…”


“…the speaker describes being glued together then building a model of the father figure, images that are both fragmented and cohesive. The fragmentation of the speaking character represents the damage she feels was caused by her father…”


“….the making of a model is also suggestive of the way a child interprets and deals with the world – through play and creative representation”


“the dead father further distanced by describing him as a Nazi and as the speaker of a foreign language. Verbs like “said” and “The black telephone” show us how the distance between daughter and father is expressed in terms of communication problems…”


“although the poem is spoken in a child’s voice, the speaker seems to recognize and take responsibility for having married (“I do I do”) a man just like her father (“I made a model of you”). Her claim that she is “through” and her attempts to call “off” attempts at communication claim to conflate the loss of her father with the end of her marriage and the attempted onset of real adulthood and agency…”


9. Thomas


“This excerpt is about childhood. The entire excerpt is made up of only two sentences, both long descriptive excitable sentences. The structure reflects childhood in all its excitement and wonder. The first sentence is full of words like “running”, “lovely”, “tunes”, “Playing” which gives one images of childhood. The references to fields and green and grass give an image of lushness and can also mean metaphorically “spring” which goes along with the childhood theme. The second sentence includes words like “sleep”, “owls”, “moon” and “night” indicating a very quick transition to the end of the day. Metaphorically this shows how fast childhood goes., This, along with the words “flashing into the dark” and “flying” illustrates the entire theme of the poem: that childhood is fleeing, and before you know it, the newness, the lushness, the spring is gone.”


“Thomas’s poem is undoubtedly one of the most sentimental recollections of childhood in the English canon. And yet, he manages to convey his memories with so subtle a use of irony that we cannot help but be conscious of the fact that it is written retrospectively…”


10. Walcott


“…betrays the ambivalence of a person caught between two cultures, black and white. This first verse paragraph alludes to the Mau Mau massacres of Kenya (a “paradise” to its white colonizers). The brutality of both sides – natives and settlers—leads Walcott to grim reflections on the pointlessness of taking sides … This ambivalence is further explicated in the last two lines of this excerpt: “What is that to the white child hacked in bed? To savages, expendable as jews?” The child of course is innocent; the Mau Mau perhaps less so, but the disproportionate response of the British lends them our sympathy…brutality lurks under the surface of “savage” and “civilized” alike…”


“…The conceit he employs, that of Africa as a rotting corpse, serves to make his difficulties in accepting Africa as a homeland more powerful. He speaks of the continent’s “tawny pelt” being ruffled by a wind, and compares the Kikuyu (warring tribesmen) to flies, feeling upon the “bloodstreams” of the land…In his descriptions of Africa, Walcott conflates the natural and the human/social words. The guerilla fighters become flies, while the worm becomes “colonel” of carrion. This adds to the overall sense of political conflict as beyond the control of the individual because it is described in terms of natural forces. It is this uncontrollable savagery that Walcott responds to.” …“Only then does he consider the number of individual lives shattered—though the worm urges to “Waste no compassion on these separate dead!, Walcott cannot so easily justify the events. “What is that to the white child, hacked in bed? To savages, expendable as Jews?” This horrifying picture, which Walcott will not dismiss as statistics (indeed, the situation’s true horror is vivid) is what makes the speaker feel so conflicted about his African roots and his use of the English language.


“…For me, the interesting part of this excerpt is the interjection of the worm’s voice: “Waste no compassion on these separate dead!”. Like the “Grass”, the worm here is a mediator between the dead and the living. By stating that compassion is wasted on the separate dead, the victims of colonialism become one mass entity. I think that by interjecting this voice, Walcott is forcing the reader to see a bigger picture, not the incidents he mentions by name. Science has often been used to support racist policies (i.e. the idea that races exist and that white/black/yellow/pink humans are different from or superior to one another) …


11. Seuss


“… the obstacles and successes one will surely face in the journey of life. One such obstacle is the “Waiting Place”. This passage points out the monotony and uselessness and danger of waiting rather than acting in one’s own life journey. Seuss illustrates this through his use of rhyme/rhythm and of repetition. In the first section of the extract, rhyme and rhythm mimic the movement in life. This is where we “race” and “pace” and our options are open in this “space”. However, this movement stops when we reach the “Waiting place”. By rhyming “useless palce” with the “waiting place” Seuss emphasizes both the uselessness of the waiting place as well as the monotony. We move from place back to place, going nowhere else. In the waiting place itself, by repeating the word “go”, Seuss sets up the expectations that the reader will be going somewhere however our journey is stopped, first by the word “no”, then (after a misleadingly forward-sounding “grow”) by the reappearance of the word “waiting”.


12. Lee


“Dennis Lee’s “Alligator Pie” is nonsense verse, a childhood anthem—a nursery theme. In his Canadianization of the nursery rhyme, he combines details of the everyday with historical ones. The hockey stick, for instance, would have been topically popular at the time thanks to Canada’s recent championship with the Soviet Union [editor: hockey has always been popular!]; the hoop is a more archaic toy. Lee sought to combine the modern and the historical to show Canadian children that their worlds had as much scope for the imagination as those of Mother Goose. He combines elements from children’s own lives with the fantastical, nonsensical gobbledygook of nursery rhymes – to children, “alligator soup” is just as exotic as the traditional “curds and whey”.


“…the repetition of phrases such as “Alligator Soup” in this excerpt allows children to take part in the poem before being able to read it themselves. The repetition makes it easy for them to remember what comes next and can function to encourage literacy…”


“the rhyme words (e.g. soup and hoop), though spelled differently, would provide the child with the opportunity to compare and recognize different spellings for words that look similar”