October 17, 2007
The common theme that is displayed throughout these poems is acceptance among the narrator’s peers. It seems as if all throughout time, many things change, history, rights for people be gained and lost, but always there is the search of acceptance between the surrounding environment and people.
In the poem “Queen, 1963” by Julia Alvarez display’s the American people’s behavior towards new and unknown variables placed into their world, not by their choice. This poem talks about a neighborhood in Queen; the neighborhood is somewhat diverse, there are Jewish, German, Dominicans, and mainly White’s, but not too many African Americans live in that specific neighborhood. The narrator was commenting on when their family first arrived, from the Dominican, in that neighborhood how “everyone seemed more American” but by the years end they blended in. She is experiencing through different eyes now, how the neighborhood treats incoming an African American family. There is obviously a great deal of tension displayed by the other neighbors, even the subtle gestures as when the young German girl stopped playing piano when the African American family was in view. The African American family does not feel the welcoming moods of the other neighbors; the simple wave from the Dominican girl is over powered by the negativity.
In the poem “ Theme for English B” by Langston Hughes is about not the type of acceptance you expect from new neighbors like “Queen, 1963”, but rather acceptance you want from your peers and teacher in the learning environment. This young individual is expressing himself through his writing assignment, and he writes about color. He expresses himself, which was the assignment “ let that page come out of you-then, it will be true.” And part of himself is the color of his skin. As he points out just like everybody else in other races, he likes similar things to them. One important question that is asked in his writing was whether or not the page he is writing will be colored. I believe there are two ways of looking at that question: one, the paper will be colored because the teacher did give the assignment to let the paper flow out of you, and who you are, race and color are apart of you, will flow out onto the paper as well. The other way of looking at it is that, even though this student is the only African American, they are all categorized under one general title, students; so the color of the paper, the color of his skin, should not matter in the teachers or other students eyes.
Although “Fork” by Jeffrey Harrison does not specifically talk about race and acceptance, it does talk about acceptance in the classroom, like “Theme for English B”. The student is craving for the proper attention from the teacher, who acts more like a celebrity than an educator. The level of professionalism is brought down by the teacher’s actions, and in doing so the student does not feel the need to personally connect with the teacher. Maybe because there is no relationship between the teacher and this specific student there is no room for acceptance. In search for acceptance, the student stole one of the teachers forks, the symbolism there is possibly searching for that relationship if not on a mental level then on a physical level, but with the teachers belongings. After years and years of life, the student’s daughter asked why he had a fork, and he realized that although he craved the acceptance never gained from his former teacher, he has created many more relationships and filled that empty spot.
Lucille Clifton’s “this morning (for the girls of eastern high school)” is a more symbolic poem rather than the more literal ones listed above. This poem deals with the significance of accepting yourself. There are many symbols in the poem that indicate the race of the young girl. Mainly the last stanza, the “black bell”, and the phrase “I survive”. The black bell can be taken for face value, the color is black, the young girls skin is black, and also in Martin Luther Kind Jr.’s famous speech, he uses the phrase “let freedom ring” the young girl being personified into a black bell suggests that connection. “I survive,” reminds me of the song by Gloria Gaynor, and although “I will survive” is put into different context, it was a great symbolism of African American’s pushing through to the mainstream American culture.
Through these poems we can be sure to see the common theme of struggling to accept, whether it be with racial issues, in the classroom, or just in life in general. Now in the history of our own country we are experiencing many different changes, especially in our very own upcoming presidential election. A woman and an African American are running for president, but hopefully to the public they are not viewed as just a woman and an African American, but as an intelligent, equal, proper representation of our country, people who can relate to our vary lives, people who we can accept.