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Comparative Essay For Poetry Unit: "Search For My Tongue" By Sujata Bhatt And "Half Caste" By John Agard

Cultural conflict is when a new set of beliefs and habits overtakes and conceals the old set, deteriorating the sacred cultural connections established at birth. Sujata’s "Search for My Tongue" and John Agard’s "Half-Caste" are both excellent examples of cultural conflict. In the both cases, the authors are attempting to depict the hardships involved with a clash of culture. In “Search for My Tongue,” Sujata Bhatt finds conflict between two languages: “what would you do/if you had two tongues in your mouth” (3-4). In Half-Caste, Agard protests the racial discrimination towards the Guyanese interior hidden by the British exterior. Both poets express these cultural conflicts with the use of perspective, cultural context, literary devices, imagery and variations to syntax. The similarities in these poems show that cultural conflict is abundant and ubiquitous, whereas the differences provide uniqueness amongst the cultural conflicts.

In “Search for My Tongue,” Bhatt’s poem encompasses the conflict between mother tongue and the foreign tongue. These very physical objects replace her native language of Guajarati and foreign language of English. The use of this metaphorical analogy is widespread, such as in the French language, where the word “langue” means both tongue and language. According to Bhatt, if “you had to/speak a foreign tongue,/your mother tongue would rot” (10-12). The conflict between languages continues in the subconscious world, where the mother tongue always returns and “blossoms out of my mouth” (38).

Similarly “Half-Caste” is also a conflict of cultures, specifically race. John Agard is a mixed race of black and white – “light an shadow” (13). His life in Britain has allegedly suppressed his black, unwanted side. This protest poem is the black side attempting to be freed just as how Bhatt’s mother tongue wants to “grow(s) back” (31). Agard often describes himself as half a person, “standing on one leg” (2), “Half-a-eye” (41), “half-a-dream” (43), “half-a-shadow,” (46). Bhatt searches for her two tongue but only finds one.

Contrastingly, “Half-caste” is a poem of external conflict between Agard and the disapproving English society, whereas “Search For My Tongue” is about self-discovery and internal conflict. In “Search for My Tongue,” lines between 1 and 14 are all in the 2nd person, which connects the poem to the reader. It is more dramatic and heartfelt than a narrative. Bhatt’s internal conflicts are voiced out to the world, searching for an answer to the question “I ask you, what would you...

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Search for my tongue is a poem about a women who is afraid of losing her native language which is a part if her culture. The poem is expressing her pain and emotions with bold terms. She talks about her language as it were an actual living thing, she says tongue, which is creating an image and it is also a metaphor of the language in her expression.

She is distressed/ distraught, being in remorse about losing her tongue, the native language. Her search for identity is expressed through the search of the language, as without her native tongue she feels as if she has no identity which is why she is afraid of losing the language, as if she isn’t a complete person without the language.

She sends a message of being alienated without her mother tongue, almost like being orphaned to her second tongue because she feels as if she has been rebounded onto it.

She uses any metaphors to express her feelings and emotions about getting her mother tongue back; ‘it grows back, a stump of a shoot, grows longer, grows moist, grows stronger veins, it ties the other tongue in knots, the bud opens, the bud opens in my mouth.’ This is about the native tongue of hers coming back to her blossoming like a flower, by the end of the poem her mood has totally changed, the grief has stopped she feels like she is in a sweet release and is happy once again, no longer alienated or orphaned, just pure happy. That is her search for identity in ‘Search For My Tongue’.

‘Unrelated Incidents’ Tom Leonard.

This poem is about a Scottish man writing in phonetic language who completely against the English. The poem is made against the English language and how it is correctly spoken; according to the poet the English language is completely wrong. His emotions are very fierce and angry towards the language.

He doesn’t use the language correctly and he hates it with a deep passion that is very strong, it is a rebellion against the queens English which he is very contempt towards, he wants to prove that the English language is breaking down the Scottish conventions and traditions; he is very keen and fond of the Scottish traditions.

He is fed up of seeing British people with British accents on the Scottish news, even though they are broadcasted by the BBC, which is where the man contradicts himself as BBC stands fir British Broad Casting so if he doesn’t want to watch the British on his TV then he shouldn’t watch the BBC news channels.

This man hates the English language and its literature, to get back at the language he uses no technical terms what so ever through out the entire poem; ‘this is ma trooth’ this expresses that he wants to speak and hear his local accent etc. the whole poem is about the self expression of him self and the Scottish.

This is his search for identity, against the English, he wants to hear more of the Scottish and wants to be heard and recognized for his anger.

‘Half-Caste’ John Agard.

‘Half-Caste’ is a narrative poem, saying ‘what or who am I?’ this is a search for identity, the poem is jumping out at the reader ‘you are ignorant and narrow minded for calling me a half-cast’ which is what the entire poem is about; being called a half cast as if you are half made or not a whole person. He uses many bizarre ways of expressing his emotions.

He uses no grammar or punctuation to get his point across, relating to the man from ‘Unrelated Incidents’ they both use phonetic language and they do not use any grammar etc to show there emotions which are mainly anger towards the English. He is very expressive and humorous to show his emotions to prove his point in a way; I believe he is a very bold and opinionated poet.

This poets search for identity is shown through his anger and at the end of the poem how he empathises with the reader, basically saying I understand why you call me half-cast and if you come back tomorrow I will teach/ educate you, as long as you look at me as a whole person and not a half-cast; ‘but yu must come back tomorrow wid de whole of yu eye an e whole of yu ear an de whole of yu mind an I will tell yu de other half of my story’ this is the quote which I have analysed above and decided that this is the poets search for identity.

‘unrelated incidents’ and ‘half-caste’ are the two poems that relate to each other as the poets are very similar in the way they think and the way they write (in phonetic) this is to show their anger and emotion towards the English attitude towards them as people and their culture etc. the other poem just sympathises the loss of the language and needs to get it back, it’s a similar emotion to the other two but not the same.


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