Limbo. Tells of a journey on a slave ship
1. GCSE AnthologyPoems from Different CulturesCluster 1 Some basic notes on the 8 poems
2. Limbo Tells of a journey on a slave ship – from Africa to America.
Written like a song, with a ‘chorus’ in italics. This gives it a distinct rhythm.
The mood changes through the poem – from confusion and fear to hope.
It reminds us of the limbo dance, which is very difficult as the dancer tries to bend under the limbo stick, but easier on the way back up. How is this linked to the ship’s journey?
3. Limbo – Themes and links Main theme seems to be the injustice of slavery.
Also, the idea of losing your sense of identity.
Links to ‘Island Man’ – lost identity.
‘Blessing’, ‘Night of Scorpion’ – retelling an event.
‘What were they like?’ – unusual layout.
4. Limbo – Important quotes “limbo stick is the silence in front of me” (l.1)
This metaphor shows how the narrator is uncertain of his future.
“long dark deck…” (l.16)
The alliteration is a harsh ‘d’ sound which could relate to the harsh conditions on the ship.
“hot slow step…” (l.48)
These words sound quite painful. This may remind the reader that the future is bleak for the slaves.
5. Nothing’s Changed Someone walking through ‘District Six’ (an area of Cape Town, S.Africa), years after growing up there.
Narrator recalls a time of Apartheid and the segregation of black and white people.
He is angry that there is a ‘whites only’ restaurant and feels that, after all these years, nothing has changed - that racism still exists.
6. Nothing’s Changed – Themes and links Injustice of racism.
Differences between rich and poor.
A political/social divide.
Links to ‘Two Scavengers’ – political comment, rich and poor.
‘Island Man’, ‘Night of the Scorpion’, ‘What were they like?’ – a sense of place.
‘Vultures’, ‘What were they like?’ – political comment.
7. Nothing’s Changed – Important quotes “but my feet know” (l.11)
This reveals how well narrator knows this area. He has a really strong bond with District Six.
“whites only inn.” (l.24)
The double meaning refers to the posh restaurant, but also to the theme of segregation (only white people allowed in).
“small mean mouth.” (l.44)
This shows the narrator thinking back to when he was a boy, and shows his feelings of anger.
8. Island Man Tells of a man who has moved to London from the Caribbean, but misses home.
First half of poem are his memories/dreams of home. Then we have the much louder sounds of London.
The colours mentioned are brighter in the first half.
In the end, he seems to accept that this is just the way it is.
9. Island Man – Themes and links Losing your identity, moving from one culture to another.
Differences between people and places.
Links to ‘Limbo’ – losing identity, moving to another place.
‘Nothing’s Changed’, ‘What were they like?’ – describing a place.
‘Limbo’ – unusual layout.
10. Island Man – Important quotes “his small emerald island” (l.10)
This shows how he feels the island is ‘his’, a part of him, and emphasises how much he is missing home. The colour also reminds us of the contrast with the “grey” of London.
“island man heaves himself” (l.18)
The choice of words here tells us that city life is a struggle for him, especially when compared to the Caribbean way of life.
11. Blessing Tells of an incident (maybe real) in Bombay, India – a pipe bursting, which suddenly provides free water to the people living in poverty around it.
Water, because it means so much (especially if you consider the heat), is compared to a God and a precious metal.
The mood is temporarily very happy – everyone tries to get some of the water.
The ending is more uncertain, or a little bleak, as we know things will return to ‘normal’ for them.
12. Blessing – Themes and links Struggle against poverty.
Idea of religion being important to a culture.
Links to ‘Nothing’s Changed’, ‘Island Man’ – describing certain people in a certain place.
‘Two Scavengers’, ‘Nothing’s Changed’ – rich and poor.
‘Night of Scorpion’, ‘Two Scavengers’ – describing an event.
13. Blessing – Important quotes “The skin cracks like a pod.” (l.1)
This simple opening, a simile, helps to sum up the living conditions, emphasising the extreme heat of the sun.
“silver crashes to the ground” (l.9)
This metaphor, comparing the water to silver, tells us the villagers value water as much as a precious metal.
“frantic hands” (l.17)
The harsh reality of the situation is that people are desperate to get some water, as they realise that the pipe will soon be fixed.
14. Two Scavengers in a Truck…
This describes a specific moment in time, at a red traffic light at 9am in San Francisco.
The 2 scavengers (bin men) are compared with a rich man and woman.
The poet uses the idea of the ‘American Dream’ – Is it real? Is it fair? Are the rich couple any happier than the bin men?
No punctuation is used, reminding us that all this happens very quickly.
The poem gets us thinking about social class – Is it right to class people in this way?
15. Two Scavengers – Themes and links The difference between rich and poor.
A political/social divide.
The ‘fairness’ of American society.
Links to ‘Blessing’, ‘Night of Scorpion’ – describing an event.
‘Nothing’s Changed’ – political comment, rich and poor.
‘Vultures’, ‘What were they like?’ – political comment.
16. Two Scavengers – Important quotes “looking down into…” (l.7)
As they are in their truck, they are higher up than the rich couple. But they could also look down on them by thinking they are happier or better than the rich couple.
“in which everything is always possible” (l.30)
This suggests that TV ads tell us one thing, but we know that everything isn’t always possible in real life.
“the high seas of this democracy” (l.36)
This could mean that although part of the ‘American Dream’, real democracy is never easy to achieve.
17. Night of the Scorpion Told from the point of view of a child, describing the night their mother was stung by a scorpion.
Set in a close-knit village community in poor, rural India.
The scorpion is given a personality – it comes in to shelter from the rain.
The villagers react in very different ways – most of them panic or say prayers, the father tries various medicines, and a holy man tries a spell.
In the end, the sting was harmless. The mother is grateful her children weren’t stung.
The poem tells us a lot about the culture of these people.
18. Night of the Scorpion – Themes and links Idea of religion being important to a culture.
People within same culture having different beliefs/ideas.
Links to ‘Blessing’ – describing an event, religious images.
‘Nothing’s Changed’, ‘Island Man’, ‘Two Scavengers’, ‘What were they like?’ – different cultures/ideas.
‘Island Man’, ‘Nothing’s Changed’ – a sense of place.
19. Night of the Scorpion – Important quotes “The peasants came like swarms of flies” (l.8)
This simile gives us the impression the villagers aren’t really needed or wanted in the hut.
“May the sins of your previous birth…” (l.19)
This refers to the strong beliefs held in the village, such as the idea of reincarnation.
“Thank God the scorpion picked on me” (l.47)
The mother is selfless – she is more concerned for her children, as for them, the sting could have been deadly.
20. Vultures The poet describes two vultures – how they eat the corpses of other animals, yet also seem to live together as an affectionate couple.
This situation is compared to that of a Nazi commander – murdering people in a concentration camp during the day, yet becoming a loving father in the evening.
The poem asks us to consider whether evil exists in all of us, or if even the most evil beings are capable of love.
21. Vultures – Themes and links Human attitudes – how we treat each other.
The fairness of society.
How the nature reflects the human race.
Links to ‘What were they like?’, ‘Nothing’s Changed’, ‘Two Scavengers’ – political/social comment, how humans treat each other.
‘Night of the Scorpion’, ‘What were they like?’ – human attitudes.
22. Vultures – Important quotes “In the greyness and drizzle” (l.1)
This sets the mood of the poem, creating a very bleak atmosphere.
“with fumes of human roast…” (l.32)
The disgusting image of burning human bodies really emphasises the idea of the commander being evil. But it also makes the image of him as a loving father even more unbelievable.
“grants even an ogre…” (l.43)
The poet seems relieved that even an evil man is capable of showing some tenderness.
23. What Were They Like? Written in the style of an interview, with six questions being asked about the people of Vietnam and how they used to live.
All of the questions are asked before the answers are given, perhaps by a member of the army (use of the word ‘Sir’).
The answers contain more detail and seem to focus on human suffering.
The poem aims to teach us how the culture of Vietnam was severely affected by the war.
24. What were they like? – Themes and links Human attitudes.
The injustice of war.
The idea of people losing their culture.
Links to ‘Vultures’, ‘Nothing’s Changed’, ‘Two Scavengers’ – political comment.
‘Island Man’, ‘Nothing’s Changed’, ‘Night of the Scorpion’ – a sense of place.
25. What were they like? – Important quotes “Sir, their light hearts turned to stone.”
The contrast of light and heavy helps us to understand how much the people of Vietnam have changed.
“laughter is bitter to the burned mouth.”
The ‘b’ sounds are quite harsh here. This alliteration emphasises the hurt and pain the people must have been through.
“All the bones were charred.”
This refers back to the question about ornaments, but it also gives us a terrible image of a village being bombed and bodies on fire.