The Lies in | Teen Ink

The Lies in

March 27, 2021
By NC BRONZE, Shanghai, Other
NC BRONZE, Shanghai, Other
3 articles 6 photos 2 comments

Favorite Quote:
Beneath the mask, there is more than flesh.
Beneath this mask, there is an idea,
And ideas are bulletproof.


          “The poet is a liar who always speaks the truth.” – Jean Cocteau. Extending upon that, I am going to analyse and compare the “lies” in “Nothing’s Changed” and “Give”. While “Nothing’s Changed” is written in the early 1930s, right after when apartheid was abolished; and Give is written in the modern open world, I am going to compare and contrast their sound devices, structure, and language.

          The first similarity between the poems is that they both used repetition. From “Nothing’s Changed” in stanza 2, Afrika wrote, “but my feet know, and my hands, and the skins about my bones, and the soft labouring of my lungs, and the hot, white inwards turning anger of my eyes.” As we can see here, Afrika repeated “and + organ” four times in his poem. First of all, it sounds powerful with repeating “and”, he also might want to indicate that black people are also really powerful. Secondly, he might be illustrating that his whole body is angry because nothing’s changed even though the apartheid is abolished. This refers to the title of his poem “Nothing’s Changed”. From “Give” in stanza 3, Armitage wrote “For coppers, I can dance or sing. For silvers -- swallow sword, eat fire. For gold -- escape from locks and chains.” From that, it is clear that Armitage repeated the format of “For something” three times in stanza 3. He might be repeating this for emphasis. He might want to tell people that the homeless people can do anything in return for money and might call to action to let people do something. Thus, as a reader, might then feel empathy for the homeless people, as he/she is willing to do anything for money. From that, we can see that both poets conveyed the problems in modern daily life by using repetition.

          The first difference between the two poems is the structure and the tone of the poem. In “Nothing’s Changed”, Africa used enjambment a lot, and make most of the stanzas long. For example, “Small round hard stones click ¶ under my heels, seeding grasses thrust ¶ bearded seeds”, and “No sign says it is: ¶ but we know where we belong.” However, in “Give”, Armitage kept the lines simple, without enjambments, he kept each line in 8 ~ 10 syllables. I would suggest that Africa used enjambments because he wants to convey a sense of anger. To illustrate, a person usually spills short, quick sentences when they are angry. So, when the readers read about this, they would also feel angry themselves. I would then suggest that Armitage used simple lines in his poem because he wants to convey a sense of empathy. To exemplify, when a person is begging, a mild, calm tone is usually used, and it usually works. As Armitage is writing from a homeless people’s perspective, he would have to use this tone. Thus, we can see that the two poets conveyed the problems in modern daily life in different ways in terms of the structure and the tone of the poem.

          Another similarity is that both poems used sarcasm. In “Nothing’s Changed”, Afrika wrote “whites only inn”. This is also a pun, which is a play on words. It can mean the hotel “inn” or if you could go “in”. Afrika might be using this because he is angry at the inn. The poet used to live in District Six, however, the National Party thought they would need to use this land, as it is in the centre position of Cape town. So, they knocked down every house there. But it turns out that they don’t actually need that much land, so much of the land remained empty. Afrika is not only angry about this, but he is also angry about the fact that he cannot go into a restaurant that is built right above his hometown. This might show the readers the absurdity of the National Party. In “Give”, Armitage wrote “That’s big of you.” This might be indicating that people are not doing enough. People are only giving the homeless people a cup of tea, and the poet might think this is not enough for people to do. Armitage is telling the readers this because he might want to convey a sense of empathy, and to call to action to tell people to do more. As we can see, the two poets all used sarcasm to convey the problems in modern daily life.

          Another difference is the use of poetic devices in poems. In “Nothing’s Changed”, Afrika used a lot of poetic devices. For example, alliteration “we know where we…”, personification “it squats”, a pun and probably sarcasm “whites only inn”, etc. However, in “Give”, Armitage used a lot less poetic devices than Afrika. Other than repetition “For copper… For silver… For gold…”, and sarcasm “That’s big of you.”. There is rarely any other poetic devices used here. I would suggest that it is because of the period of time it was written. I contend that the reason why Afrika used a lot of poetic devices is to hide the meaning of words, making it less obvious to spot. To explain this, although this poem is written after the apartheid was abolished, white people and black people still got boundaries between them. So, hiding the meaning, making it less obvious to spot is important so as not to offend the white people. On the other hand, Armitage does not need to use a lot of poetic devices because “Give” was written in the modern open world, and we have freedom of speech. Moreover, as Armitage is writing from the homeless people’s perspective, using a lot of fancy poetic devices would be inappropriate because homeless people won’t use fancy poetic devices, as they are often not well-educated and do not know much about poetry. Using simple phrases would make readers feel more like homeless people. From all the above, we can see that the two poems are different in terms of the use of poetic devices.

          To conclude, “Nothing’s Changed” and “Give” all used vivid ways of conveying the problems in modern daily life. They are similar in the use of repetition and sarcasm, and they are different in the structure of the poem, and the use of poetic devices in the poem.


The author's comments:

A comparative essay about the two poems "Nothings's changed" and "Give".


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This article has 2 comments.


NC BRONZE said...
on Sep. 13 at 3:20 am
NC BRONZE, Shanghai, Other
3 articles 6 photos 2 comments

Favorite Quote:
Beneath the mask, there is more than flesh.
Beneath this mask, there is an idea,
And ideas are bulletproof.

Thank you @Sai_Panchumarthi16

on Apr. 4 at 9:30 pm
Sai_Panchumarthi16, Cupertino, California
0 articles 0 photos 1 comment

Favorite Quote:
"The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall." -Nelson Mandela

Well written! I totally agree with you.