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An Annotation of Incident by Countee Cullen - Essay Example

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An essay "An Annotation of Incident by Countee Cullen" argues that Countee Cullen’s Incident uses simple language and structure to express his complex sentiments for racial prejudice. He began his poem with a cheerful mood and ended it with a dramatic revelation…
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An Annotation of Incident by Countee Cullen
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Download file to see previous pages The author starts off with a nostalgic stanza; a nostalgia that is filled with the hope of meeting new people and gaining memorable experiences in Baltimore. He tells of his sojourn in Baltimore—‘once riding in old Baltimore’—with an emphasis on the word ‘old’ to perhaps inform his readers that Baltimore has changed a lot since the incident. Or perhaps to stress that ‘old’, racially prejudiced Baltimore is no more. Then he describes what he feels and thinks about while passing by ‘old’ Baltimore—‘heart-filled, head-filled with glee’ (Nielsen 29). He uses the words ‘heart’ and ‘head’ to express the delight that he felt and the hopeful thoughts that he has in seeing Baltimore. But instead of using the word ‘happiness’ he says ‘glee’, perhaps to moderate the intensity of his feelings. This gleeful emotion intensify when he suddenly encounters someone from Baltimore—‘I saw a Baltimorean’ (Nielsen 29); a Baltimorean that would quickly change his views of and hopes for Baltimore. He describes their encounter- ‘Keep looking straight at me’. His description of this encounter leaves the reader guessing: will this be a friendly encounter or a hostile one? The author then gives important details about this particular incident. The reader is informed that this story is a childhood memory—‘Now I was eight and very small’ (Lown & Steinbergh 106)....
This revelation perhaps surprises the reader because of how vivid the author recounts the incident, as though it only happened recently. Knowing that the author was only eight years old when it happened heightens the essence of the story. It becomes a story about an innocent child who, at a very young age, already has something to share to the world through poetry. After revealing his age at the time of the incident, the author describes the ‘Baltimorean’- ‘and he was no whit bigger’ (Nielsen 29). This depiction implies that in terms of stature, they are clearly equal. And seeing that the ‘Baltimorean’ seems harmless, the author shows amicability—‘And so I smiled’ (Nielsen 29). However, immediately afterward, he reveals how the ‘Baltimorean’ responded to his friendly gesture—‘but he poked out His tongue/ and called me, ‘Nigger’’ (Nielsen 29). This revelation may have taken aback the reader, for the author starts off his poem with a cheerful tone, and then drastically changes the mode into something unpleasant. The final stanza portrays how the incident affected the author’s perspective, not only of Baltimore, but the entire state of affairs during that time. It describes how, at a very young age, this very important incident scarred and opened the eyes of the author to reality. It shows how all positive expectations can be crushed by a single incident. The author equates this incident or, more particularly, the attitude of the Baltimorean toward him, to the entire Baltimore—‘I saw the whole of Baltimore’ (Lown & Steinbergh 106). He is implying that ‘old’ Baltimore is a racially prejudiced place. He then tells the reader how long he stayed in Baltimore, that is, ‘from May until ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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