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Analysis of White Lies by Natasha Trethewey - Essay Example

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"Analysis of White Lies by Natasha Trethewey" paper examines this poem written from the view of a girl born because of an interracial marriage between an African American woman and a White American man. The young girl born, the poet has light skin and thus passes off as a white…
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Analysis of White Lies by Natasha Trethewey
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There is imagery present in the words ‘light-bright’, ‘near-white’, ‘high-yellow’, ‘red-boned’, ‘black-place’ and ‘white-lies’. Furthermore, assonance is present in words like light, bright, and white. As the poem proceeds, it becomes clear that as a young girl, the poet was afraid of her background; she did not want people to find out that her mother was black because then she would be a social reject like the other black girls and boys. This was again a proclamation made by a society that was transforming young minds onto the path of contamination with regard to racism. In the next stanza, she states that the white lies she could have made could have been with respect to her place of living, her clothes as well as her skin color. She had the option of lying to the people around her and telling them that she lived uptown, in a better place than the neighborhood she actually did for fear of being ostracized; furthermore, she could also lie about her clothes and tell people that she was actually from a more economically independent background and was able to afford better clothes just as the white people did at the time; and finally, she could even lie about her skin color because she had light skin and thus could pass off as a white child. She even felt accepted and part of the cream crowd when a girl once held her hand in class and told her that including her that made three of them that were white. This stanza notes a great amount of imagery as well in words like ‘white folks’, ‘pink and green shanty’, ‘homemade dresses’ and ‘white girl’. Also, alliteration is present in the line, ‘shanty-find shotgun section.’ In the next stanza, the poet talks about how her mother tried to teach her morals every time she found out that her daughter was lying to society. This is because she did not want her daughter to walk on the path of lying to others or being ashamed of her identity and where she came from. A white lie, however mild and non-harming in nature it might be, can always lead to a person become a bad and deliberate liar in the future. Her mother washed her mouth with soap in order to purify her. Here, the significance of the color white is not to the race but to the symbol of purity and innocence. Her mother tried to make her mouth ‘white’ so that the poet would not go around telling lies to society. Furthermore, the soap has been described as ‘ivory’ which is another form of white, which helps to show that being white inside and not outside it the way to live one’s life. Being white inside refers to being a person true to oneself as well as to others and not lying or harming anyone else, and retaining one’s innocence. Imagery is present in ‘laid her hands on me’ and ‘Ivory soap’ and alliteration is present again in ‘swallowing suds’. Thus, with the help of this lesson learned by her mother, the poet talks about how she proceeded from speaking white lies to swallowing soap suds thinking that they would actually cleanse her soul. She would only gather comfort from her own mother, who was indeed black; however, it was tough for her to accept her identity outside in society where even young children were segregated from one another and taught to not talk to others who belonged to a different race. Thus, at a young age, she was made aware of the discrepancies that people had to live within society. Read More
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