Rita Dove "Roast Possum" What is Thomas doing in "Roast Possum"? Why is this a significant moment to Dove? “Roast Possum” is a powerful poem by the great American poet Rita Dove. Dove grew up in Ohio in an African American family and then pursued a higher education…
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He tells stories about a special horse and also about hunting possums. These are kind of folk stories, but the children love the stories because the evoke a distant time when the world was a different place. Part of the context of this different time is that African-Americans would not have been treated as proper people. Behind Thomas is an encyclopedia. Encyclopedias are supposed to be repositories of knowledge. They are supposed to be just the facts. But we can see that this book has racists facts such that African-American children stop being intelligent when they reach puberty. It is clear that the stories that the book tells are less true than the stories that Thomas is remembering of his youth. The encyclopedia is an official book which is full of so-called facts. Thomas's story is full of lingo and second-hand information, but Dove is implying that nevertheless Thomas's stories are much more true than the books, even if there are dozens of them fulling the shelves. These kind of stories, Dove is saying, tell us a lot about ourselves (Righelato, 87). Thomas' stories have embellishments but that only makes them more true, the poet suggests. They are full of old-time know how, which beats academic knowledge any day, Dove implies. When Malcolm asks Thomas about the horse, Thomas replies with more details about the possum.
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