Sunday, July 22, 2012

Grace Nichols, ‘The Fat Black Woman Goes Shopping’

Shopping in London winter
is a real drag for the fat black woman
going from store to store
in search of accommodating clothes
and de weather so cold
Look at the frozen thin mannequins
fixing her with grin
and de pretty face salesgals
exchanging slimming glances
thinking she don’t notice
Lord is aggravating
Nothing soft and bright and billowing
to flow like breezy sunlight
when she walking
The fat black woman curses in Swahili/Yoruba
and nation language under her breathing
all this journeying and journeying
The fat black woman could only conclude
that when it come to fashion
the choice is lean
Nothing much beyond size 14


Analysis:

It seems like that our poet is using her sarcastic sense of humour to complain about the difficulties in finding clothes of her size in cold winter in London.  However, it is clear that London does not sell clothes of her size although she is a British.  Moreover, sales girls are making fun of her appearance. 

Language:
Nichols’ language is colloquial which sounds like a daily conversation.  It is also dramatic and jaunty which is close to Stevie Smith’s ‘the jungle husband’.  She deliberately typed ‘de’ instead ‘the’, labelled her identity (diction).

Techniques:
Rhyming: the frequent use of whispering, sibilant words like ‘sh’, ‘s’ created an unpleasant atmosphere and produced a reflectively regretful tone that almost masks the anger.

Also, the repeated use of ‘ing’, ‘in’, ‘b’ effectively conveyed her mind state.  Angry but she is trying to put it under the control.  Negative feelings come from prejudice and discrimination in terms of sizes, cold weather and pretty face salesgals’ slimming glances but she is still trying to ignore and stay positive.

Repetition:
Fat black woman appeared 3 times in this poem.  Her image is impressive, as I would like to think that she represents black women in the UK.

'Store to store’ is responding to ‘journeying to journeying’, effectively delivering the sad truth is that she lives in London but it does not sell clothes of her size.  In a cold winter, she must have worn a lot in order to keep warm but as stores don’t have her size, her clothes may look outdated and perhaps shabby.  The reality made her feel sick, exhausted and tired.

Journeying to journeying may offer a double meaning which renders the fact that racial prejudice and discrimination has existed in London for a long time, and ridiculously, this journey has no end. 

Her conclusion is polite and sarcastic, open to multiple interpretations.  Of course, poet just chose fashion as a window to articulate discrimination but it is not limited to fashion…

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