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In the modern times, a hot debate has emanated on colonialism and post colonialism and what they stand for. It is an area that has attracted so many writers with a lot of criticism based on different opinions. In their poetry, Judith Wright and Bhatt explicitly bring out post colonialism and modernism as major themes albeit in different ways. This has been achieved through their use of discourses on rhetoric questions, imagery and metaphor (Bery and Murray 2000).
The two writers embrace irony and symbolism to forward their discussions concerning the oppression brought about by the colonialists on the natives. This paper is a review of the these two poems; Judith Wright’s Two Dreamtimes and Sujata Bhatt’s A different History where it is going to primarily compare and criticize sentiments postulated by the poets in their literary work.
Central Themes in the Two Poems
In her poem Two Dreamtimes, Judith Wright presents the Aborigines as poetic symbols to represent the entire historical oppression and injustice that instilled fear and guilt. Judith’s observation concerning the aggression and instability of the Aboriginal post conquest past extends to stand for the entire human race.
On post colonialism, Judith Wight talks of how both the whites and the black natives have lost in terms of culture and property then she proposes forgiveness and unity of the two groups as the only solution tom their problems (Wright 2002).
On the other hand, Sujata Bhatt in her poem A different History, talks of the environment and cultural degradation that is rampant in the modern post colonial era. She also elaborates on political oppression meted against the once colonized nations by their former colonial masters (Bhatt 1995). Sujata symbolically uses India to represent all those countries that are still experiencing these effects of post colonial oppression.
Both writers have dwelt so much on emphasizing the importance of culture as a sense of belonging. Judith Wright shows how the whites looked upon the blacks as minorities and never wanted to associate themselves with the black race. From her poem, we see the persona explaining how his parents warned him not to play with the black children. The white settlers grabbed all that belonged to the native Aborigines and left them piteous without anything to cling on.
However, with time, the two groups ended up loosing to their colonial masters due to their disunity. Sujata talks of the oppression directed towards the minorities and how everything had become oppressive in all dimensions. She admires the native Indian culture. This meant to arouse a sense of belonging and also show how much is lost when a country loses its cultural background due to modernism and post colonialism.
Both writers embrace culture as an important aspect of every community and individual. They have also vividly shown how modernism has brought about multiculturalism and erosion of cultures (McLeod 2000). The two poems pose intellectual questions to the reader and stimulate critical thinking and analysis of the entire theme of post colonialism and modernism.
Criticism of the Two Poems
From her work, it is very true that Judith Wright was both an environmentalist and a social activist. The writer uses her childhood and lifetime experiences to vividly point out on various contemporary but fundamental issues affecting the society. For instance in her poem
Wright points out on post colonialism and racial segregation which she says was ‘eating up’ the society which was a hindrance to development. Also, she is keen to highlight cultural alienation versus modernity as another key issue of major concern but what she fails to indicate is how effective her notions and perceptions were practically applicable in during the times in which her poem is set.
Harsher criticism has been leveled on her work asserting that she does not present herself a person who lived in the contemporary society she writes about since she does not appreciate the fact that the issue of racial segregation was a lot more complicated than simply a given race being oppressed. There was the reality of where these segregated persons came from and their social standing both economically and politically at that time.
On the other hand, Sujata Bhatt uses her multicultural experience to clearly air her criticisms on matters she thinks are of concern. In her poem, she succeeds in bringing to understanding vital concerns like culture, oppression and post-colonialism. With all the traces of a bard and postcolonial uniqueness, she demonstrates her passion for the local traditions and linguistic communication. In this poem, Sujata Bhatt shows the significance of culture and language to any particular individual and how they help define someone.
In her dual multicultural milieu, she freely uses language as a tool to further her ideologies through writing that is drawn from her vast experience after having lived in three continents (McLeod 2000). This notwithstanding however, Bhatt’s work can be criticized in the way she leans so much on her multicultural experience to present her surmises. Over reliance of personal perceptions and beliefs bereaves her work scientific and universal acclaim since it may be dismissed as lacking empirical facts and realities.
Comparison of the Two Poems
Looking at the poem, ‘Two dreamtimes,’ there is an aspect racial segregation that is very evident in the first two stanzas, “You were one of the dark children I wasn’t allowed to play with-riverbank campers, the wrong color, (I couldn’t turn you white)” (Wright 2002, p.35). White children were not allowed to mingle with the black children. This was a form of oppression that the writer brings to light in her work. The stanza also states that black was a wrong color.
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This literally means that blacks were treated with a lot of contempt by the whites who looked upon them as an inferior race. This was extended even to their children who were warned never to associate with the black children. The writer’s criticism of this vice is depicted when she refers the black as, ‘riverbank campers, the wrong color’ and finally says, ‘(I couldn’t turn you white).’ Here, the writer is being sarcastic of the descriptions given to the blacks by her parents.
Scramble for property that belonged to the natives was a common phenomenon as evident in the poem, “late I began to know they hadn’t told me the land I loved was taken out of your hands” (Wright 2002, p.35). When the colonialists arrived in ‘their colonies,’ the white settlers grabbed all that belonged to the natives including land and went ahead to sell most of it for their own lavish interests (Bery and Murray 2000).
This left the natives with nothing but a state of hopelessness while the white settlers continued extravagantly enjoying what was not theirs. This is shown when the persona in the poem says, “The sullen looks of the men who sold them for rum to forget the selling the hard rational white faces with eyes that forget the past” (Wright 2002, p.35).
The writer uses irony when she says that the white settlers traded the land they had grabbed from the natives for rum. This brings out the contemptuous attitude of the writer towards the imperialists. Her criticism is furthered when she negatively describes the whites and assigns innocence to the blacks in her description (Dohra 2007).
There is an aspect of cultural degradation that was as a result of colonization from the same poem. The oppression the natives were subjected to caused them to remain hopeless and their traditions and practices faded away with time. There was no time since even what used to be their own had been snatched away fro the leaving them as piteous beings struggling for existence leave alone survival.
From the poem it is said, “Over the rum your voice sang the tales of an old people, their dreaming buried, the place forgotten. We too have lost our dreaming” (Wright 2002, p.35). The once happy and beautiful culture was lost and people were mixed in the multi-culture without any identity. This led to a feeling of withdrawal among the colonized (Afzal-Khan 1993).
The writer goes ahead to highlight how the Aborigines are oppressed by the colonial laws when she openly critics these tyrannical laws as, ”Raped by rum and an alien law, progress and economics” (Wright 2002, p.35).The use of the word ‘raped’ shows how these laws and regulations were evil and also reveals the writer’s negative attitude towards (Moore-Gilbert 1997). This negated perspective of the law is almost a direct opposite of what Bhatt surmises in her poem where she presents a similar case but rather using more benign terms.
There is violation of human rights especially against women who are viewed as weak beings that deserve no right a case that is brought out by both poets in their work. Women were double colonized by the colonial rule and also by the entire society. This is shown in the poem, “Telling sad tales of women (black or white at a different price) meant much and little to us” (Wright 2002, p.35).
This explicitly illustrate that all these exploits were offensive but no one had the right and courage to stand and fight against them. People were so oppressed that they had given up in life and just took life as circumstances dictated to them (Bill, Gareth and Helen 1998).
In addition to this, the two authors tend to share common views and both tend to critic the outcomes of colonialism and post-colonialism. They both accentuate the importance of culture but are disparagative of colonialism and post-colonialism consequences (Elmer 1995). Concerning culture, Sujata Bhatt says uses the first stanza to create a culturally entrusted society where the set norms are respected by everyone. She says, “Here, the gods roam freely…every tree is sacred and it is a sin to be rude to a book” (Wright 2002, p.35).
Judith Wright on the other hand talks of cultural dilapidation as a result of colonialism when she says; “Over the rum your voice sang the tales of an old people, their dreaming buried, the place forgotten. We too have lost our dreaming” (Wright 2002, p.35).
The two poems also criticize both colonization and post-colonialism effects through the use of language techniques. Sujata Bhatt employs the use of rhetoric questions to forward her criticism (Kerwin 1997). This helps infuse critical thinking in the reader’s mind and hence make him or her think alongside the writer throughout the poem. For example she says, “Whose language has not been the oppressor’s tongue?” (Wright 2002, p.35).
This statement engages anyone reading it to pause and think broadly concerning the subject matter. Conversely, Judith Wright capitalises on the uses of satire, sarcasm and irony to surface her criticism. She also uses imagery when she says, “We the robbers robbed in turn” (Wright 2002, p.35). She directly refers to the white settlers as robbers and thus, she succeeds in delivering her denigration.
In summing up, in my own view, Judith’s work is a picture of what is happening in the modern post-colonial era. Despite getting freedom from colonialism, there is still indirect oppression in terms of leadership, trade and resource exploitation imposed by the once colonial masters on their former colonies (Greg 2004).
These countries still receive unfair terms of trade in the world market and do not really benefit from their products and services (Childs and Williams 1997). This sentiment that is central in her poem has been articulated better than Bhatt has presented her central theme of societal injustices in post-colonial times.
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