Poetic devices

Contrast

Contrast is used throughout the poem “Listen Mr Oxford don” by John Agard to show the perceived differences between the immigrant speaker and the native English people. One example of this can be noticed in the first stanza, as the speaker states: “I didn’t graduate/I immigrate”. This comparison suggests that, despite being educated, many English people look down on immigrants. It also implies that, due to a lack of opportunity in British society, many immigrants will not be as successful as native English people. By creating an end rhyme between “graduate” and “immigrate”, however, the speaker subtly implies that, in his mind, being a graduate and an immigrant are equally valid paths in life – even if the majority of English people would not see it like that.

The speaker also creates contrast between his self-image and how he is perceived by native English people. He claims he is “peaceful”, but prejudiced Englishmen see him as a threat: “dem want me serve time”. Therefore, he becomes “a man on de run” and dangerous, in the sense that he will use his voice to stand up against his oppressors. However, his words could also imply that immigrants who are constantly discriminated against might also become dangerous in a more literal way.

Moreover, although the speaker claims that he is “simple”, and the poem is apparently written in simple language, the poem is very complex. This creates a contrast between readers’ expectations of the poem and the speaker’s self-presentation, and reality, which is that the speaker is highly intelligent, knowledgeable of English culture and poetic forms, and able to express highly complex ideas through a very concise ...

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