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Half-Caste by John Agard

English - David Berry

Josien Dümmer

on 22 September 2013

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Transcript of Half-Caste by John Agard



John Agard

Excuse me
standing on one leg
I’m half-caste.

Explain yuself
wha yu mean
when yu say half-caste
yu mean when Picasso
mix red an green
is a half-caste canvas?
explain yuself
wha yu mean
when yu say half-caste
yu mean when light an shadow
mix in de sky
is a half-caste weather?
well in dat case
england weather
nearly always half-caste
in fact some o dem cloud
half-caste till dem overcast
so spiteful dem don’t want de sun pass
ah rass?
explain yuself
wha yu mean
when yu say half-caste
yu mean tchaikovsky
sit down at dah piano
an mix a black key
wid a white key
is a half-caste symphony?

Explain yuself
wha yu mean
Ah listening to yu wid de keen
half of mih ear
Ah looking at yu wid de keen
half of mih eye
an when I’m introduced to yu
I’m sure you’ll understand
why I offer yu half-a-hand
an when I sleep at night
I close half-a-eye
consequently when I dream
I dream half-a-dream
an when moon begin to glow
I half-caste human being
cast half-a-shadow
but yu must come back tomorrow
wid de whole of yu eye
an de whole of yu ear
an de whole of yu mind.

an I will tell yu
de other half
of my story.
Shows how even through all its ferociousness, the snake is still beautiful
Feelings of the Poet

1.Sarcasm/Satire – the poem is considered funny, whilst Agard is bitter

(cc) image by anemoneprojectors on Flickr
(cc) image by anemoneprojectors on Flickr
John Agard was born in Guyan, on the 12th of June 1940.
He emigrated to Britain in 1977.
He had a Caribbean father and a Portuguese mother (he is of mixed race)
He is a playwright, poet and children's writer
Identity; Living between two cultures; Language and dialect, how people talk; racism.
The poem starts by ‘apologising’ for being half-caste, and uses satire/sarcasm to critisize the term
Also the phrase"standing on one leg" is used to portray that people view him as a cripple.
This full stop increases the importance of the following idea.
By using the word "great" the poet gives the creature a sense of powerfullness and importance
The colour "black" is associated with darkness, gives you the idea of something evil approaching.
Agard uses brilliant artists such as tchaikovsky and Picasso to argue that mixed colours in art and symphonies and do not make a half-thing but rather a beautiful thing.
The use of the colours red and green create brown when mixed, which is a clever way to portray Agard's mixed skin tone.
The additional use of symbolism of the black and white keys on a piano create a symphony.
The argument Agard proposes conveys the mixing colours and using black and white keys as a GOOD thing – like his mixed heritage.

The poem is directed at people who are not half-castes. And who might be prejudice to the half-castes.
Judith is trying to tell the reader how this dangerous species at the same time can cause a positive or negative impact on people
‘Explain yuself’ (x4) and ‘understand’
Convey the direct and confrontational nature of the poem.
Hammers home its message.
The poem uses a random rhyming scheme to make the poem flow more easily and to bring it to life.

The alliteration of the consonants "f" and "s" provides a sense of the snake's predatory state.
Its sarcastic, even angry, at this demonization by the word ‘half-caste’ which is old english for half bloods and was used as a racist term.
Carries the challenge to the readers to change their thinking about the concept ‘half-caste’
…which explains why he has shared identity, and views about being called ‘half-caste’

The use of the word Half cast brings out the mood of the poem, which is very negative towads the use of 'Half Cast' and the effect it has on his ordinary life (giving half a hand, dreaming half a dream etc.)
Agard finishes by pointing out that it is us who have been thinking with only half-a-brain, which shows that he was not the un-educated one.
The impact on the poet and his companion ("we") was so strong that they were completely in awe.

1.Short lines

2.Repetition of key phrases

3.Little rhyme, but the words have a Caribbean
rhythm which is:

4.There is almost no punctuation

5.Four stanzas, each carrying a different message

Use of language
1.The language is a mixture of Caribbean dialect and formal British English.

2.The author uses direct speech and commands
3.Use of metaphors
4.Scathing humour

The last stanza shows that being a half-caste is only a small part of the poet's identity and yet that is what most people only see.
Futhermore the last stanza conveys Agard's intention, which is to give poeple another chance to get to know him as a person instead of the 'Half-Caste' stereotype.
Full transcript