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Poetry Analysis; Incident by Countee Cullen

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by

Ashley Holland

on 28 February 2014

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Transcript of Poetry Analysis; Incident by Countee Cullen

Wrap-up
So, Cullen uses alliteration, rhyming, irony, and connotation to expand on the seriousness of how African Americans were being treated and how important parenting is. Obviously, the child learned that word and how to use it from the adults in his life. In the end, the poem makes the reader feel upset about the discrimination.
Sources
Incident
The poem begins in 8 year old Cullen's perspective. He is experiencing for the first time someone calling him a "Nigger". This angered him because of the discrimination against black people and the fact that this person wasn't just white, but also a child no older than him. The theme is that racism can come from any where to any one even to an innocent child "filled with glee". The poem also shows the impact of words and how it can last a lifetime.
Literary Devices
Alliteration
- "Heart-filled, head-filled with glee..."
Rhyming
- "glee" and "me", "bigger" and "Nigger", "December" and "Remember"
Irony
- the title
Incident
. This is ironic because you think of an incident as some small thing. However, him being called this name shaped not only the rest of his trip, but the rest of his life.
Connotation
- "Nigger". People associate it with discrimination and the oppression African Americans.
History About Cullen
Born Countee Porter
He lived in Baltimore for most of his life.
After his grandmother died when he was 14, he was taken into the home of Reverend Frederick A. Cullen. Cullen was the pastor of Harlem's largest congregation; Salem Methodist Episcopal Church.
He was elected President of the National Association Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)
His anger, which came from the discrimination of the era, was used to inspire most of his poems.

Poetry Analysis:
Incident
by Countee Cullen

Analysis
Literary Devices Contribution to the Meaning
Alliteration
-Gets the reader in a good feeling, adding to the effect of the word.
Rhyming
- Gets the reader in a happier mood, making the "incident" even more shocking.
Irony
- Not only the title is ironic but also the structure of the poem. Up to the line "And so I smiled..." the poem is happy and gives the reader a joyful feeling.
Connotation
- Because of the seriousness of the word, "Nigger", especially in today's time, it gave a huge shock factor to the poem.
Once riding in old Baltimore,
Heart-filled, head-filled with glee,
I saw a Baltimorean
Keep looking straight at me.


Now I was eight and very small,
And he was no whit bigger,
And so I smiled, but he poked out
His tongue, and called me, “Nigger.”


I saw the whole of Baltimore
From May until December;
Of all the things that happened there
That’s all that I remember.

By: Ashley Holland and Julia Wozney
http://mel.org/
http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/countee-cullen
Full transcript