An Analysis of Diane Burnss Poem Using the Colonialism Theory and the Marxist Theory

Category: Capitalism, Marxism
Last Updated: 22 Mar 2023
Pages: 6 Views: 29

In this essay, two literary theories will be applied to two poems to analyse the meaning and context, the history behind the poet as well as added personal views on the written work. The Post Colonialism theory and the Marxist theory will be applied to the poems.

One poem that will be analysed in this essay is "Sure, You Can Ask Me a Personal Question" by Diane Burns. Burns was born in Kansas, her father was Chemehuevi and her mother was Anishinaabe. Burns grew up in California, her parents taught at a Native American boarding school (Poetry Foundation, 2017).

The theory being applied will be Post-Colonialism. "Post" means after, the literary theory is after a nation has been colonialized. The Post-Colonialism theory is a set of theoretical and critical strategies used to examine the culture, literature, politics and history of former colonies. The theory deals with the reading and writing of literature written in previously or currently colonized countries, or literature written in colonizing countries which deals with colonization or colonized people.

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There are a few different types of colonialism, one being the militaristic side which is the physical conquest and occupation of territories and the civilization side, which is the conquest and occupation of minds, selves and cultures (Williams and Yousaf, 1992). In this poem, the speaker is a Native American. America was colonised in 1607 by the British and the Scots.

The title itself suggests that the speaker is used to being asked the questions said in the poem and by this point they are exhausted and most likely bored of the same questions. The first and second stanza suggests that the speaker thinks the questions are inappropriate but answers them anyway for the sake of being polite.

In the third stanza, the speaker is mocking the questions that the person is asking. "Oh? So that's where you got those high cheekbones? Your great grandmother, huh?” (Tessler, 2014).The tone of this poem could be disappointment, exhaustion and boredom. The speaker is disappointed in being labelled and being associated with stereotypes. Being asked if she knows where to buy certain things "real cheap" could be seen as offensive, as it suggests that the person asking the questions are stereotyping the speaker as someone who could have those things and that they don't live a normal, modern life just because of their ethnicity, heritage and race.

The speaker could be seen as having a sarcastic tone as in the poet writes "Uh-Huh, Yeah. Spirituality, Uh- Huh" and so forth; this suggests that the speaker is trying to skip ahead of the question and is fed up with always being asked the same thing. Repetition can be applied to this as well, as the speaker uses "Yeah" and "Uh-Huh” more than once. This suggests that the speaker has had this conversation more than once and is tired of being asked stereotypical questions.

The theme of the poem is that modern day people whose ancestors have been colonized are now being stereotyped by ignorant people who aren't aware of what their own ancestors have done. However, this being said; the poem does mention that the person asking the questions must have stated something about the past as a line from the speaker says "Yeah, it was awful what you guys did to us" - suggesting that the remembrance of the past is still there. The theme shows that the speaker doesn't take the questions seriously anymore, which is why the answers are sarcastic. The last stanza is a reminder that stereotypes do hurt people's feelings and dehumanizes the person being put into stereotypical categories (Kidwai, 2016).

In literary, punctuation is repeated; each line ends with a question mark, which shows that the speaker is constantly being asked questions "Oh, you've had an Indian friend? That closes?" In the following stanzas, the questions are answered with each answer ending with a period and giving the reader a feeling that the speaker does not enjoy being asked all the questions. The sound in this poem is similar to the tone, which is annoyance and sarcastic. The imagery in this poem is mainly the different ethnic backgrounds that are stated, such as Chinese, Spanish, Native American, and Indian and so on. As well as adjectives to describe what the speaker looks like, such as high cheek bones, stoic look and referencing celebrities like Cher (Khan, 2017).

My personal view on the post-colonial theory and the poem is that it's seen as quite biased and is from one person's point of view. As it is from the colonized's point of view we can only see things from their perspective. The poem is written with a slight bit of humour, but also makes the reader feel guilty if they have ever asked the questions.

The next poem that will be analysed is from the popular books series 'A Song of Ice and Fire' and the popular television show 'Game of Thrones'. The book was written by George R.R Martin, whom also wrote the poem. Martin writes songs, sonnets and poems in all his books, each one having relevancy to the characters and stories. "The Rains of Castamere" is the poem that will be critically analysed in this essay. Although in the show, it's only shown as a song; it is short enough to analyse as a poem, as well as how it is written.

The history of the poem and story that Martin wrote about is the feud and rivalry between two strong houses; House Lannister and House Reyne. Both houses were both very wealthy and very powerful. House Lannister being the riches, however. So to this, House Reyne decided to rebel against the Lannisters as they were jealous and wanted that top position. During the rebel, Tywin Lannister who was known as a very smart and cunning man took matters into his own hands as his father was a weak coward. Tywin and his army slaughtered every member of House Reyne. Therefore, in the present time story, House Reyne does not exist (Quora, 2013).

Although Martin tends to link his stories and characters to real historical events and people, he has not stated that this particular story is linked to any real life event. However, we can assume that in history there have been similar situations where houses and even countries have gone to war over money and power status.

The Marxist theory emphasizes on economic and social conditions. The theory was started by Karl Marx who was a 19th century German philosopher. He became a part of the Young Hegelians and then later moved onto the Communist League. Marx was known as one of the most influential socialists of the 19th century. One of the key definitions of the Marxist theory is capitalism.

Capitalism is an economic system that is based on private ownership. Another key definition is proletariat. Proletariats are workers of society that usually own less than those in capitalism (Bulusan, 2012). In this poem we can put the houses into the two groups. House Lannisters would be regarded as the capitalists as they were the house earning more money, wealth and power. Whereas House Reyne would be considered as the proletariats, as they had less money than the Lannisters and ended up rebelling against them. Similar to how people in society strike for more wages.

Every line that starts after a period ends with a comma, however in the 5th, 6th and 7th all end in commas instead of a period. This could be to allow the poem and stanzas flow well. In the poem, the speaker is said to be both members of House Lannister and House Reyne. The 1st to the 8th lines are spoken by a member of House Reyne, questioning how different his house is from the Lannisters. The tone of this poem could be fear and strength.

The Lannisters have the poem sang or spoken at every event hosted by them to strike fear into other houses, almost as a warning to others. This is shown at several times in the story as Queen Cersei, who is a Lannister; tells Margaery about the story of The Rains of Castamere to strike fear into her. This is because Margaery is from house Tyrell, which at the time was the second richest house next to the Lannister's. The theme is similar to the tone; it's fearful, dark and has heaviness to it. Another tone as well as a theme would be death, as in the end of the story the Reynes end up being slaughtered during their rebellion. "But now the rains weep o'er his hall, with no one there to hear."

This suggests that House Reyne is now no longer a house and if there were to be any members left they are along with no family members. The poem is very repetitive, in the 7th stanza the line "mine are long and sharp, my lord." are repeated; "as long and sharp as yours." House Reyne's sigil was a red lion, while the Lannisters are represented by a golden lion. In the poem, the Lord of Castamere claims that the only difference between his red lions and the Lannister gold lions is the colour of their coat. No matter what colour a lion is, its claws are still quite deadly. This contributes to imagery the speaker states that the two houses have lion sigils but are of different colours; red and gold. Sharp claws are associated with lions too.

My personal view on this poem is that it speaks a lot about how power, greed and jealousy can corrupt an economy. I also think that it is very threatening, almost as if the reader feels threatened by the fictional characters. The poem draws the reader in, putting the image of war and destructing into their minds.

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An Analysis of Diane Burnss Poem Using the Colonialism Theory and the Marxist Theory. (2023, Mar 22). Retrieved from

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