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33 pages 1 hour read

Derek Walcott

A Far Cry From Africa

Fiction | Poem | Adult | Published in 1962

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Themes

Nature Versus Civilization

Throughout the poem, multiple allusions to the dichotomy between the natural world and a more developed, “civilized” world present a complex tension for the speaker to explore. While the Kikuyu are a part of the landscape, attached to it by blood, the British colonizers use “statistics to justify and scholars seize” (Line 7), which presents the British as far away mathematicians and economists studying out of some book, making decisions that will determine the course of other people’s lives. The significance of the colonizers considering this untouched land a “paradise” (Line 4) prompts questions as to why then they would need to impose their so-called civilized way of living on to an already civilized, almost heaven-like place.

The most crucial way the poem interrogates this dichotomy is by addressing the glaring similarities between nature’s brutality and the brutality and violence of war:

The violence of beast on beast is read
As natural law, but upright man
seeks his divinity by inflicting pain (Lines 15-17).

This special attention to the idea of divinity makes a statement about the function of religion, doubting whether it truly civilizes man and keeps him from evil. The speaker is questioning whether the dichotomy between nature and civilization truly exists at all or if it is an blurred text
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