Wole Soyinka | Telephone Conversation | An Analytical Study


 Wole Soyinka | Telephone Conversation | An Analytical Study


 Wole Soyinka | Telephone Conversation | An Analytical Study

 Wole Soyinka | Telephone Conversation | An Analytical Study

Wole Soyinka | Telephone Conversation | An Analytical Study

‘Telephone  Conversation’ is a poem by Wole Soyinka on the theme of racism and prejudice. The poem depicts a course of a conversation between two persons: one is a white English landlady and the other is a black African.

The black African (maybe the poet himself) is in search of a  house for rent in the city of London and he has had a talk with a landlady over the telephone. The house to rent out is situated in an area of the city not affected by racial prejudice. The landlady lives outside the premises of the house. So the tenant would enjoy full privacy in the house. The black American (here the poet) thinks it to be his ideal rental house. But the black man has some previous experience that he, being black-skinned, could not get a house for rent in the past. So he frankly confesses to the lady that he is a black African. He does not like to waste his time going there if the landlady refuses after seeing him.

After this, the black man found the lady to be silent on the other side of the telephone. It makes him think that maybe the landlady is reluctant to let out the house to a black man. Then the poet thought that the lady is sensitive to racial discrimination. She might be proud of her good breeding. Again he imagined the lady to be painted with lipstick and perhaps she smokes a cigarette.

At that moment the lady breaks the silence and asks the poet from the other end of the telephone:    

‘How dark?


Are you light?

Or very dark?’

The question asked by the lady seemed that she is not oversensitive to racism and she wants to help the man by giving the house to him. The man then understands and says if she would like him to compare with chocolate dark or light-dark. The black man’s thought changes and describes himself as a West African Sepia as written in his passport. The lady remains quiet for a while and asks what that is. He replies that it is similar to a brunette. It clarifies that he is dark.

He disregards all constraints of formality and mocks her outright, saying that he isn’t all black. The soles of his feet and the palms of his hands are completely white. But as he senses that she is about to slam the receiver on him, he pleads one last time to see for herself.

The tone of the poem is satiric as the poet goes on to describe himself as a black African invoking such phrases that seem to be exaggerated. It is also bantering when the poet says that the soles of his feet and the palms of his hands are completely white. 

The theme of the poem is a simple one but the representation is something obscure and compact. The poet has employed some phrases and images which are not easy to interpret in the context of the average reader. Some of such phrases are ‘Pressurized good-breeding, ‘Stench of rancid breath of public hide and seek’, ‘Red double-tiered Omnibus squelching tar’ etc. 0 0 0.

 Wole Soyinka | Telephone Conversation | An Analytical Study

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N. B. This article entitled ‘ Wole Soyinka | Telephone Conversation | An Analytical Study’ originally belongs to the book ‘World Poetry Criticism‘ by Menonim Menonimus. Wole Soyinka | Telephone Conversation | An Analytical Study

Books of Literary Criticism by M. Menonimus:

  1. World Short Story Criticism
  2. World Poetry Criticism
  3. World Drama Criticism
  4. World Novel Criticism
  5. World Essay Criticism
  6. Indian English Poetry Criticism
  7. Indian English Poets and Poetry Chief Features
  8. Emily Dickinson’s Poetry-A Thematic Study
  9. Walt Whitman’s Poetry-A Thematic Study
  10. Critical Essays on English Poetry
  11. Tawfiq al-Hakim’s Novel: Return of the Spirit-An Analytical Study
  12. Tawfiq al-Hakim’s Novel: ‘Yawmiyyat Naib Fil Arayaf’-An Analytical Study
  13. Analytical Studies of Some Arabic Short Stories
  14. A Brief History of Arabic Literature: Pre-Islamic Period

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I am Menonim Menonimus, a Philosopher & Writer.


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