The Places Fault by Philip Hobsbaum and Nothings Changed by Tatamkhula Afrika

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The Places Fault: This is an autobiographical poem recounting a short unhappy period of the poet’s childhood. He was evacuated to North Yorkshire during the war years. While he was little there, he experienced severe bullying, both on the streets and in school and the suffering and taunts and beatings he endured at the hands of the bullies scarred him mentally for the rest of his life. The Hobsbaum’s were Jewish and the poet doesn’t specify if the bullying was anti-Semitic, but he does blame the bulling on the harsh environment and the tough conditions that youngsters grew up in which he believed turned them into bullies who didn’t trust people who looked or acted differently from them such as Philip.

There are five verses each six lines long. There is an irregular rhyming pattern, but in general lines 1 and 6 rhyme, 2 and 5 rhyme and 3 and 4 ryhme.

In verse one the poet describes being physically bullied at school by teachers who picked on and caned him because his work was untidy. When he left the school, he was physically and verbally bullied by other children, presumably because he was overweight and Jewish. ” A stone hissed past my ear- ‘Yah! gurt fat fool!’ ” The poet uses onomatopoeia, dialect and alliteration to draw attention to the stage of events and to show how miserable he was.

In verse two, ragged street children ‘urchins’ accuse him of being cowardly, although he appears able to defend himself against them by shouting swear words at them. But they attacked him with “Clods, stones, bricks- anything to make me run” and he desperately ran to avoid getting hit.

In verse three, he recounts an incident where he was unfairly picked on because he was “quite odd” and “making a noise” and this time he was attacked by a huge crowd who also attacked his home.

In verse four, he tries to defend himself against a physical attack, but he reveals the extent of his suffering and the impact the bullying had on him. He can still remember it even after twenty years, because he had to wage “continued wars” on the streets.

In verse five, the poet reveals his hatred of the area and the bitterness and disillusionment he feels looking back at the area. It was poor, run-down and bred bullies. He also shows his hatred to the area as in the poem he quotes “I’ll not return”

Nothings Changed: This is an autobiographical poem. Tatamkhulu Afrika lived in Cape Town’s District 6, which was then a thriving mixed-race inner-city community. People of all colours and beliefs lived together peacefully, and Afrika said he felt ‘at home’ there.

In the 1960’s, as part of its policy of apartheid the government declared District 6 a ‘whites-only’ area, and began to evacuate the population. Over a period of years, the entire area was bull-dozed to the ground. Most of which was never built on.

The poem was written just after the official end of apartheid. It was a time of hope- Nelson Madela had recently been released from prison, and the ANC was about to form the government of South Africa..

Tatamkulu was Egyptian-born the child of an Arab father and a Turkish mother.

In 1984, the poet joined the ANC (the African National Congress- the organisation leading the struggle against the apartheid). Arrested in 1987 for terrorism, he was banned from writing or speaking publicly.

Context: The poet returns to the wasteland that was once his home, and relives the anger he felt when the area was first destroyed.

He sees a new restaurant: expensive, stylish, exclusive, with a guard at the gatepost.

He thinks about the poverty around it, especially the working man’s caf� nearby, where people eat without plates from a plastic tablecloth.

This makes him reflect that despite the changing political situation, there are still huge inequalities between blacks and whites. Even though South Africa is supposed to have changed, he knows that the new restaurant is really ‘whites-only’. He feels that nothing has really changed.

The deep anger he feels makes him want to destroy the restaurant- to smash the glass with a stone, or a bomb.

Structure: This poem is set out in six stanzas, each eight short lines. This kind of regularity in the layout creates a sense of control, the poet is very clear about what he is feeling, no sudden flying into rage.

Repetition reinforces the sense of his anger throughout the poem.

Language: The whole poem is written in the present tense. Although he is reliving a past experience. The poet seems to be re-living the experience as he writes. This makes the poem very vivid to read. The viewpoint in the poem is very easily sent out.

We can imagine how his hands ‘bukn’ to take revenge. The contrasting images of the wasteland and the expensive restaurant existing down the road from the working man’s caf� sharply contrasted are the inequalities that the poet observes.

Similarities in both poems:

* Both are autobiographical poems.

* Both deal with a specific place, which has unhappy memories for poet.

* Both places were unattractive.

* Both poets feel outsiders.

* Both poets still have strong feelings of anger and bitterness against the area.

* Both poets see the inequalities ‘outsiders’ face.

I preferred The Places Fault as it was a lot more descriptive and I could get a better idea of the situation. The language was also a lot easier to understand the context of the story seemed to be a lot more vivid.

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