Analysis of Slim in Hell by Sterling Brown and Power by Audre Lorde
“Slim in Hell” by Sterling Brown written in 1932 and “Power” by Audre Lorde written over forty years later, are protest poems looking at, and attacking, the problem of racism through the use of imagery, structure, and tone. Through their different uses of imagery and structure, they create their respective tones and take their respective (and different) approaches towards this problem of racism
“Power” is an outcry at what is going on and has been going on with the African American peoples throughout the last four-hundred years: “they had dragged her 4´10´´ black woman’s frame/over the hot coals of four centuries of white male approval” (35,36). The lack of rhyme scheme is the vent of the outrage of the speaker. When we are mad (as mad as this speaker is), things become jumbled. We do not think in a normal way. Things that are usually normal are not so normal. The speaker is only consumed by the anger built up inside of it, and we see that by some of the things that it says, and by the overall construction of its poem. The difference of the structures of the stanzas is another thing that denotes this `action´ of anger, and the thought that the speaker is consumed by its anger and showing it. The speaker, in its state of anger, is not thinking of how many lines it is putting into each stanza. The poem is also thought about , but the words are spilling out of the speaker’s mouth in an anger ridden breakdown.
The structure and almost regular meter of “Slim in Hell” shows that it is more of an organized and thought about poem. This organization is a result of the satire and wit involved in the poem. The speaker is attacking the concepts of racism using ridicule and his cleverness. The speaker is probably up to the point where the speaker of the other poem is at, but to attack racism so harshly in the 1930’s could have had severe consequences, possibly would have been put aside due to its radical content, or the speaker possibly thought that the problem is better attacked in this fashion. The speaker has the same feelings towards the idea of racism as the speaker in “Power”, but he is presenting his feeling in a different way, through satirical methods and a joke.
In “Slim in Hell,” we have images of the white man gambling, getting drunk, and terrorizing blacks. “Lots of folks fightin’/At de roulette wheel” (57,58). “Showed him giant stills/Going everywhere/Wid a passel of devils,/Stretched dead drunk there” (73-76). “White devils wid pitchforks/Threw black devils on” (81,82). Through the images conjured up in these passages, we can see the gambling, drinking, and antagonizing of blacks by the white man. There are various passages that allude to the thought that the whites are devils, or the oppressors, if you take a deeper look at the passages. The “passel of devils” does not say that the whites are the devils, but the people being alluded to are...