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Sample A

The poem “Minority” written by Imtiaz Dharker uses contrasts in imagery (especially imagery
associated with food) and a change in point of view in order to convey the “foreigner” introduced in line 1
and the message to “you” in the last stanza.
The poem begins “I was born a foreigner” using the 1st person point of view to present a personal,
internal feeling which allows the reader to identify and relate to the speaker – the foreigner. This will add
emphasis to the point in the last stanza of “realis[ing] you know the face simplified to the bone,” which is in
2nd person point of view making the reader a part of the poem. In this stanza the reader is said to realize the
starved foreigners face as his or her own.
In the first stanza, the speaker focuses on establishing that they are a foreigner mentioning that they
are foreign ‘even in the place planted with [their] relatives.” This image of the relatives being planted is then
carried through to an image of “six-foot tubers sprouting roots, their fingers and faces pushing up new shoots
of maise and sugar cane.” This imagery may be interpreted in two ways. This could suggest that the relatives
grow steadily as plants and that their portrayals as plants severs any connective or emotional value for the
foreigner. This would mean that the foreigner is made to feel so even in the presence of family. The other
option is that the family is also made to feel foreign though they are “sprouting roots” in one place. Also,
their ‘pushing up new shoots of maize and sugar cane” can then be interpreted as giving rise to food either
for themselves or for the people that “immigrate” and “squat” in lines 41 and 42.
The following stanza suggests though that the 1st interpretation may be correct as the speaker says
“all kinds of […] people who have an admirable history would, almost certainly, distance themselves from
me.” Here, the speaker could be referring to the family and their admirable history distancing themselves
from the foreigner. This stanza serves to single the foreigner out as a lone individual rather than a
representation of an entire group or family of people made to feel foreign.
The following stanzas begin to use images of food and images associated with language to develop
the foreigners lack of belonging. The speaker says of themselves that they “don’t fit, like a clumsily-
translated poem” which is a simile that could be interpreted in conjunction with lines 20-21 and 25-28. These
all deal with the concept of language representing something foreign or “unfamiliar” and “alien.” The stanza
that follows this mentions the foreigner writing giving the sense that his words are “unfamiliar” and “alien”
and in lines 36-37 they “may scratch their way into your head.” These choices in diction amplify the readers
sense of the speakers alienness and the concept that the speaker is trying to “infiltrate” as is said in line 33.
It would seem, in context of the entire poem, that the author does this to mock the concept of the speaker
being a foreigner by choosing diction that would make the speaker seem an intruder trying to “scratch” into
“your” mind or “your” land when “you” are identified in the last stanzas as the “immigrant, the squatter, and
the very same starved stranger that seems a foreigner.
The same concepts are created in the use of images of food. It would seem that the foreigner is
affiliated with thin and insubstantial food and even with starvation while the people that “immigrate” and
“squat” are affiliated with substantial food. This concept begins in the 1st stanza with the foreigner’s family
“pushing up new shoots of maize and sugar cane.” As they are labelled as having “roots” and being in the
same place, they contrast the “immigrants and squatters suggesting once again that the food may not be for
the family but may be taken from the family and foreigner until all of their faces are “simplified to bone”.
The foreigner identifies his or herself “like food cooked in milk of coconut where you expected ghee or
cream” in lines 15-16 which is a comparison of his thin. Insubstantial nature and a fullness and a heaviness
like “ghee or cream”, like the food of the well-fed immigrants and squatters. This comparison can be made
because of images in lines 39 through 43 which include “family, clattering spoons, children being fed” and the
people that “immigrate into [their] bed, squat in [their] home” being able to “eat their bread.” At this point
the speaker made to feel foreign is well established as being affiliated with starvation or hunger and the
people that are the immigrants and squatters (the foreigners) are associated with food and health.
The concepts of language and food that have been built up to this point to make the foreigner seem
to be a nuisance in the way the foreigner “scratch[es] through the night, at this growing scab of black on
white” as the foreigner writes and is an insubstantial “milk of coconut” where filling “ghee or cream” are
expected, and their contrast with the warm images from the next to last stanza associated with the
immigrants create a built up concept that allows the last stanza to make a dramatic statement through
destroying these notions. When you “realise you know the face simplified to bone, lock into its outcast eyes
and recognise it as your own”, and the author has identified “you” as the immigrant and well-fed, the poem
comes together as making an effort to lull the reader into a sense that the foreigner is the real intruder until
it is unveiled that it is “you”. The author does this to pass an ultimate sense of judgment perhaps on the
reader or perhaps on the people causing these feelings in the speaker, which judging by Indian cultural
references, seem to be oppressors of the Indian people (or intruders in their land.)
Sample B

This poem is meant to convey the message that theme is beauty in abnormality, meaning that the
people that are often considered outsiders are the truly spectacular ones, as well as the idea of unity in
abnormality.
The poem’s opening line directly states that the speaker is and always has been a “foreigner.”
However, as this stanza continues, it becomes clear that the term “foreigner” is not being used in the
traditional sense, meaning an individual from a land or country different than the one they are currently
visiting. Rather, this term is used as a metaphor, used to indicate that the speaker is in a world where he
(and everyone around him) feels that he does not belong. This metaphor can be taken even further with the
inclusion of the concept that the speaker is in fact from a different land in which his personality and existence
would be ordinary, but that at birth he was taken from that land and placed into one that he does not
belong: Earth. He isn’t literally from another land or world, but his personality makes everyone, himself
included, feel that way. All of this is clearly indicated by the fact that the speaker was “a foreigner
everywhere [he] went, even in the place planted with [his] relatives,” showing that he was a “foreigner” even
in his own home. This completely eliminates the concept that the speaker was from another true land, but
instead points to the idea that he is simply a social outcast.
The second stanza serves the purpose of establishing some sense of unity, community, and
companionship that can apply to the speaker. The speaker is shunned by “all kinds of places and groups of
people who have an admirable history,” and is thus only left with one community to join: those without an
admirable history. This group consists of all of the other outcasts, be they criminals, the abused and broken,
or simply people that have nothing in their past that is considered “admirable.” This community is forced
into places of similar nature, and it is here that the outcasts form unity with one-another.
The 3rd, 4th, and 5th stanzas all convey a similar message though through different metaphors. The
3rd stanza uses the simile of the speaker not fitting in, “like a clumsily-translated poem.” The following stanza
then compares the speaker to food that was prepared with an unexpected substitution of ingredients. It is in
the 5th stanza that the meaning behind both of these similes is revealed. In the clumsily-translated poem,
there is always a spot where “the language flips into an unfamiliar taste,” similar to the unfamiliar taste given
from an ingredient substitution in a meal. These clumsily chosen words and substituted ingredients both
leave the sensation that something is askew, and this triggers “a cunning tripwire on the tongue…that signals,
in their midst, an alien.” Both the words and the tastes instantly give alert to the “foreigner” in their
presence, which causes the meaning they were meant to convey to be “an image not quite tuned, ghost-
outlined.” There are two main messages to be taken from this use of simile and metaphor. The first is that
the message that the “foreigner” tries to convey (in this case, who he is) is unable to be properly
communicating to the rest of the world. The second is that the society in which the “foreigner” finds himself
is so obsessed on how he differs (as seen through the similes of a slightly different poem or ingredient) that it
completely loses the meaning of his poem or the delicious taste of his food. His poem could be beautiful and
his food delicious, but the society cannot get past the idea that it is different from the usual.
The 6th stanza truly reveals the concept of beauty in abnormality to the fullest degree. The speaker
describes the poem that he is writing as “growing scab of black on white.” The use of the word “scab” gives
the depiction of the ink with which the poem is written as nothing more than a disgusting scar or wound on
the perfect paper. It depicts the poem as a tragic defacing of the paper. This image is a symbol used to
represent the view of society on those that don’t directly fit in, like the “foreigner.” In other words, the
abnormal people of society (abnormal meaning “not the norm,” rather than the negative connotations of the
word) are the ink that scars society. Society views these words on the paper to be a wound, and get without
any ink, the paper would be a blank white and have no meaning. If someone considers this poem beautiful, it
is due to the ink with which the poem was armed. Without the ink, the “poem” would be like every other
blank sheet of paper, and would be useless. The beauty lies in this so-called “scab.” Similarly, those in
society that --- entirely to what is “normal” are not more valuable than a blank sheet of paper, and are
entirely expendable. Only the ink of society, the abnormal, give society meaning and beauty. And yet,
society shows the abnormal and makes them outcasts, refusing to allow a scab on their society. And so the
author turns to paper, because “a page doesn’t fight back.”
The 7th stanza describes the words of the poem as foreigners themselves. It depicts the words
“scratch[ing] their way into [the reader’s] head.” The word “scratch” indicates a gradual, uncomfortable
process in which the words of the poem embed themselves into the brain of the unwilling reader. It then
furthers the personification of these words as foreigners by describing them “immigrat[ing] into [the
reader’s] bed, squat[ting] in [the reader’s] home, and in a corner, eat[ing the reader’s] bread. The word
“immigrate” clearly shows these words to be coming from a foreign origin, in this case being the poem. The
word “squat” describes the act of forcing their presence upon the reader. These words are taking over the
reader’s life.
In the final stanza, the reader is depicted meeting an unnamed stranger and recognizing the face of
the stranger as their own. This can have the interpretations either the stranger’s face is actually the face of
the reader, or the two both are simply the same in personality. This first would indicate that the words
changed the reader into a beautiful outcast as well, and the second shows a fellowship in being outsiders.
Sample C

The poem “Minority” by the author, Imtiaz Dharker, is an eight stanza poem that gives another
perspective to the word “minority” – contrary to popular belief. The author uses the literary techniques of
imagery, structure, and tone to create a criticism of what people generalize to be a foreigner.
Dharker begins her poem in the first poem point-of-view stating, “I was born a foreigner” in the first
line of the first stanza. Dharker’s purpose in doing so was to establish a closer connection to what it means
to be a foreigner. The speaker continues this first part of her poem as an insight into some of the feelings a
foreigner must face day-by-day; and perhaps an insight into the personal nature of the author herself. The
first stanza establishes the depressed tone through the content it portrays. The speaker of the poem states
that she is a foreigner everywhere, even among her family members. This shows the reader what it means to
be a minority, and what it means to feel unaccepted among society; this idea of loneliness is what
contributes to the establishment of the saddened tone of the poem.
The second, third, and fourth stanzas still portray the same idea as the first stanza, however, the way
it is structured makes the motif even more prominent. Two lines are its own stanza compared to the other 4-
11 line stanzas of the rest of the poem. “I don’t fit, like a clumsily-translated poem.” Again, this portrays the
feeling of loneliness the speaker experiences in life.
These four stanzas contrast to the last four stanzas of the poem, dividing the two ideas developed in
this work. The first half of the poem describes the feelings most would believe a foreigner or a minority
would feel; outcasted, lonely, people who do not belong; however, the last four stanzas give another
perspective to those who believe this.
The fifth stanza begins: “There’s always that point where the language flips”. The author provides an
image afterwards: a visualization of words tumbling over a tripwire on the tongue. These lines are part of the
first five lines of this stanza that portray the verbal abuse and insult minorities face as foreigners. The author
continues addressing why this is the case: “…where the frame slips, the reception of an image not quite
tuned, ghost-outlined, that signals, in their midst, an alien.” These last five lines of this stanza provides a
perspective; the perspective of those who see a minority or a foreigner. The author gives the image of a
frame slipping comparing it to the slipping of reason within an individual. The author gives the image of a
minority through the eyes of the majority; ghost-outlined like a bad, obscured image on a television screen;
ultimately then as aliens.
The fifth stanza of this poem interupts the perspective of the minority to give way for the
perspective of the majority that will ultimately build up to the final line of the poem. The speaker changes
the tone of the poem suddenly, becoming more aggressive with each passing line: “And so I scratch, scratch
through the night, at this growing scab of black on white.” This first line of the sixth stanza provides the
image of the author “scratching” black ink of her pen on to the paper, creating the work. The speaker
ultimately shows that she is the author herself.
“And, who knows, these lines may scratch their way into your head – through all the chatter of the
community, family, clattering spoons, children being fed – immigrate into your bed, squat in your home, and
in a corner, eat your bread.” The author reaches this point in tone where it seems that she is scolding, using
rhyme to provide the same scolding effect repitition does. The speaker now directs the attention to the
reader, switching the point of view into the second person, hoping that the lines of the poem will infiltrate
your life, changing your perspective.
The last stanza provides a revelation, the perspective contrary to popular belief – “…one day, you
meet the stranger sidling down your street, realise you know the face simplified to bone, look into its outcast
eyes and recognise it as your own.” The author and speaker conclude the poem with the idea of everyone
really being all the same and that it is only the superficial that people being lost in. Once one looks past the
superficial, one realizes that all of use are human. One could also look at it from a different perspective. It
could also mean the realization that all of us are foreigners.
This poem was written by someone who had close relations to the country of India as shown through
the references to “ghee” and “neem.” The poem could be referencing British imperialism on the country of
India, showing that, actually, the British came to invade. This poem could be applied to difficult countries
and cultures as well. There are many countries where foreigners and minorities are not wanted. This poem
critizises the view of those who believe minorities do not belong through the descriptive imagery of a
perspective and through the changes in tone in the poem.
Sample D

In Minority, Imtiaz Dharker, uses symbolisms of foreign thing (mainly people in this poem) to show
how being foreign leads to being a minority which leads to being treated as an outcast, giving the idea of
being distanced from the majority. Not only is this idea exemplified through the content of the poem, it can
also be seen in the structuring of the poem.
Overall, Minority is less about a specific minority (for instance: black, white, hispanic, or asian) and
more about being part of any minority (not just racially related). The poem even goes a little bit further to
give the feeling that the minorities he speaks of are more or less individuals within a minority as opposed to a
minority group as a whole. This can be seen with the first line where the author writes “I was born a
foreigner” giving the idea that the minority within the poem entered the world as an outsider.
Although the poem talks about individuals distanced from a majority it also teaches on points of
certain minorities (seemingly race this time). This can be seen as part of stanza 7 (lines 38-43) where it starts
off with the comotion of a family that eats well and has the ability to talk to many. There shifts the mood to
an immigrant (foreigner/minority) having to eat alone and isolated in a corner with a piece of bread with not
even an accompanying minority. Towards the end, the final stanza to be exact, Imtiaz Dharker furthers the
idea of individually in minorities being outcast by making the poem’s focus change to the reader by getting
them to evaluate themselves by connecting them to someone that does not fit nor realize it.
The structure of the poem also encompasses the idea of being an outcast. Looking at each stanza, it
is easy to notice that the poem is free-verse with each stanza of a different length. In a way, this is like
making each stanza a foreigner within the same poem, hence each stanza is a minority; but even further,
each stanza ends in words that usually don’t rhyme with another ending word within the stanza making
them, also, a minority. I did however realize that all of the stanzas did have one or two rhyming sets except
for stanza 3! I felt a bit of irony pertaining to this passage because it states “I don’t fit in,” not only does it
lack a set of rhyming words, it is also much shorter than the other stanzas. This further gives the idea of not
being within a majority making you a minority.
Looking more in depth, these ideas can still be seen. First of all, looking at the date and depending
on how one takes this poem, it is possible that this poem could be a social commentary on how treatment
problems of minorities still exist during the 1990s. As stated, the first stanza starts off with it stating that
they were born a foreigner and will always stand out as such. Given the imagery of the plants (lines 5-8) we
let the sense that the speaker stands out. The second stanza states that as an outsider, those in groups want
nothing to do with him (preventing him from becomming something more than alone) after they have
brought him (them/minorities) into this new world. In stanza 5, we get a sense of the verbal discriminations
of the majority on the minority that brings up the the past ---.
All in all, the poem brings up problems about how a minority is treated and can not seem to become
unified with the majority. The use of minorities could have been used to symbolize outcasts of any sort, or of
race. This idea is portrayed not only in the context/content of the poem, but also the structer of the poem.