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Modifyingthe Point of View

OnBeing Told I Don’t Speak Like a Black Person by Allison Joseph

Life in the 1970swas tumultuous,

Especially growingup in Jamaica.

The influence of thewhite man

Permeated manyaspects of daily life.

I constantlyimagined my future

When blacks wouldfinally embrace

And cherish theirunique identity.

School was tough inthose days.

We were told tochange our ways

And persevere sincehard work pays.

The British systemsupplanted our

Own form ofeducation and training.

The punishments werefrequent and severe

Intended to readjustour listening ear

And to modify ourCaribbean accents.

I remember the redskin on my palm

From constantbeatings.

I also remember thebroken rulers

That were used todiscipline us.

All of it was provedwasted effort.

I still retained myaccent

Like a true MarcusGarvey.

But it was not allgloom.

At least I met myfuture husband

A British man with aCockney accent

Who later moved tothe United States.

It was early days inthe post-colonial era

And migration wasquite rampant.

Who was I to resist?

So we set sail earlyin the 1990s

And set up shop inNew York.

That is when ourprecious daughter

Came along torevitalize our life.

Allison was hername.

The people therewere charming

And respectful ofpersonal identity.

Nobody eversuggested

That I change myaccent

To fit localintonation.

What a contrast toJamaica!

Where blacks denied

Their own identity.

What a shame!

I thank the highheavens

For keeping megrounded.

Talkby Terrance Hayes

Basketball was aphenomenal game, especially

Back in theadventurous days of high school.

I remember theexcitement in the locker rooms

Before we went outon the court, with all

The cheerleadersready to grace our entrance.

My teammates dubbedme Larry Bird, more

Due to my skincolor, than my lanky legs.

I would like tothink that my excellent play

And my ability toknock down shots made me

Worthy of comparisonto the great legend.

I doubted any of myteammates would ever get

To my level offinesse, talent, and determination.

As an avid fan ofbasketball, the NBA was always

Never too far frommy mind and heart, even when

The games would bebroadcast during late nights.

Other sportingevents also provided a real spectacle.

I could never forgetthe Dream Team assembled in ’92,

When Barcelonahosted the greatest Olympics in

Recent decades, ifnot the best in living memory.

Who knew blackscould be so good at something?

Something as whiteas basketball, as European

As the Olympics, thepinnacle of athleticism.

Then spread the fameand reverence of Michael Jordan,

The darling of theblack community, the super athlete,

More honored thanthe other Michael of Formula 1.

Maybe skin colorcounted for little, or so my mind

Imagined duringextended periods of reflection.

Alone with mythoughts, isolated in my thinking.

Maybe an unjustworld had made us different, and

Maybe thesedifferences did not mean superiority.

But there was onlyone Larry Bird, and he was vastly

Superior to theother pretenders masquerading as

Good players, bettershooters, best guards.

How we would soaras a bird, the ultimate eagle!


I chose to modifythe two poems since they have a clear depiction of characters. Forexample, On Being Told I Don’t Speak Like a Black Person byAllison Joseph was narrated by Allison. The poem makes reference toother characters such as her parents and her friend Cathy. The poemalso made reference to teachers in Jamaican classrooms and highschool friends (Joseph). On the other hand, Like by TerranceHayes also featured the persona and his white friend (Hayes). I alsoselected both poems since they have similar thematic elements ofethnicity and diversity.

In On BeingTold I Don’t Speak Like a Black Person, the new narrator isAllison’s mother. Allison had mentioned how the teachers in Jamaicatried to change her mother’s accent (Joseph). The modificationprovided more information on this subject since the mother had thefirst-hand experience. Allison also refers to the US as her homewhile the mother hails from Jamaica. The poem also alludes to theBritish nationality of Allison`s father (Joseph). The modificationattempts to explain these details through creativity. In this regard,the modification states that Allison’s parents met in Jamaica andmoved to New York, where they started a family. Nevertheless, themother was not privy to the reaction of Allison’s friends to heraccent (Joseph). Therefore, these details are nonexistent in themother’s point of view.

In Like,the new narrator is M, the white friend (Hayes). The modificationfocused on the white boy’s view of basketball and blacks. Thepersona in the original poem took offense to the M’s insensitivityand sense of superiority. M had a low opinion of the black friend’sbasketball skills (Hayes). He was also dismissive of blacks. Thissame attitude is reflected in the modified poem. The new narrator isamazed at the skills of blacks in the 1992 Dream Team. M considershimself as good as Larry Bird and, therefore, looks down upon theblacks. The modified poem also expands on the theme of basketballfeatured in the original poem.

Modifying thepoint of view of the two poems presented various challenges. Everyliterary piece usually has a narrator. The persona is omniscientsince he is aware of all the facts surrounding the chosen theme.Therefore, the new narrator can have only a fragmented understandingof the critical issues. In this regard, it was challenging to givethe new narrator comprehensive knowledge of events. It was alsodifficult to ensure the new narrator expressed the events in alogical manner. Another challenge was in the identification ofcentral characters in the poem. Besides, proper modification of thetext precludes one from altering the central action. This presentedthe challenge of identifying the key thematic elements in the poem.

I overcame thechallenges by rearranging the sequence of events described in thepoems. In other instances, I modified the text by recreating events.I was able to identify the central characters in the poem by notingthe use of pronouns in the poems. I read the poems severally so as toisolate the central themes. Modifying the points of view in bothpoems required immense creativity. For example, in my modification ofTalk, I added plenty of new details in trying to capture M’slove for basketball. In On Being Told I Don’t Speak Like a BlackPerson, I added details pertaining to how Allison’s mother mether husband and their decision to relocated to the US. I was able torecreate both poems by analyzing the sequence of events. I used mysense of imagination so as to compensate for the limited perspectivesof the new narrators in both poems.

The assignment has taught me plenty of lessons about the power ofpoint of view and voice. The same narrative could be told indifferent ways through adopting various perspectives. Therefore, itis expected that some details will appear contradictory when thepoint of view is modified. This occurs because each person tends tofocus on a particular aspect of the narrative (Ehrlich 45). A personain a poem has a specific aim of telling his story. On the other hand,another character in the poem could have a different purpose. Motivesare unique to an individual. The assignment has also taught me tonurture the analytical skill of creative thinking. In analyzing aliterary piece, it is always important to evaluate the writer’spoint of view (Ehrlich 70). From that point forward, it becomeseasier to develop an objective understanding of the subject matter.

Works Cited

Ehrlich, Susan. Point of View: A Linguistic Analysis of LiteraryStyle. Hoboken: Taylor and Francis, 2014. Print.

Hayes, Terrance. Like, 2015. Print.

Joseph, Allison. On Being Told I Don’t Speak Like a BlackPerson, 2002. Print.