Historical Criticism And Literary Devices In I Lost My Talk

Rita Joe, the author of “I Lost My Talk” was born in Nova Scotia 1932, and was a part of Mi'kmaq culture in Canada. At the age of 12, she was sent to an Indian Residential School in Shubenacadie therefore, it deeply influenced her works. In her writing, Joe looked to challenge the negative messages she experienced about her Indigenous identity. With regard to “I lost my talk”, the poem lands the meaning that Joe’s talk was taken away, which refers to her native language that was taken away at Shubenacadie Residential school. Also, the poem represents courage because it tries to influence people to stand up and help to find Joe’s talk, which means to find help from horrible events that took place. The suffrage in residential schools of Indigenous children, in particular Rita Joe who wrote “I Lost My Talk” poem can be analyzed through literary devices, historical approach, and style.

In a text, the poet employs a variety of elements like: simile, metaphor, allusion, and other poetic devices, which makes the poem more colorful and engaging, and also creates a meaning in the text. The devices present mostly appeal to the reader’s sense of compassion. For example, in a sentence fragment, “I speak like you / I think like you / I create like you.” (Joe, page 42). The narrator applies repetition and tries to emphasize what she went through and what other kids were going through in Residential schools, where they were forced to change to a more “traditional” style of identity. The poem also, illustrates symbolism: “When I was a little girl” (Joe, page 42). This represents helplessness and inability to protect yourself from the events that took place. Another literary device in a sentence fragment, “The scramble ballad, about my word.” represents a metaphor in this verse because a ballad can either be an old folk song or poetry. A narrator also addresses the fact that her identity became scrambled due to the fact that she was sent to the residential school. In a line of verse, “I speak like you.” (Joe, page 42). An author applies simile through the use of like and the narrator compares the way of how she talks to the way residential schools forced her to talk. In a sentence, “When I was a little girl/At Shubenacadie school.” (Joe, page 42). The narrator makes allusion to the residential school which represents the suffrage and events in history that took place.

Before being able to understand the poem “I Lost My Talk” research has to be done on the background of a literary work. This also includes the life of the poet and the historical moment which affected the writer's content in their poems. The historical moment played a huge role in the life of Rita Joe, the author of “I Lost My Talk.” She attempted to challenge the negative messages she experienced about her Idigenous identity when she was sent to the residential school. Also, as an adult her experiences influenced her work’s content and affected the context of her poems. Through her work, she tries to demonstrate society that her native language is being taken away from her as well as express her courage to resist and protect her Indigenous identity. At the end of the poem, the narrator asks for help and chance for reconciliation and claim of lost identity, which can be demonstrated in this sentence fragment:”So gently I offer my hand and ask, / Let me find my talk / So I can teach you about me.” (Joe, page 42).

Style of a poem is another element that helps to understand the deeper meaning of the poem. The poem “I Lost My Talk” can be considered as a lyrical poem because the narrator expresses a personal moment from her life, which was the suffrage and lost identity in the residential school. The narrator also presents the poem in the first person to express their emotions. The writings are short and not-narrative but keep some elements of melody. Also the form of the poem is a free verse because it doesn’t have any iambic pentameter or rhythm but tells a historical story based on the previous life events and experiences of the narrator.

In conclusion, through the use of literary devices, historical criticism, and style. The poem can be clearly analyzed and it’s meaning fully disclosed. Literary devices make the poem more engaging, and also build deeper meaning in the text. Historical approach to literature is needed in this poem because it gives knowledge about the author and also provides historical information, which affected the context of the poem. The style of the poem affects how the poem is represented and it also conveys a tone, which the writing has. Through the struggles and sufferings of Indegenous children, that went to residential school and were fighting for their Indigenous identity and the question is still present if their identity is fully reclaimed.

Works Cited

  • Filice, Michelle. “Rita Joe.” The Canadian Encyclopedia, www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/rita-joe.
  • “The Little Black Boy: Free Poetry Analysis Samples and Examples.” AcademicHelp.net, 12 Aug. 2018, academichelp.net/samples/academics/reviews/poetry-analysis/little-black-boy.html.
07 July 2022
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