I Am Graffiti By Leanne Betasamosake Simpson: The Use Of Symbolism, Diction And Repetition To Portray Indigenous Hardships

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“Prejudice is a burden that often confuses the past, threatens the future, and renders the present inaccessible”. Maya Angelou

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In the powerful and meaningful poem “I am graffiti”, the author, Leanne Betasamosake Simpson is expressing the hardships that the Indigenous went through, including herself and how the agonising oppression they faced has been gradually prolonged over the last century. Simpson’s usage of symbolism, diction as well as repetition effectively portrays the central theme that one shall not comprehend the hardships of another’s world until one is put in the perspective of another’s said world.

In literature, symbols are used to express ideas or qualities and to convey a far deeper meaning than the literal definition. The poem “i am graffiti” has several occurrences of symbolism which is used to increase effectiveness of the central theme. Simpson’s preliminary usage of symbolism occurs when she is describing how the Canadian government tried to obliterate the Indigenous culture: you have a new big pink eraser we are well aware you are trying to us it erasing Indians is a good idea.

The poet is using the big pink eraser to represent the residential schools that Indigenous children attended. Simpson is using the symbol of the pink eraser to symbolize how the residential schools were a form of erasing the First Nation culture. The realization of this symbol enhances the central theme and creates a more profound essence. Throughout the poem “i am graffiti”, there are numerous examples where diction and rich vocabulary augment the sentiments felt during this emotional work of literature. Upon the utilization of diction, the expression of one’s perception can be demonstrated through elaborative details.

Simpson preliminary usage of diction occurs when she is depicting the various offenses that had been done toward the Indigenous people: the bleeding-heart liberals and communists can stop feeling bad for the stealing and raping and murdering. The poet effectively uses diction to add an emotional layer to the poem so that readers can sense the contents of the poem on a far greater level. As readers go through the poem, they come across words such as bleeding, stealing, raping, and murdering. Each one of the words have a negative connotation creating a dark and somber atmosphere. Therefore readers feel the agony and the despair that the First Nations felt. When Simpson is expressing how the Indigenous population was nearly wiped out, she uses diction to emphasize the message and make it stand out. She writes, “we are the singing remnants / left over after / the bomb went off in slow motion”. This example of diction is used to demonstrate the impact of what happened to the First Nations. The word bomb almost always has a negative connotation and is usually associated with war. In this specific situation, the word bomb was figuratively used to decimate the Indigenous population similarly to a an actual bomb in a real war. In addition, the singing remnants that are left over after are describing the First Nations present today who are trying to find their voice. As readers come across Simpson’s distinctive amount of diction, they’ll feel the trauma that occurred to the Indigenous and that what they overcame is truly unmeasurable.

The prominent usage of repetition in this poem serves a reinforcement to the central theme while simultaneously reassures that the Indigenous culture shall not be forgotten in Canadian history. The primitive example where repetition occurs is when the poet is expressing the notion that the First Nations will not perish no matter what circumstance. During this poem, Simpson writes, “except, i am graffiti”. This phrase commences its reiteration at line 17, repeats itself for another two line until its conclusion at line 43. As Simpson continuously repeats this phrase, it serves as a constant reminder that the Aboriginal Peoples will not disappear much like graffiti on a mural. In addition, they will forever hold their mark upon Canadian history. Following the phrase, “except, i am graffiti”, the poet is emphasising that the way the indigenous were was morally wrong, socially unjust and above all, pure prejudice. She states, “except, mistakes were made”. This particular phrase starts at line 18, repeats itself for an additional two lines until the concluding line of the poem. The purpose of this phrase was for readers to comprehend while reading this poem that the First Nations had unfortunately occurred several wrong-doings, and the ceaseless reappearance of this phrase aids readers to get grasp on the eventful past of the indigenous. The poem “i am graffiti” has several examples of repetition which enhances the reading experience for readers as well as emphasize the central theme that the hardships of another can never truly be understood.

For almost more than a century, the First Nations in Canada faced an absurd quantity of prejudice and they’re resiliency through that traumatic experience shall not be overlooked. The usage of symbolism, diction, and repetition help effectively portray the central theme in the fathomless poem, “i am graffiti”, written by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson. Throughout this work of literature, Simpson is trying to express that one shall not comprehend the hardships of another’s world until one is in the perspective of another’s said world. The Indigenous may not have had the brightest history, however, if there is any consolation, the future beholds an infinite amount of possibilities.

18 March 2020

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