Compare ‘Nothing’s Changed’ with ‘Two Scavengers in a Truck’, showing how the poets reveal their ideas and feelings about the particular cultures and traditions that they are writing about Both poets convey strong ideas about the inherent divisions that are inherent in modern-day society. Afrika conveys his ideas by writing about racial discrimination and segregation in South Africa, informing the reader about the differences in the quality of life for Blacks and Whites.
Ferlinghetti, however, decides to tackle the theme of social/wealth divide in San Francisco, U.S.A. Afrika also describes the landscape, nature and setting in much more vivid detail, using it to represent the history of District Six. Ferlinghetti, who focuses on the people who are the protagonists of his poem. Although set in two very different locations; one in a third world country and another in a developed country, both poets deal with the issue of inequality and prejudice.
Afrika and Ferlinghetti both feel very strongly about inequality in society and how people can be discriminated against due to their skin colour or social class. The reader is able to tell that Afrika feels strongly about his particular culture and traditions because he tells part of the poem in first person (singular and plural): ‘I back from the glass’ and ‘We know where we belong’. In this way he vividly conveys the emotions that Black people suffer as a result of discrimination, as he becomes a part of them. Afrika demonstrates the suppressed anger and resentment that clearly bubbles beneath the surface when he says: ‘the hot white inwards turning of my eyes’.
Through his use of harsh images such as ‘brash with glass’, ‘it squats’ and the symbolism of danger, blood and violence behind the image of ‘a single red rose’, he demonstrates his strong emotions on the issue of discrimination. Ferlinghetti seems to feel slightly less strongly, as he expresses his ideas in a way that is less harsh and jarring, in comparison with Afrika’s use of language. Ferlinghetti conveys his ideas in a more ambiguous manner.
For example, the last line of his poem: ‘across the small gulf in the high seas of this democracy’ could be interpreted as either Ferlinghetti showing his disapproval for a society which allows such divisions to arise, or illustrating his approval for a society which allows such diverse lifestyles to co-exist with alongside each other. However, it is clear that Ferlinghetti feels strongly about the divisions (whether in positive or negative light) that wealth can bring, as throughout the poem, he continually contrasts the two ‘garbage men’ and the ‘beautiful people’. For example, in the first stanza, he illustrates the difference in physical height between the garbage men ‘looking down’ onto the people in the Mercedes, who are down below.
This could demonstrate how Ferlinghetti believes that although the beautiful people are higher up in the social ladder, they are lower down in the moral standpoint of things. In the second and third stanza, Ferlinghetti contrasts their appearances; the ‘casually coifed’ woman with the ‘gargoyle Quasimodo’. All this infers to the reader that the ‘beautiful people’ are very much more image-obsessed and fake, in comparison to the garbage men, and perhaps they are the ones that are the scavengers.
Afrika begins by using a succession of one-syllable words, sets a harsh, uncomfortable tone for the rest of the poem. Also in the first stanza, Afrika uses sibilance at the end of words, such as the phrase ‘seeding grasses thrust’, which is an awkward and almost unnatural sound pattern, adding to the image of an harsh, unwelcoming environment. His use of onomatopoeias also adds to this distinctly coarse atmosphere.
For example, Afrika’s use of ‘click’ and ‘crunch’ appeals to the reader’s aural sense, which increases the impact of his vivid images and creates a jarring effect. Afrika follows this with a stanza almost completely devoted to illustrating the physical effect of his anger, through descriptions of the ‘labouring of my lungs’ and the ‘hot, white inwards turning of my eyes’. This, combined with his repetition of the word ‘and’ creates a accumulating effect and the reader is able to empathise with the anger that is building up within him.
Afrika’s sensory and rather vulgar images, such as ‘wipe your fingers on your jeans’ and ‘spit a little on the floor’ used in contrast with the ‘crushed white glass’ and ‘linen falls’ of the previous stanza, shows his bitterness and resentment against the difference in the restaurants that Blacks are allowed to go to and the ones that will accept ‘Whites only inn’. The climax of the poem is the use of harsh, violent images, where Afrika mentions how his ‘hands burn’ for ‘a bomb to shiver down the glass’, which leaves the reader with a feeling of desperation and helplessness. Ferlinghetti does not use a distinctive pattern for his first stanza, or in the rest of his poem.
He does, however, use sibilance in the second stanza, when he describes the woman wearing a ‘short skirt and colored stockings’, which is preceded with the oxymoron and alliteration of ‘casually coifed’. This combination of factors makes the woman and man in the Mercedes seem as if they are trying very hard to be noticed and to appear flawless. The contrast between the garbage men and beautiful people is highlighted when Ferlinghetti goes as far as to differentiate their smells. He describes the people in the Mercedes like an ‘odourless TV ad’, which alongside the (most probably) pungent smell of the garbage truck is very weak and almost unreal, illustrating how the beautiful people are perhaps merely an image of perfection, not reality.
The structure of these two poems is very terms of style and even shape. ‘Nothing’s changed’ is more conventional in terms of the shape of the stanzas. All the lines start at the same place on the left-hand side of the page. Afrika generally follows the style of conventional poetry, with the majority of the stanzas containing roughly the same length of lines and number of lines. However, Afrika does use enjambment, which Ferlinghetti also uses in his poem. Ferlinghetti embraces the culture of ‘beat poetry’ fully, in throwing aside the conventional, traditional ideas of how poetry should be written.
‘Two scavengers, Two beautiful people in a Mercedes’ is shaped in such a way that it physically reflects the social divide, as the poem can be split into two in various different ways and still managing to remain coherent. For example, the lines that start on the left hand side can be read without those that start slightly indented and vice-versa. This could perhaps be an effort by Ferlinghetti to illustrate how the lives of the garbage men and ‘beautiful’ can co-exist with each other without ever coinciding. Ferlinghetti’s use of enjambment and indented lines forces the reader to pause in certain places, which isolates and highlights important lines. This is clearly evident in the last stanza, where the final three lines are spaced out in such a way that causes the reader to slow down and pause at the end of every line. This draws attention to the meaning behind the lines.
Both poets tell the reader something different; Afrika focuses on the consequences of racial division and discrimination, showing how such treatment can breed hatred, resentment and violent retaliation. Ferlinghetti chooses to explore the theme of the division that wealth can bring. He raises the question of how society can allow such divisions to arise and how America (and the Western World) has become so commercialised that these so-called’ beautiful people’ are in fact fake and have lost grip with reality. Ferlinghetti leaves it open to interpretation as to whether the garbage men are envious of the ‘beautiful people’s’ wealth and material possessions or whether they are more content with their honest, frugal lifestyle. However, both poets convey the fact that in our modern day ‘democratic’ society, divisions are evident, be it racial, monetary or otherwise.