Telephone Conversation by Wole Soyinka

05 Feb

Telephone Conversation

The price seemed reasonable, location
Indifferent. The landlady swore she lived
Off premises. Nothing remained
But self-confession. “Madam,” I warned,
“I hate a wasted journey—I am African.”
Silence. Silenced transmission of
Pressurized good-breeding. Voice, when it came,
Lipstick coated, long gold rolled
Cigarette-holder pipped. Caught I was foully.
“HOW DARK?” . . . I had not misheard . . . “ARE YOU LIGHT
OR VERY DARK?” Button B, Button A.* Stench
Of rancid breath of public hide-and-speak.
Red booth. Red pillar box. Red double-tiered
Omnibus squelching tar. It was real! Shamed
By ill-mannered silence, surrender
Pushed dumbfounded to beg simplification.
Considerate she was, varying the emphasis–
“ARE YOU DARK? OR VERY LIGHT?” Revelation came.
“You mean–like plain or milk chocolate?”
Her assent was clinical, crushing in its light
Impersonality. Rapidly, wave-length adjusted,
I chose. “West African sepia”–and as afterthought,
“Down in my passport.” Silence for spectroscopic
Flight of fancy, till truthfulness clanged her accent
Hard on the mouthpiece. “WHAT’S THAT?” conceding
“DON’T KNOW WHAT THAT IS.” “Like brunette.”
“THAT’S DARK, ISN’T IT?” “Not altogether.
Facially, I am brunette, but, madam, you should see
The rest of me. Palm of my hand, soles of my feet
Are a peroxide blond. Friction, caused–
Foolishly, madam–by sitting down, has turned
My bottom raven black–One moment, madam!”–sensing
Her receiver rearing on the thunderclap
About my ears–“Madam,” I pleaded, “wouldn’t you rather
See for yourself?”


Poem Telephone Conversation by Wole Soyinka

Q1. This poem is full of colours not just that of skin, what do you think these colours signify?

Firstly,  repetition was used in the poem: “Red booth. Red pillar box. Red double-tiered Omnibus squelching tar.” I think the repetition of “Red” signifies the anger the persona was filling up within him. He feels upset being discriminated as the landlady was asking him for his skin colour which implies that she does not want to rent her flat to a person with dark-coloured skin.
Next, the description of skin colour was described with the metaphor ” plain or milk chocolate” tells us the skin colour of the persona. The colours dark or light was used to describe the skin colour of the persona and we can tell that the landlady was being a bit discriminating against dark-coloured skin people given her tone.
Lastly, the persona said that she has brown-coloured hair (brunette)  but she her palms, soles, are all peroxide blond which was caused by friction. The landlady decides not to rent the flat to the persona as the persona hears a thunderclap about his ears, which means that the landlady had already hung up the call.

Q2.What does the dialogue in this poem reveal about these two characters?

The dialogues in this poem reveals that the persona is a African with dark-coloured skin whereas the landlady was described as a white person who discriminates the dark people.


Q3. The poet dramatises a battle, who wins finally and why?

I think the persona wins finally as the landlady feels that she had no reasons to argue with the persona and so she hung up the call.


Posted by on February 5, 2011 in Uncategorized


3 responses to “Telephone Conversation by Wole Soyinka

  1. Mrs. Anu

    February 5, 2011 at 11:01 am

    Good work on the poem Wen Feng. I would prefer a deeper analysis of the poem. You somehow seem to have not understood the befitting reply that the persona gives the landlady. Read the poem again and see if you can decipher it further. As for the colours in the poem ypu have not analysed the reason behind the usage of the colour ‘red,.

  2. Lu Liang Hao

    February 6, 2011 at 8:56 am

    Hi Wen Feng I really like your blog because it excels in its simplicity and “straight-to-the-point-ness”. I think that you are hardworking and have posted all, if not most of your work already. Your theme is a neat theme which again emphasises simplicity. The contents of your posts are spot on too. I think you can improve on the consistency of your posts. For instance, for this post on the Telephone Conversation by Wole Soyinka, your question 1 is not bolded while your questions 2 and 3 are. It would look better in a sense in my opinion if they were consistent. Other than that I think this is a great blog! Keep up the good work Wen Feng 😀

  3. Sean Heng

    February 7, 2011 at 10:27 am

    Hi Wen Feng! Excellent blog you have here. I find that you have done the first question really well, identifying all the poetic devices correctly. However, I think you can work on questions 2 and 3 as even though you have answered them, they feel slightly lacking. Perhaps you could elaborate?
    Besides that, great blog!


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