Comparison Of The Incident And The Lynching

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Natasha Trethewey’s “Incident” and Claude McKay’s “The Lynching” are both written about hate crimes. “Incident” is the generational retelling of the author’s family that witnessed a cross burning on their lawn, as a warning, with unsettling images of the aftermath as well as hints of fear permanently embedded in the family’s memory. Each time it is retold, the experience becomes more dauntingly descriptive. “The Lynching” illustrates the picture of a grim and saddening sight of a malicious lynching in which a burned body hangs in front of a crowd of spectators. The author describes how the victim finds peace through his terrible death, but also how the spectators engage in cruel sinful celebration. Trethewey and McKay emotionally describe the …show more content…
Both poems explore historical acts of violence derived from racism, the religious symbols used to understand each victim’s experience and the passing of traditions from one generation to the next.
Historical and modern acts of violence and racism continue to evolve throughout time but the hate still remains. In Trethewey’s poem “Incident” the family is faced with racial indifference through an act of violence involving the Ku Klux Klan or “…white men in their gowns” (13). Trethewey uses metaphor to hint towards the reader that the people committing the crime are from a white-supremacist group. The group also known as the KKK, came to their home in the middle of the night, “we darkened our rooms and lit hurricane lamps” (11), to intimidate the family with the burning of a cross. The scare tactics used by the Ku Klux Klan were typically used to warn the individuals for various reasons surrounding the main idea of keeping African-Americans from gaining any type of equality. Fear is conveyed through personifying the wicks shaking with terror throughout the night (Trethewey 15), the frightening images of “the charred grass…” (4, 7) that scarred the
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Trethewey immediately reveals the tradition of retelling a family story by stating “We tell the story every year” (1). Trethewey’s poem voices the event four times to the reader in different ways. The repetition of lines reveals how each generation the retelling changes with the important details remembered each year. Through the many times it is repeated in the poem, the illustration of the night seems to divulge certain frightening aspects the family witnessed with different yet same account. McKay reveals in the last two lines, “And little lads, lynchers that were to be, / Danced round the dreadful thing in fiendish glee” (13-14) shows that racism and violence are being passed down from one generation to the next. The mothers bring their children to teach and pass down the absence of morale for human life as they dance around, wickedly happy and joyfully celebrating the terrible lynching. The ambiguity allows the reader to imagine the psychological impact the heart-wrenching event has on the children’s development of

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