Incident By Countee Cullen Analysis

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The Realization of Prejudice in Countee Cullen 's "Incident"

The poem "Incident" written in 1920 by Countee Cullen, an African-American poet who was the leading figure in the Harlem Renaissance, tells the story of an African American man recalling the experience of a racist incident that took place in 20th century Baltimore. This short poem explores racism in a concise and potent manner. In just twelve lines, Cullen uses understatements to surface the underlying issues of racism in American society. Racism and prejudice permeate the history of American society. The effects of this tainted history are still prevalent today, especially within the youth of minority populations. The existence of prejudice is not exclusive to anyone, even
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The first stanza represents the innocent and naïve predisposition of individuals in society. This is evident in Cullen 's depiction of the protagonist 's experience in Baltimore. While observing the exciting, new sights and sounds of a foreign environment the protagonist is met with stares from another child. Cullen highlights the curious and joyful predisposition of the innocent, who have their "Heart[s]-filled, head[s] filled with glee". The setting of the story is also symbolic of an environment that cultures racial conflict. This story takes place on public transportation, most likely a bus, one of the few places where different races were forced to face each other in highly segregated places in the 1920 's such as Baltimore. This setting helps to provide a realistic image for the daily lives of readers.The protagonist expediently categorizes and distances the stranger from himself by calling him a "Baltimorean," just as people in today 's society separate others, especially minorities, into categories. By having the "Baltimorean" stare at the protagonist, Cullen prepares readers for a seemingly optimistic …show more content…
This becomes especially clear in the third stanza where the narrator details that from his long journey in Baltimore "From May until December; Of all the things that happened there that 's all that [he] remember[ed]." The opinions and actions of most people are developed from their memories, positive and negative, associated with the subject matter. For example, many children touch seemingly inviting hot stove tops only to realize that the stove top is in fact dangerous and worth avoiding. From this comparison, it is easy to conclude that the narrator 's adulthood is greatly affected by this incident. The small incident in question creates a massive effect on the narrator as it festers a scarred mindset of oppression, anger, and resentment towards other races. This negative conclusion leaves readers with a feeling of sadness towards the narrator. In many other poems, poets choose to transition from a negative atmosphere to a positive one. Oppositely, Cullen begins with a positive atmosphere and shocks the reader with a matter-of-fact evolution toward the ominous and realistic. By implementing this uncommon structure, the reader gleams the negativity surrounding the environment of racism and

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