1.Discuss the Theme of Conflict in the ‘Fence’
The theme of conflict is well captured in Lenrie Peter’s poem the ‘Fence’. The poet-persona demonstrates the perpetual rivalry between the forces of good and evil as a result leaves the poet in a fix not knowing which side to join.
The opposing forces are represented by ‘past and future’, ‘truth and untruth’, ‘forward and backwards’, and ‘the need for good’ and ‘the doing good’. This situation leaves the poet in a state of dilemma, not knowing which side to align himself to overcome his predicament.
The conflict is a clear demonstration of moral weakness which engulfs the human society as a whole and thus becoming a canker when not checked.
The poem brings to fore the depressing effect of conflict on the poet even when he chose to be indifferent i.e. to sit on the fence. He undergoes a psychological trauma as ‘all the opposites arrive to plague the inner senses’. The outcome is unpleasant – ‘bloody’ as a result of an ‘endless struggle’.
The persona’s quest to overcome the conflict situation proves futile as his situation worsens as his head spins like a drunkard though he has not consumed alcohol:
I hold my head: and then contrive
To stop the constant motion
My head goes round and round…
In the end, he staggers as the conflict in his mind [buoyant waves] reaches a peak. The poem ends with the conflict still unresolved in the thought of the poet-persona. That is not being able to take decision but to sit on the fence.
2.Examine the Theme of Indecision in Peter Lenrie’s ‘Fence’
Read the Poem
The theme of indecision stands dominant in the poem. The persona presents different situations in which he is unable to take decisions and so remains on ‘the fence’.
According to the poet, he finds himself torn between the past and the future. He finds it difficult aligning himself to the ‘past,’ probably his cultural inheritage or roots and at the same time; he finds it difficult adjusting to the future probably the emerging modern trends.
The persona’s indecisiveness is also exposed in his confused state as whether to uphold the ‘truth and untruth’ and the ‘need for good and ‘doing good’. For there lies a bloody and endless battle which he finds it difficult to take sides. His decision to remain indifferent [sitting on the fence] brings to light his moral weakness and his inability to overcome.
The poet further could not choose between either moving forwards or backwards with time. What is worth noting is that even when the world had changed its ‘garment’, the persona was still adamant to
change i.e. unwilling to change to conform to the present situation.
The persona finally pays a price for his failure of indecision. He suffered a psychological torture of the mind as a result of ‘bloody combat’ between the forces of good and evil which often come ‘to plague the inner senses’.
The poem ends on a note of sadness with our persona still lacking the courage to take a decision or, perhaps, feeling comfortable in the state within which he finds himself.
3.Discuss the poet’s diction in the poem ‘The Fence’
Read the Poem
The poet’s choice of words to some extent is simple and modern except some few which may pose a difficulty to the average reader. Among the simple words employed are: ‘dim’ ‘past’,’ forward’, ‘backward’, ‘feeble’, ‘wander’, ‘amazement, ‘stagger and the few intimidating ones such as ‘like ‘nebulous’[vague], ‘buoyant’[ high rising], contrive [scheme] etc.
Thus the diction clearly brings to fore the theme of the poem. For instance the theme of conflict is captured in words such as in ‘struggle’, combat, ‘conflict’, ‘bloody’ etc. which is not found on the battlefield but in the poet’s state of mind spewing from his inability to take sides in the turn of events and hence his stance to be indifferent i.e. to sit on the fence.
The poet also carefully selected words of contrast such as ‘truth and untruth’, ‘forwards and backwards’, ‘past and future’ etc. to deepen his state of dilemma probably to draw sympathy from the reader.
Also his diction highlights motion as found in words such as ‘mingle’, ‘wander’, ‘move’ , ‘stagger’, and ‘cross’. These words bring forth the poet’s eagerness to travel between time [i.e.’ past and future’, ‘forward and backward’] and probably make an adjustment to the condition within which he finds himself. But still indecisive as he remains entangled in his state of mind.
More importantly, the poet’s diction highlights the setting of the poem. The poem is set in the mind of the persona as indicated by the words such as ‘mind’, ‘inner senses’, ‘head’, ‘contrive’,’ and hopes and aspirations’. Also the persona’s position on fence-setting is indicated by the word ‘there’ in direct reference to ‘the fence’. All these words come to intensify the theme of conflict, confusion, fixation, indecisiveness and struggle of the poet with opposing elements of life.
Lastly, the poet also employed parallelism found in the repetitive use of ‘There where’ and the ending refrain ‘There I lie’. These repeated words emphasise the exact location [setting] which the poet finds himself at a particular stage of life and his eagerness to take decision but to no avail.
By Adjei Agyei-Baah (WAEC EXAMINER) (below)
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