D.I.Y. Activity

Poem: Selling Manhattan

Thesis: Duffy utilizes personnification of various natural elements of the Earth and the symbolism of nature to imply the exploitation of the Earth’s resources.

Setting: The poem happens after 1626, after the “purchase” of the island of Manhattan. This poem was published on January 1, 1987.

Characters: The protagonist of the poem is an indigenous person who lived in what is known now as New York. Their deep connection with nature is seen through their role as a messenger between the Earth’s elements and the European colonizers, of which are the antagonists.

Action: The poem begins with the trade where the Dutch had traded $24 worth of manufactured goods for the land of Manhatten from the Canarsee tribe. After the revelation of the intentions of the Dutch, one member from the tribe reflects of the contrasts that their morality and that of the colonizers have. The person describes what they think the reaction of the Earth is towards their exploitation. The poem closes with the tribe member fleeing from the colonized land into the forest.

Style: Duffy uses personnification(5,10,26-28) and symbolism(24,25), as well as a simile(22-24), hyperbole(6-7), rhetorical question(20-21), imagery(14), amplification(25), situational irony(3), and a juxtaposition(19).

Ideas: Duffy is suggesting that colonialism has an unfavourable effect on the Earth. Colonization takes from the Earth, and does not benefit it whatsoever. Expressing this idea through the narration of an indigenous person is effective as these people respected the Earth’s resources as well as made nature sacred. The poem shows colonizers as greedy, having no consideration of the impact of the steps to their desires has on the environment.

A) 5 observations: [1] “Injun” (Duffy 1): Christopher Columbus is known for confusing North America with India in 1492, so how is that over 100 years later, the people who inhabited the land were still mistakenly referred to as indians? [2] “You have made me drunk, drowned out the world’s slow truth with rapid lies” (6-7). The colonizers intoxicated the indigenous people with alcohol to trick their perceptions of their settlements as being harmful to the Earth. [3] “Trust your dreams. No good will come of this” (15). The narrator is losing faith in the state of the planet, that they cling to their dreams to escape the truth of reality. [4] “Loss holds the silence of great stones” (24). This sentence of simple words creates a complex meaning in a catastrophe. This phrase in relation to the context of the poem signifies that the Earth loses it underappreciated beatuty when it is used for personal gain. [5] “I will live in the ghost of grasshopper and buffalo” (25). The tribe member promises they will exist in nature spiriually when they die.

B) Fringe note: “…twenty-four bucks’ worth of glass beads, gaudy cloth” (1-2). How would the colonizer have measured the worth of manufactured goods if the dollar had not existed yet? The goods they traded with the indigenous people for land had different amounts of worth to either side of the trade. The colonizer found them worthless as they were mass-produced, while the native people found value in them as they were rare in their perspective. The barter system of their time would not have exact values of traded goods.

C) One question: Are humans entitled to use the Earth as they please?

D) Two features/lines to be read aloud: “I sing with true love for the land, / dawn chant, the song of sunset, starlight psalm” (13-14). “I will live in the ghost of grasshopper and buffalo” (25).

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D.I.Y. Activity

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