Declaration Short Analysis

In the poem,  “Declaration”by Tracy K. Smith, the author is able to criticize a powerful document and bring to light the racial injustices in modern-day society. Her poem is an erasure poem, a form of found poetry, making it even more successful in her criticism of the original document. By using the Declaration of Independence, Smith is defiant. She mocks a document that signifies an important step in American freedom, which in reality was a milestone in a white man’s freedom. She takes this document and creates from its words a poem that brings to light the racial injustice that still plagues our nation. The author is efficient in pointing out that the men that once wrote and fought for equality, were the same to enforce and bring upon laws that oppressed minorities. She uses the words that were voiced so desperately and passionately to now invoke the cruelty of slavery. At first glance, the use of “He” would seem to refer to the King of England, but Smith leaves this to the audience. It can be anyone or anything. From the white supremacists to the justice system that has failed our minorities over and over again. The intended audience is anyone willing to listen and those who desire to change the way governments have handled social injustice. The audience could also be individuals that hold high official jobs, specifically those who create and execute policies that directly affect the people. Her urgency in exposing the hardships of oppression leaves the poem open to interpretation. Her last line is an example of this. Smith leaves us the audience to ponder and question the governments and systems that are supposed to advocate for us, but rather leave us to bear with social injustices, oppression, and slavery. 

8 thoughts on “Declaration Short Analysis

  1. Anglese,

    Great job interpreting this piece! it seems as though you were super thorough in picking it all apart and very insightful in your observations! I like how you started off by explaining what type of poem this is. That added a level of ethos to your rhetorical analysis!!! I agree with your observation of Tracy’s use of the word “He” and how that can definitely be open to interpretations which always makes for an interesting read because each reader can come out with a different perspective!

  2. RESPONSE 1 OUT OF 3: I also wrote about how “Declaration” sheds light on continuing injustice in my rhetorical analysis, but I didn’t see this poem as defiant before reading your rhetorical analysis. It makes sense that Smith would mock the Declaration of Independence though because most of the Founding Fathers were slaveholders, so they weren’t fighting for every American’s rights, they were just fighting for propertied White American males’ rights. I agree with your answer about the intended audience. I interpreted the last line similarly; I thought that the em dash following the bear functions differently than it does right after the second line since the object that the subject is bearing does not exist, so Smith leaves it open-ended like you say to think about the social injustices committed against Black Americans.

  3. Also like by the way I don’t mean to be a stickler, but Smith’s poem has to be surrounded by quotation marks instead of italicized when it is referenced in-line since it isn’t a large body of work. Poems are usually referenced in-line with quotation marks

  4. Overall your analysis is awesome. I like the way you described what kind of poem it is. Also the way you described the attitude the author was trying to use towards the point she was trying to make gave a better understanding of the overall issue. It’s very true that some of the audience could be people with political purposes.

  5. I agree with your interpretation on the usage of “He” within the piece, even when how you interpreted it was completely opposite from my analysis. Seeing how you explain your thought process on how and why, I can say that you’ve would’ve convinced me, had I not interpret the same pronoun with what you said wasn’t. I guess this just means that when breaking down a complex piece, everyone has their own way of looking at it.

  6. Hi Angeles,

    I agree with your outlook of tracy’s play completely. I believe Tracy was trying to convey the hypocrisy of the declaration of Independence of how it proclaimed and expressed the values of freedom while that wasn’t the reality of the situation. I also love your perspective of who you think is the audience for this speech and I think you absolutely right, the poem is for anyone who is willing to listen to the injustice going on.

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