In the poem “White Lies,” Natasha Tretheway describes a girl telling white lies as a child in a first person narrative. In the first stanza, she describes herself as “light-bright’ near white, high-yellow, red-boned, in a black place.” Red boned means a racially mixed person, and she is describing her skin as a light and near white color. The next stanza shows the readers what kind of lies she said. She told the white folks that she lived uptown, her homemade dresses were straight from Mason Blanche, and she kept quiet when a white girl called her white. Her lies shows that she wants to hide the fact that she lives in a ...view middle of the document...
Second stanza has lots of enjambment with 3 sentences each describing a different lie. Describes the lies she told. Seem like black lie, contrast with the title of the poem.
But I paid for it everytime
mama found out.
She put her hands on me
then washed out my mouth
with ivory soap. This imagery
is to purify, she said
and cleanse your lying tongue.
Believing her I swallowed suds repetition of the ing sound
thinking they’d work
from the inside out.
Third stanza enjambment with 4 sentences few endstop and caesura. Shows consequences of the lies. What mama says is white lie, contrast with the narrator.
* Step 2: Summary of technical aspects
The poem is divided into 3 stanzas with various numbers of lines. First stanza contains numerous commas that create endstops and caesuras while the other stanzas consist of mostly enjambments. The first stanza is interesting to note that the numerous commas and how it separated 2 words create a rhythm.
There are numerous imageries used throughout the poem. They are mostly literal meanings that describe her or the neighborhood she lived in. They paint a vivid image for the readers. There is an imagery that is used at the end “ivory soap” which could literally mean white soap, but could figuratively mean something pure.
There aren’t many sound devices used in the poem. The first stanza contains an internal rhyme and a few alliterations. Second stanza contains one alliteration and a repetition of the word quiet. The last stanza has repeats the –ing sound at the end.
The poem contrasts the actions of the narrator to the title and her mom. In the peom, the narrator tells black like; however, the title is white lie. Also the narrator’s lies contrast her mama’s white lie.
Step 3: Questions
What is the use of the few sound devices that are used in the poem?
Why contrast narrator’s actions to title and mama?
Why are the imagery used?
Why does the first stanza contain many commas while the other stanzas do not?
Part 3: Answering the Question: What is the relationship between form and content?
Tretheway uses numerous imageries throughout her poem. In the first stanza, a lot of imageries are used such as “light-bright, near white, high-yellow, red-boned, in a black place” (line 3-5). Red boned means a racially mixed person, and the colors are used to describe her skin color which was “near white.” These create a vivid image that helps the readers understand the background of the narrator and the poem. Without the description that she is mixed, readers would be confused in understanding the lies she told. In the...