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An Analysis of Komanuyakaa Facing It

An Analysis of Facing It

Yusef Komanuyakaa’s poem “Facing It” is a brutal examination of the affects that war leaves upon men. The reader can assume that Komanuyakaa drew upon his own experiences in Vietnam, thereby making the poem a personal statement. However, the poem is also a universal and real description of the pain that comes about for a soldier when remembering the horror of war. He creates the poem’s persona by using flashbacks to the war, thereby informing the reader as to why the speaker is behaving and feeling the way he is. The thirty-one lines that make up “Facing It” journey back and forth between present and past to tell the story of one man’s life.

The informal language and intimacy of the poem are two techniques the poet uses to convey his message to his audience. He speaks openly and simply, as if he is talking to a close friend. The language is full of slang, two-word sentences, and rambling thoughts; all of which are aspects of conversations between two people who know each other well. The fact that none of the lines ryhme adds to the idea of an ordinary conversation, because most people do not speak in verse. The tone of the poem is rambling and gives the impression that the speaker is thinking and jumping from one thought to the next very quickly. His outside actions of touching the wall and looking at all the names are causing him to react internally. He is remembering the past and is attempting to suppress the emotions that are rising within him.

The first two lines of the poem set the mood of fear and gloom which is constant throughout the remainder of the poem. The word choice of “black” to describe the speaker’s face can convey several messages (502). The most obvious meaning …

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…” the speaker is telling his audience that the dead soldier was a young man. The tenderness of his age further amplifies the horrific nature of war.

The poem’s persona and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall depend on each other to express the poem’s intention. The poem’s intention is to show that war is lethal, less than gloriful, and extremely real. Although years have gone by, these recollections are still affecting how he lives. Simply standing in front of the wall reminds the speaker of all of this. The Veterans Memorial takes on a life of its own. While the speaker is in its presense, the wall controls him. It forces him to remember painful memories and even cry, something he promised himself he would not do. The persona in the poem reacts to the power the wall has and realizes that he must face his past and everything related to it, especially Vietnam.

Angels in America angels

Angels in America Both parts of Tony Kushner’s play Angels in America paint a painfully truthful picture of what gay men go through. In most cases, they suffer either inner anguish or public torment. Sometimes they must endure both. Being homosexual in America is a double-edged sword. If you publicly announce that you are gay, you suffer ridicule and are mocked by the ignorant of society; but if you keep your homosexuality a secret, you are condemned to personal turmoil. Kushner’s work attempts to make America take a close look at itself and hopefully change its ways. The fear of public scrutiny forces many gay men into a life of denial and secrecy. Kushner describes a society, not unlike our own society today, that looks down upon gay men and other minorities. By setting the play in the mid 80’s, a time when gay-bashing was at its zenith, he is able to capture the prejudice towards homosexuals and all that surrounds it. The early 80’s was also the time when AIDS was a new disease being made aware to the mass public for the first time. By setting the story in New York City, a melting pot of different cultures and people, Kushner proves that not just one group of people come in contact with homosexuals. All of these geographical and atmosphirical forces aid in setting the mood of the play. These surroundings drive the characters to act the way they do and make the choices they make. Angels in America centers around the gay community which is one of the most scrutinized minorities in the world today. Kushner is able to convey his view more efficiently by having a broad range of power. His characters are of more than one social standing and are at different places in their lives. This technique affords him the opportunity to show that homosexual males do not all hold the same jobs and are not of one race, age, or religion. By doing this, he is succesful in showing that gay men are the same as anyone else. The only difference is who they choose to share a sexual life with. Once again modeling reality, several characters are confident in their sexuality but are hesitant to admit to it. Roy Cohn and Joe Pitt represent the stereotypical gay man who refuses to publicly acknowledge his sexuality. They portray how gay men sometimes go to extreme lengths to deny their homosexuality. Both not only lie to others, but they lie to themselves. There is a certain sadness in the fact that some gay men desire the respect of strangers over being honest with themselves. Why do such a large number of gay men live lives in denial? The answer is simple. The answer is fear. Fear is the driving force behind many gay men’s secrecy. The fear of how others may view them and the fear of how they will be received is overpowering. Roy Cohn is a powerful, ruthless, well-connected lawyer, and he is also a closet homosexual. The reason for his double life can be traced back to fear. When he is confronted with his homosexuality, he denies it. He begins to rationalize his lifestyle by saying, “Roy Cohn is not a homosexual. Roy Cohn is a heterosexual man, Henry, who fucks around with guys” (Kushner, Millennium 46). He further attempts to cover up his sexuality, when he is confronted with the fact that he has AIDS. His denial and rationalizations continue when he says, “AIDS is what homosexuals have. I have liver cancer” (Kushner, Millennium 46). Even when his life is in danger, his charade goes on. Roy Cohn and Joe Pitt are two very different people, but they both share the same burden of denial. Joe Pitt is a married man who works as a clek for a federal judge. His marriage is failing and coming apart very quickly. Among other destructive influences, his secret homosexuality is a big part of the problem. He and his wife, Hannah, are barely on speaking terms and have not been intimate with each other in months. He finally succumbs to his homosexual urges, although it takes him a while to admit this to Hannah. His actions towards gays in the military prove just how far he is willing to go to protect his public persona as a heterosexual male who is not a gay sympathizer. Joe is confronted by his openly-gay lover, Louis, who plainly spells out what he did when he says, “This is an important bit of legal fag- bashing, isn’t it? They trusted you to do it. And you didn’t disappoint” (Kushner, Perestoika 109). Joe cares about himself and what society thinks of him, instead of doing what he knows is right. The aforementioned actions of Roy Cohn and Joe Pitt are tragicly understandable and identifiable in real life. Kushner has been effective in showing that a person’s sexuality does not affect their ability and is only a small aspect of their overall character. His two main characters are different and have complicated lives, but they are both the same in their secret sexuality. Rather than facing reality, they hide away in fear. Fear is the only answer as to why gay men live lives in denial. It is the only answer that makes sense. They are afraid they will be deserted by friends, family, and all those close to them. To them, it is not a matter of sexuality but a matter of how they are seen in the public’s eye. There is no shame in being who you are, but there is shame in letting fear control your life. Homosexual men are a minority, and like any minority there is prejudice against them. Kushner focuses on that prejudice and shows how foolish it is. He proves that gay men are not drastically different than any other man. The only difference is their sexuality, and that part of any person is no one else’s business. Homosexuals and heterosexuals both feel love when in relationships, and that is where the emphasis should be placed. A person’s sexual behavior should be left in the bedroom and not debated in a public forum. Neither heterosexuals nor homosexuals are better than the other. Until society as a whole makes a conscious effort to accept gay men and all minorities, prejudice will still exist and be a part of us all. No one has the right to judge another person.

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