Interpretation

The Fat Black Woman Goes Shopping by Grace Nichols

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An essay comparing emotion within poem 254, by Emily Dickinson and Price We pay for the Sun, by Grace Nichols Focussing on the works of at least two poets you have studied, discuss the presentation of strong emotions. Throughout works by both Emily Dickinson and Grace Nichols, emotion is prevalent in juxtaposing ways and is used to engrave within to the readers’ minds ideas of bitterness and despair, yet hope and Biblicism. Through the use of such polarising emotions, the reader is able to view the complications and temperaments of two…

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The Fat Black Woman Goes Shopping


The Fat Black Woman Goes Shopping was written by Grace Nichols in 1984. She was born in Georgetown, Guyana in 1950. She moved to England in 1977.  Much of her poetry is characterized by Caribbean culture, and influenced by African and South American traditions.

This poem is part of a compilation called The Fat Black Woman's Poems. Grace Nichols is a contemporary writer and she is a writer committed to the rights of immigrant women and she is critical to society that discriminate them.

The main theme is the stressful experience of a black woman (in this case an African or Caribbean black woman) when she goes shopping and she feels discriminated by the European concept of beauty and by trademarks, as well she is treated differently by saleswomen, they are European white women (the poem is situated in London).

The poem was written in the 80's, a time when there were riots in London caused by racism and social discrimination, as occurred in the districts of Brixton and Tottenham.

 The title of the poem expresses the contrasts of race and culture (prejudice about blacks), sex (she is a woman) and social stereotypes (fat against thin) and further, the poem is a critique of the standard of beauty forced by fashion in Europe.

Beauty in our culture is associated with thinness so, obese people don´t have place in fashion. The title emphasizes with capital letters “The Fat Black Woman Goes Shopping” all the points described previously.  The poetic speaker is talking about the life of a black woman and the tone in the poem is critical with the slavery to fashion society.

It´s a narrative poem that explains a shopping day in the life of a black woman in London.

The poem is organized in five stanzas, first two five-line stanzas and after three three-line stanzas with two single lines, one at the beginning and one at the end. The poem is written in free verse, which is a very common device in contemporary poetry.  The poem displays an irregular rhyme and it has a varying length of the stanzas and lines.

Nichols places a strong emphasis on rhythm. The poem finishes with the following rhyme “The fat black woman could only conclude / that when it come to fashion / the choice is lean / Nothing much beyond size 14”.

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      Alliteration in the third stanza “Nothing soft and bright and billowing” repetitions of sounds

      Metaphors:

o   In the second stanza, the point of view of the fat black woman about the people in London: “look at the frozen thin mannequins / fixing her with grin / and de pretty face salesgals / exchanging slimming glances / thinking she don´t notice

o   In the third stanza a metaphor of a  African or Caribbean dress: “nothing soft and bright and billowing

o   Metaphors related to the culture of women, she talks African language, such as: “The fat black woman curses in Swahili/Yoruba” or the way she pronounce of English words because she comes from English colony: “and de weather so cold” or “and de pretty face salesgals”. 


The poem stanza by stanza

The story tells as a fat black woman goes to shopping. She comes from a British colony, possibly Caribbean, because Grace Nichols is from Guyana a former British colony, the first difference between her homeland and her new country is the weather, we are “in London winter” so is more annoying to a person who comes from a warm climate (“is a real drag for a the flat black woman going…/…and the weather so cold”), the cold possibly also refers to the kind of personality of the Europeans, colder than other cultures like African or Latin that they are form warm climates and more emotional and expressive people.

When the fat black woman “look at mannequins” and “salesgals” she see it  ”frozen and thin”, it´s other reference to the personality of British or European people and the way that they treat her, coldly and “exchanging slimming glances / thinking she don´t notice”, in this case “slimming glances” are motivated for the size and color of the woman (black fat woman) in the store the saleswoman look at her knowing there is nothing in her size, “thinking she don´t notice” represents the racial and class prej.....

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The last stanza has a final conclusion: the fashion discriminates her to be different, because she is not within the cannons of thinness beauty, thin like “frozen thin mannequins… /…exchanging slimming glances”.

Also, in the last phrase “nothing much beyond size 14” she summarizes the idea that in British society for to be fashionable you must to be like them, you can´t to be different.

For concluding adds that is a poem full of social criticism and sadly it can be applicable today, because nowadays people still have prejudices against other races, genders and social classes, and although it is a poem by the 80´s it’s a current issue.

We need this kind of writers to denouncing the abuses of modern societies and give voice to .....


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