An Unspoken Message of Fear by Trudy A. Martinez: An Analysis of Carolyn Forche’s Poem “The Colonel”

An Unspoken Message of Fear:An Analysis of Carolyn Forche’s Poem, “The Colonel” by Trudy A. Martinez

Posted on December 13, 2006 by gramatrudy

Articles presenting psychological conjectures and theory appear in the Los Angeles Times over the years implying that the American society may be at fault for the deterioration of certain segments of the population. In addition, some publicity centered on the unnecessary beating of a black man appears to relate and substantiate the psychologist findings. Since the highly publicize beating, a connecting bond of black law enforcement officers came forward to complain and present possible testimony of their unjust treatment within the police department. The black officers say symbolism such as the “KKK” and white supremacy groups use serve as important determinants, leaving them with an unspoken message of fear from retaliation.

A similar unspoken message of fear is symbolized in the Carolyn Forche’s poem, “The Colonel”. The symbols in the poem plays a consequential role in understanding in what appears to be the poem’s intended theme as the theme loops in a chain like construction of symbols that combine a pattern of discrimination and leave a mark upon the aggressor in the form of an unspoken message of fear.

The importance of the characterizations reinforcing the chain like theme may be seen through the continual linkage of token symbols, creating a fearful atmosphere. The apprehensive environment that develops formulates through the significance of the descriptive setting in the Colonel’s home. For instance, a gun lay on the cushion beside the Colonel while he watches a “cop show”; “broken bottles were embedded in the walls around the house”; and “the windows . . . [had] . . . gratings [on them] like those [used at] . . . liquor stores” (props design and carefully link together to keep the contents and occupants safe from unwanted intruders). Within the surroundings, similar symbolic considerations are recognizable that distinguish the nationality, status, and the unspoken fear of the Colonel and his family.

The factors that encourage recognition and assist in securing Forche’s propose of emphasizing a family of elements is inserted by the author’s clarifying statement that the cop show “was in English” and gains strength by the colonel’s “wife [taking] everything away” following a “brief commercial in Spanish”. The “. . . gold bell [that adorned the table like a charm on a bracelet] was . . . for calling the maid”. The gold bell stresses status and suggests dominance.

Dominance underscores and repeatedly portrays through the discussion “of how difficult it had become to govern” and by the “colonel [telling his parrot] to shut up after the parrot merely sang a polite greeting of “hello”. The ring of verbal abuse ushers in violence through the action of the colonel when he “pushed himself from the table’. The colonel’s abrupt forceful movements weigh and anchor a chain of unspoken fears that suddenly support the speaker when the eyes of the speaker’s friend say, “say nothing”.

By saying nothing, the unspoken fear unites, and coerce, and emerges as a triumphant acknowledgement, glimmering among the colonel’s collection of “dried . . . human ears’. The sequence is broken when the colonel’s indignation singles out one ear from the others, confronts it, and agitates it.

The ear, similar to a dangling charm glimmering in a bright light, comes to life as it drinks up the colonel’s demoralizing statements. The dejecting assertions spring forth, resembling the knife that strips the ears from their rightful place, through the savagery combination of their meaning, provoking the necessity of their continuance in a chain of unspoken messages of fear.