Response 2

Woroud Shuaib
Professor Steven Alvarez
English 255
26 February 2012

Struggling Latinos: Understanding Inequality through Images in William Carlos Williams’ “Apology” and “Libertad! Igualdad! Fraternidad!”

William Carlos Williams conveys strong themes about Latinos struggling through his poem titled “Apology”. The Latinos have done many things for this country but as the speaker points out, they do not get recognition for it. From early on in the poem, Williams’ writes “Why do I write today?”(line 1), which suggests that he is the speaker. The speaker dedicates this poem to show that the Latinos have done a lot but don’t get acknowledged for it. Williams thinks about the importance of the ignored Latinos:

colored women
day workers–
old and experienced–
returning home at dusk
in cast off clothing
faces like
old Florentine oak.
Also
The set pieces
Of your faces stir me-
Leading citizens- (lines 6-16)

Williams has realized the invisibility the Latinos face and simply calls attention to it by writing this poem. In this stanza he uses great imagery to emphasize how these Latinos or working class is often ignored by society. Williams’ mentions that they come at “dusk”, which implies that they work long shifts, come home truly late and simply unnoticed. In addition, he compares these women’s faces to an “Old Florentine Oak”, and usually an oak may not portray the prettiest thing on earth to compare women’s faces to, but he does. Here Williams’ stresses how they look to show the readers’ that Latinos work really hard but do not get notice as much as they should. Moreover, he states in the last line of the poem, that “Of your faces stir me/leading citizens” which suggests William’s audience. Other citizens are recognized for their shifts at work, which imply people from the higher class. Evidently, he then says “but not/ in the same way,” suggesting the importance of these people but lack of recognition they receive. Latinos usually get ignored but have the greatest importance to society.

Williams’, “Libertad! Igualdad! Fraternidad captives the struggles immigrants experience when they come to live this “American Dream”. The Latinos could relate to this poem because they come here for a better lifestyle but when reality kicks in, these dreams become just dreams. Williams’ does a clever job conveying this message with his poem, as one of the speakers wants to give up on this dream that the second speaker insists on always keeping on to this dream. Evidently both men are poor and have nothing to live up to. He points out, how these Latinos hang on to this dream forever, but realize it may be the dream itself that may destroy them:

You sullen pig of a man
you force me into the mud
with your stinking ash-cart!
Brother!
—-if we were rich
we’d stick our chests out
and hold our heads high!
It is dreams that have destroyed us (lines 1-8).

One of the speakers states how he’s a “pig of a man” which shows how inhumane he thinks of him. Pigs usually have associations with ugliness and often thought low of and the fact that he’s calling him one exemplifies how low he thinks of him. Williams then adds how, “It is dreams that have destroyed us”. The speaker implies that dreams give him false hope. They work hard every day to strive for their dreams but in the end it has destroyed them because none of their dreams have become reality. The poem has a theme of optimism in dreaming, whether or not the dream actually comes true or not. This dream is specifically moving socially up, a wish for wealth in order to escape desperation. Or, at the very least, a desire for pride, something to justify “stick[ing] our chests out.” The Latinos come here wanting a better lifestyle, and they never give up on this dream and recognition for their hard work. Williams’ poem shows the inevitability of Latinos usually having no social mobility, but also the optimism that comes from trying, from dreaming. The speaker feels aspired for Latinos to become “rich” or at least have some reason to “hold our heads high,” but fails in the attempt.

Works Cited
Williams William Carlos “Apology” The Norton Anthology of Latino Literature. Eds. Ilan Stavans, Edna Acosta-Belen, Harold Augenbraum, Maria Herrera-Sobek, Rolando Hinojosa, and Gustavo Perez Firmat. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2011. 419-420. Print.

— “Libertad! Igualdad! Fraternidad!” The Norton Anthology of Latino Literature. Eds. Ilan Stavans, Edna Acosta-Belen, Harold Augenbraum, Maria Herrera-Sobek, Rolando Hinojosa, and Gustavo Perez Firmat. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2011. 419. Print.

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