17 pages 34 minutes read

Derek Walcott

Midsummer XXVII

Fiction | Poem | Adult | Published in 1984

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Symbols & Motifs

Chain-Link Fence

The first item the speaker lists as being “quietly American” (Line 1) is a chain-link fence. It separates the beach from the ballpark. Later, the speaker references another fence, which blocks the vacationers from the “illegal immigrants” (Line 14). The speaker characterizes America as being defined by its tendency to divide nature from people, wealthy people from poorer people, and European-descended people from those who were born on “unlucky islands” (Line 14). A chain-link fence allows people to look through it from both sides. Though the fence divides people, it also allows them to see each other, to know what they are being divided from, and to envy what they cannot access. The speaker defines America and its fences as the cause of the island’s jealousy, class warfare, racism, and division.

Empire and Umpire

Baseball was invented in America and is strongly associated with—and symbolizes—American culture. It is a game of skill and clear winners and losers. An “umpire” (Line 4) determines who has broken or followed the rules; they determine who wins and loses. An “empire” (Line 4), which rhymes with “umpire” (Line 4) also governs the rules of a nation, determining who wins and who loses. The baseball field separated by the chain-link fence suggests that America, though on the island, is separate from it.