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Analysis of the Poem “Half Cast” by John Agard

The poem “Half Cast” by John Agard demonstrates the behaviors as well as attitudes of narrow-minded people. The author may have encountered these people in his life. These people think that people born of a mixed percentage poses inferior characteristics. In another perception, the poem shows the anger the author has towards those people who refer to him as a half-caste. The author wrath perceives that the people the people using these words have no clue of its meaning. The poem looks into wider areas of trying to enlighten people over the issue of mixed percentage.


The poet aims to show his anger when referred to as a half-caste. His aims are of educating those people who have a conception that people born of a mixed race are inferior. The poet seeks for an answer of what makes him a half-caste. Agard feels as he is apologizing, but means the opposite. He uses this as a satire in order to capture and help people understand his message. The poet aims at showing that people from a mixed percentage also poses same characteristics with others. He argues by asking a question whether mixing color in an art makes that thing, a half cast. This is shown in the poem when he says, “Yu mean when Picasso mix red and green are a half-caste canvas”. Therefore, in his argument he shows how a mixture of race comes out with something better.

The poem has a sad, challenging and frustrating tone. At the beginning of the poem, the poet starts by expressing his anger for being called a half-caste. The poet seems to be angry and bitter when he said, “Excuse me standing on one leg”. He also shows frustration when he objects of being called half human being asserting that there is much more out of him than people realize. The tone is also challenging especially where the poet says, “Explain yuself wha yu mean yu say half caste”, he asserts that he is a whole human being and people should change their attitudes towards him.


The poem has an irregular structure, as it is evident in that statement above. The first and last stanzas of the poem have three lines. The fist line that says, “Excuse me standing on one leg I am a half-caste”, the speaker sounds sarcastic and ignorant. However, in the last stanza that has only three lines there is a change in the mood. The poet aims at educating his audience when he says, “I will tell yu da other half of my story”. In spite of the fact that there is no use of full stops and commas, there is a suggestion that the poet is obsessive about the word half-caste. This is also another way of conveying a direct and confrontational nature of the poet’s message.

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There is a reputation in the poem “explain yuself wha yu mean”, it has been repeated in a number of time. This shows that Agard was addressing the reader directly. There is the use of sarcasm we see the poet apologizing for being a half-caste. He says “excuse me standing in one leg I’m half caste” and it represents forms of satire. For example, the poem starts with apologies although he means the opposite. The use of imagery is seen where the author says “yu mean when Picasso mixes red and green” and the message behind this is that Picasso mixed colors were successful. This enables the reader to get easily the message from the poet.


The poem has poetic techniques, for example the statement “explain yuself wha yu mean” has been repeated for several times. The poet uses this technique to try to emphasize on the subject matter of the poem. Another technique used is the comparison of the mixed race with a mixture of colors by Picasso. The intention of the poet in this technique is easily pass his message to the readers or the audience. There is also the use of mixed language between Caribbean dialect and British English. This enables the audience to pick up the idea of a mixed race person. The author has used scathing humor when he says, “Excuse me standing on one leg” whereby it makes the point more acceptable.


The poet was born in 1949 in South America and his parents were of a mixed nationality. John Agard moved to Britain in 1977. This was a time where racial discrimination cases were rampant in Britain. The society comprised of narrow-minded people considered people of a mixed percentage as inferior. The implicit part of the poem is suggested in the language used by the poet. The poem is written in a non-native language that is, a mixture of two languages. Therefore, the audience can easily understand the case of half-caste without necessarily being suggested.

The cases of racial discrimination are still evident in the society even today. Many people are still denied their rights because they come from a different background. Although there are set rules in the process of shunning this believe a lot needs to be done.


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