White Lies" By Natasha Trethewey

382 Words2 Pages
There is a lot of color imagery in this poem, the first stanza especially. It mentions 6 different colors, all describing the lies. It’s about an African American girl that may tell little lies that don’t really mean much. She would lie about where she lived, and where she bought her clothes, but would also lie about being African American. Right below the poem is the history of Natasha Trethewey, and she was a girl that was just light enough to pass for white. It’s actually really sad the way she describes lying about her skin color. She writes, “I could even keep quiet, quiet as kept, like the time a white girl said (squeezing my hand), Now we have three of us in this class.” It’s sad because she’s not lying to act cool. When she writes “squeezing my hand,” I get a sense that she only lied because she liked the way the girl was acting like her friend. The first stanza does a really good job in describing that she is really light skinned for an African American. It says, “I was growing up/light-bright, near-white/high-yellow, red-boned/in a black place.” The words “light-bright” and “near-white” make me think of a very light color. I also get a double meaning with the color white. While white is connected throughout the poem to lies, at the end of the poem it is connected to soap that will purify someone. She writes, “She laid her hands on me,/then washed out my mouth/with Ivory soap. This/was to purify, she said,/and cleanse your lying tongue.” These few lines make me think that she’s trying to describe white as the right thing. She does this again in the second stanza when she says, “I could act like my homemade dresses come straight out of the window at Maison Blanche.” This phrase makes us think that dresses from the “White House” are better than others. I think the overall message of this little girl is that she used to think that white was better. Clothes were

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