The poem's speaker describes Africa as "A book one thumbs / Listlessly, till slumber comes." This metaphorical description of Africa as a boring book one flips through distractedly before bed is contradicted by the actual descriptions of the continent in the poem. The plants, animals, and people of Africa are described as holding an endless fascination for the speaker. This is an example of verbal irony where the speaker says the opposite of what he means.
"Unremembered" (Verbal Irony)
"Unremembered are her bats / Circling through the night, her cats / Crouching in the river reeds..." While the speaker describes the animals and plants of Africa as "unremembered," the richly detailed descriptions that follow this word show that the speaker actually remembers Africa intensely. This instance of verbal irony points to the complicated relationship of African Americans to their heritage. While the descendants of slaves do not have first-hand memories of life on the continent, memories are passed down through family and through art—like this poem itself, which allows Africa to be remembered once more.
Heritage (poem) Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Heritage (poem) is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.