Literary Criticism for Beware: Do Not Read This

Topics: Western culture, Western world, Culture Pages: 2 (777 words) Published: September 10, 2013
Madeline Hagen
Mrs. Moonan
English 10E
March 10, 2013
All teenagers are rebellious creatures. Many would deny that fact, but it’s true. It doesn’t matter how good you are, there is a part of you that wants to rebel against what adults tell you to do. This includes me. I am a very good person. I do what I’m told and I don’t talk back, but in my head I always have a witty remark or the urge to defy authority and stay up late on school nights or tap the glass of fishbowls. That’s the very reason I read “Beware: Do Not Read This Poem” by Ishmael Reed. The exact moment I saw that warning on paper, I had an undeniable need to read it like Odysseus had an undeniable need to join the sirens. And I loved it. Reed pulled me in with his repetitive warnings and errors, making it impossible to turn away. In his poem “Beware: Do Not Read This Poem”, I incorrectly interpreted that Ishmael Reed was trying to express the dangers of human temptation. However, with further research and assistance from professional literary critics, I realized that he was trying to express the vain notions of Western civilization and how it destructs African culture in America.

Upon interpreting the poem by myself, I came to the false conclusion that Reed’s work portrays human temptation. Although the first three stanzas did not make sense, the last four were seemingly very clear. By using the repetition of the line, “back off from this poem” (21) combined with the “it has drawn in yr” (22) statements, Reed depicts the teenager-ish need to ignore the constant warnings and to continue reading. Like the shirtless jogging horseman who ignored the warning to evacuate Washington, D.C. during Hurricane Sandy and Harry Potter ignoring Dobby’s warning not to return to Hogwarts, the reader ignores Reed’s warning to stop reading. However, like the great Lamarck and his theory of evolution, I was proven wrong. As it turns out, the poem is a piece of political satire trying to express the vain...
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