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The Colonel
The Colonel
by Carolyn Forché

Speaker Point of View

Who is the speaker, can she or he read minds, and, more importantly, can we trust her or him?

From the first line, we get that the speaker is going to give a kind of testimonial. She's a guest in the house of this big-wig colonel. She's there to see and hear and tell it all. You get the sense that she's younger and not all that worldly. She's observant and trying to be impartial, to see things clearly, without the cloud of her own bias or judgment.

Maybe that's one reason we don't get a lot of her thoughts and reactions. She is simply giving a kind of inventory of the stuff in the house, what everyone is doing, what they ate. Somebody asks her how she's enjoying the country, but she doesn't give an answer. At least not that we see. But the question shows us that she's probably a first-time visitor.

She's a poet, which would indicate that the poet and the speaker are one and the same, which is not always true when it comes to poems, as you Shmoopers know. So from our understanding that the speaker is the poet, we can say she's an American woman who has an interest and compassion for the human rights. When the colonel loses his temper and reveals his monstrous and foul-mouthed side, it's directed at her and "her people," who care about rights. Does he mean the American people or her family or another group she's associated with? Not clear, but it's safe to say that he has her pigeonholed as a liberal.

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