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Analysis


Symbols, Imagery, Wordplay

Form and Meter

"Incident" is written in a ballad form, which is an incredibly old form of poetry. It's also an incredibly popular one—you can find ballads written by folks like Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Dickin...

Speaker

The speaker of "Incident" is an African-American man (at least, we're assuming that it's a man, based on Countee Cullen's use of the first person "I"). He is looking back on a moment in his youth....

Setting

In "Incident," our older, African-American speaker remembers a haunting moment from his youth in which he experienced racism firsthand. And where does it all go down? The bus. Now, racism and busse...

Sound Check

"Incident" is written in a ballad meter, and you can check out "Forms and Meter" for the deets on the form. But now we're concerned with how this baby sounds when you read it out loud. And how does...

What's Up With the Title?

We at Shmoop think that "Incident" is a pretty apt title for the poem at hand. Just upon reading the title, we have tons of questions: What's the incident? Where does it happen? Who did it involve?...

Calling Card

Countee Cullen was all skilled up in English and American poetry. He studied literature at NYU and Harvard, and was a big admirer of poets like John Keats and A.E. Housman, both of whom wrote in tr...

Tough-o-Meter

"Incident" is a really easy poem to understand, which is very much the point. There's no doubt about what's going on (i.e., awful racism) and the poem can be understood by pretty much everyone—yo...

Trivia

Cullen has degrees from both NYU and Harvard (smarty pants). That's a pretty awesome accomplishment today, but it's even awesome-r when you consider that Countee was one of the few African American...

Steaminess Rating

"Incident" gets a G rating for sex, but that doesn't mean it's necessarily appropriate for the youngest among us. The poem's all about the use of R-rated language, so use your common sense when sha...
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