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by Countee Cullen

Incident Questions

Bring on the tough stuff - there’s not just one right answer.

  1. Why does Cullen write the poem in ballad meter? What's the effect of the poem's form on its content? 
  2. The speaker is looking back in time. How much time do you think has gone by since the incident of "Incident"? How would you describe the differences between the speaker's current and former selves?
  3. Do you have any sense of the motivations or thoughts of the other boy—the "Baltimorean" in the poem? Do you ever know what he's thinking? Does it matter what he's thinking? Why do you think so? 
  4. Do you think it's important that the speaker uses the word "nigger" in the poem? How would it be different if the speaker didn't use the actual word?
  5. Does the poem take a political stand against racism? Or is it solely concerned with the speaker's personal experience?

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