Be Nobody’s Darling

Be Nobody’s Darling

By Alice Walker

Be nobody’s darling;
Be an outcast.
Take the contradictions
Of your life
And wrap around
You like a shawl,
To parry stones
To keep you warm.
Watch the people succumb
To madness
With ample cheer;
Let them look askance at you
And you askance reply.
Be an outcast;
Be pleased to walk alone
Or line the crowded
River beds
With other impetuous

Make a merry gathering
On the bank
Where thousands perished
For brave hurt words
They said.

But be nobody’s darling;
Be an outcast.
Qualified to live
Among your dead.

Summary of Be Nobody’s Darling

  • Popularity of “Be Nobody’s Darling”: Written by Pulitzer prize-winning novelist, short story writer, and poet Alice Walker, this beautiful poem first appeared in 1973. It was the time when her community was in full mood to enjoy the newly won freedom of having equality and equal rights in the United States. The poem has set the tone for women, specifically African American women, to enjoy the freedom and assert their individuality, wherein lies the reason behind the popularity of this poem.
  • “Be Nobody’s Darling” As a Representative of Feminism: The speaker of the poem happens to be the poet herself as she asserts her identity of being a woman in the very first verse saying to other women, “Be nobody’s darling” which is rather a contradictory argument. It is because women are often desirous of becoming the darlings of somebody. The poet continues to state in the same strain saying a woman should not become the darling of anybody and should stay “an outcast.”
    However, it has its own costs, the poet argues, saying she must stay alone with the contradictions in her life, and this action of staying alone will keep her safe and sound. The poet is of the view that if other people question her individuality, she must assert it by staying “askance” and “alone” instead of mixing up with the “impetuous/Fools.” Her contention is that she, as a woman, must not become the darling of anybody and should not become a docile creature as is supposed about women.
  • Major Themes in “Be Nobody’s Darling”: Assertion of feminine individuality, resistance, and importance of one’s self are major themes of this short poem. Alice Walker has beautifully advised women to be an individual who has the power to say no or refuse advances. That is why she advises women not to be the darling of any person. Rather, they must stay outcast or even alone in case it happens to them. This act of resistance will keep their feminine individuality intact. This is also the safety of one’s self that she advises the woman to be qualified so that they could brave the weather of this world. Although, as an African American, it seems that she has seen the women of her community braving the world of love, she advises all the women that they must assert their femininity or else they will perish.

Analysis of Literary Devices Used in Be Nobody’s Darling

Alice Walker uses various literary devices to present her message through this poem. Some of the major literary devices are analyzed below.

  1. Anaphora: It is a literary device in which a word or a phrase is repeated at the start of some successive verses. The poem shows the use of “Be…” as an anaphora.
  2. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line, such as the sound of /a/ in “And wrap around” and the sound of /o/ in “With other impetuous.”
  3. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line, such as the sound of /k/ in “Let them look askance at you” and the sound of /k/ in “Take the contradictions.”
  4. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. Alice Walker used imagery in this poem, such as “Take the contradictions”, “Be pleased to walk alone” and “Make a merry gathering.”
  5. Simile: It means the direct comparison of things with as or like. The poem shows the use of a simile, such as “You like a shawl.”
  6. Symbolism: Symbolism is using symbols to signify ideas and qualities, giving them symbolic meanings that are different from the literal meanings. The poem shows symbols, such as life, wrap, shawl, and stones to show the assertion of a woman.

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in Be Nobody’s Darling

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is an analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.

  1. Diction: It means the type of language. The poem shows good use of formal and casual diction.
  2. Free Verse: It means to use verses without any rhyme scheme or metrical pattern. This poem is a free verse poem.
  3. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. There are three stanzas in the poem, with each having a different number of verses.
  4. Tone: It means the voice of the text. The sonnet shows an aggressive and assertive tone.

Quotes to be Used

The following lines are useful to quote when advising women to keep their persona and individuality intact.

But be nobody’s darling;
Be an outcast.
Qualified to live
Among your dead.