“Telephone Conversation,” by Wole Soyinka and “You will be hearing from us shortly,” by U.A.Fanthorpe both deal with prejudiced attitudes through the language and tone of the three speakers. “You will be hearing from us shortly,” by U.A.Fanthorpe, depicts the degrading process of being interviewed and only the interviewers voice is conveyed to us. This is done to create a patronizing, condescending and haughty tone. At the beginning of the poem the tone seems polite but the sub-text is invariably insulting. This becomes more obvious as the poem progresses.
The title “You will be hearing from us shortly,” is a clichï¿½ and is always heard in reference to the application of jobs and auditions. The clichï¿½ is not genuinely enthusiastic but typically aloof. It sets the tone of the poem in this way as the title is a phrase an unimpressed interviewer would use. The interviewers responses are set on the right hand side of the page to make it easier for the reader to understand that these phrases are responses. If not set on the right hand side of the page, the reader would find it very difficult to understand which parts of the text were responses. This technique is also used to convey how insulting the responses are.
In the first stanza, difficult questions, such as, “You feel adequate to the demands of the position?” are used to convey that the interviewer’s preconceptions of the candidate are that she is not adequate for the position. This is a difficult question to be asked as when answering a question of this nature you know that you are being judged upon how well you respond and you want to come across as confident but not boastful. The “Ah” response creates a silence as it is assumed that the interviewer was not impressed by the candidate’s answer to the question. The reply is also cold and the reader can see that it would crush the candidate’s confidence.
The qualifications of the candidate are discussed in the second stanza. The first line begins, “Let us.” By using a plural Fanthorpe implies that the interviewer may be interviewers; for instance, the candidate may be in front of a panel. This creates a very intimidating atmosphere. The candidate is shown to have good qualifications, as the interviewer refers to them as “Impressive” but this complement is followed directly by a degrading remark as the following line of the interviewer exclaims that they “Are not, precisely what [they] had in mind.” The stanza ends with another difficult question, “Would you care to defend their relevance?” This conveys the interview situation as a time where you need to defend yourself and fight against negative preconceptions. The response “Indeed” is not encouraging as it avoids affirmation.
The interviewee is again asked to defend herself in the third stanza, this time she is asked to defend her age by answering the question “Now your age. Perhaps you feel able to make your own comment about that.” This line shows that the interviewers are imploying a tactic of age discrimination but not, as one might assume that the candidate is too young. The interviewers are looking to employ someone “with precisely the right degree of immaturity.” This phrase is very tricky as it could mean anything. Fanthorpe is a woman writing in her sixties; perhaps she has heard this line before. Therefore maybe this poem is a recollection of a real situation. The response, “So glad we agree,” implies concordance with a sardonic tone, whereas really the candidate would be disagreeing with the panel.
The panel in the fourth stanza insults the appearance of the candidate, and no longer even shows the decency of being subtle. In an incredulous tone the interviewer declares: ” And now a delicate matter: your looks You do appreciate this work involves Contact with the actual public? Might they Perhaps, find your appearance Disturbing?” Placing the word “Disturbing” on its own is very effective. It gives the word extra emphasis as it is given a capital letter and there is a short pause before the word is said. It also stands out in the text as an invariably short line. The class of the candidate is discussed in the fifth stanza. The panel discusses the candidate’s accent and schooling and refers to it as a handicap. This stanza conveys the employers as highly educated, condescending and prejudiced members of the old school tie network. The employers are very formal and seem to show no emotion.