Daljit Nagra’s ‘Parade’s End’ creates a sense of urgency from its very first line. This piece is strictly personal regarding the experiences of the writer and his family in the UK. After settling down as immigrants, they faced hostility from the locals. In this poem, he shares one of the memories that are still vivid in his mind. By the use of language and imagery, he depicts how racism was at its peak during the second half of the 20th century towards Asian immigrant families.
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‘Parade’s End’ by Daljit Nagra deals with an incident (an acid attack on their newly polished Granada) that centers around the themes of racism, hatred, and fear.
This poem begins with the description of the car that the speaker’s family has recently bought. The car is not new anymore as it is also a victim of racist attacks. They were also threatened and attacked. Nagra’s speaker remarks how the people react after seeing how they have newly colored their color to champagne-gold from brown. Unfortunately, on the same day, the car was attacked with acid. Alongside that, the poet notes their sense of urgency and the precautions they take while closing their superstore.
You can read the full poem here.
This poem is written in free verse. There is no specific rhyme scheme or meter in this piece. It consists of a total of five stanzas. Each stanza contains seven lines, except the last one. It has five lines. The lines of the poem are interconnected. Nagra’s use of language is also important to note here. He uses compound words. Besides, his diction creates a sense of urgency and depicts how traumatized his family was. The absence of rhythm also reflects the theme of the poem. Being a poem describing the haunting impact of racism, it does have harmonious lines.
Nagra’s ‘Parade’s End’ contains the following literary devices:
- Enjambment: It occurs throughout the poem. Nagra enjambs the lines in each stanza to maintain the flow of this piece. For example, the first two lines are interconnected.
- Alliteration: The following phrases contain this device: “few who warmed,” “darkies from down,” “stood stock-still,” etc.
- Allusion: Nagra alludes to a speech of the conservative politician Norman Tebbit by this quotation “got on his bike”.
- Imagery: In the second stanza, the imagery of the “swilling kidneys, liver and a sandy block of corned beef” describes not only what is sold in the store but also creates a haunting mood.
- Irony: It occurs in the following lines: “for the polished recovery of our new-sprayed car”, “from gold to the brown of our former colour,” etc.
Dad parked out Granada, champagne-gold
for the polished recovery of our new-sprayed car.
The first stanza of ‘Parade’s End’ presents a picture of a car that the family of the speaker owns. From the usage of words, it is not clear what is the identity of the speaker. He represents the speaker’s poetic self. From the location of their superstore at Blackstock Road, it can be implied that he can be one of the Asian immigrants living there.
His dad har parked the Granada which was a model of car popular in the 1970s. It was manufactured by Ford Motors. This car is “champagne-gold”. The word “gold” acts as a symbol in the first stanza. It portrays their family’s aspirations and upwards mobility.
In the following lines, Nagra’s speaker describes how a group of unemployed men gathered along the street to the dole. The imagery of snow reflects their mental as well as their financial state.
He can see someone nearby “got on his bike” over the hill. The quoted phrase is an allusion to a speech delivered by the conservative politician Norman Tebbit. Through this speech, the poet implies the politician’s idea of ending unemployment through adopting one’s father’s profession. Besides that, there are a few people, probably some immigrant families like them, who greeted them warmly for their renovated car.
Council mums at our meat display
befor buggrin off theh flash caahs!
In the second stanza, the speaker describes how a group of ladies gathered around their store. In the superstore, they sold raw meats, especially kidneys, liver, and corned beef. Those who nestled around their store are described as “Council mums”. It can be a reference to the state the ladies lived in.
They nestled around the white trays in a manner that reflects how they are in their thinking pattern. To supplement this idea, the poet adds the last two lines in a peculiar British accent. They called the Asian immigrants “darkies”. It was a racist slur of the 1980s.
In the last few lines of this stanza, Nagra portrays how the British people thought about the immigrants, especially the speaker’s family who had got a car. During that period when the speaker was facing that situation, Britain was under a crisis. Unemployment was at its peak and people lost jobs. Naturally, those who were well-off (including the speaker’s family) made them envious. From their comment on the progress of the store owner, it is clear that they were not happy with the success of the non-whites.
At nine, we left the emptied till open,
the precinct to check it was throbbing red.
The third stanza depicts a sense of urgency in the speaker’s tone. He describes it as if something was going to be wrong. The way they took precautions to protect their store hints at another idea. It refers to the fact that their store was robbed previously, not one time, but in multiple instances. That’s why they were making quick arrangements to protect their belongings.
Firstly, they locked their safe and bolted the back door with two metal bars. Not only that, they spread trolleys at the end of the aisles. Lastly, by switching on their alarm, they rushed to check whether it turned red or not.
The arrangements they made might have protected their store. Still, they were not safe. In such critical times, especially for the people who immigrated there, were always anxious about what worst things were waiting for their families.
Thundering down our graffiti of shutters
from the John O’Gaunt across the forecourt.
This stanza is connected with the previous one. After locking the doors of their store, they put down their “graffiti of shutters”. The quoted phrase is important to note. The racist groups made graffiti to threaten the immigrants. Likewise, they wrote something on their shutters that was insulting to them. Still, they could not get rid of it. Some things can always be wiped. But the impression it had on their mind was imperishable. It was a harsh reality.
Their store was situated against the tall flats. When they were ready to move out to the cul-de-sac, they discovered a shocking thing. They stood still there and watched how their renovated car’s skin was puckering. Someone had thrown acid on their car. It damaged the car’s golden paint.
In addition to that, a piece of loud music was coming from a pub close to their shop. The music heightened their suffering. They were there trembling in terror. Whereas others (white people) enjoyed in the pub. This line creates a contrast between the lives of the immigrants and the natives.
We returned up to the shop, lifted a shutter,
from gold to the brown of our former colour.
In the last stanza of ‘Parade’s End,’ the speaker says how they returned to their shop and lifted the shutter. All of them gathered around the sink and walked down to their car with pans of cold water. They washed the bonnet leaves with water. Unfortunately, the paint was totally damaged. The golden color turned into the former color, brown.
The use of these two colors “gold” and “brown” creates a contrast as well. First of all, the golden color reflects how the family was gradually improving their financial state. But, in a country where people were held back for their identity, color, or race, they could not improve their lives at all. If they progressed a little, someone would come and pull them behind again. The usage of the word “brown” is important as it describes how the barrier of racism was stopping them from moving forward.
The poem ‘Parade’s End’ was published in Daljit Nagra’s best-known poetry collection “Look We Have Coming to Dover!”. The book was published in February 2007. In this book, Daljit Nagra’s poems relate to the experience of Indians born in the UK. The poems often use the language imitating the English spoken by the immigrants. In this poem ‘Parade’s End,’ Nagra talks about one such incident that occurred with them. This poem also reveals the oppression they faced from the racist groups in the latter half of the 20th century.
Daljit Nagra’s ‘Parade’s End’ was published in February 2007 in his debut collection “Look We Have Coming to Dover!”.
The speaker of this poem is the poet Daljit Nagra himself. He speaks in this poem through his poetic persona representing an Indian immigrant.
The poem is about how an Asian immigrant’s family was trying to move up the social ladder in a racist environment and how their car was damaged by some racist group.
The title of this contains an allusion to Ford Madox Brown’s novels. It means how the immigrants were far behind or rather castigated in a racially segregated country.
The following list a few poems that similarly tap on the themes present in Daljit Nagra’s poem ‘Parade’s End’.
- ‘Look We Have Coming to Dover!’ by Daljit Nagra – This piece tells of the arrival of immigrants to England and of their lives filled with hard work, fears, and dreams.
- ‘Deportation’ by Carol Ann Duffy – It’s one of the best-known poems of Carol Ann Duffy. This poem describes how an immigrant feels about being deported from the UK. Explore more Carol Ann Duffy poems.
- ‘Immigration’ by Ali Alizadeh – In this poem, the poet taps on his own history with immigration. Read more Ali Alizadeh poems.
- ‘How I Got That Name’ by Marilyn Chin – This piece is about the poet’s heritage, name, and cultural identity. Explore more Marilyn Chin poems.