Sunday, March 16, 2008

Neruda's "Ode to the Tomato"

In his rather humorous poem, “Ode to the Tomato,” Pablo Neruda seems to use the tomato as a metaphor for colonialism. He writes, “The tomato cuts loose, invades kitchens, takes over lunches, settles at rest on sideboards….” As I read this section, I imagined that the poet was using the tomato to represent the wide-spread Spanish and Portuguese colonial expansion in South America, and that the kitchens, lunches, and sideboards represented the South American lands conquered, oppressed, and exploited by colonialism. Neruda describes the far-reaching nature of European colonial expansion by writing, “The street drowns in tomatoes: noon, summer, light breaks in two tomato halves, and the streets run with juice.” Illuminating the motives behind colonial expansion (similar to Kipling’s “The White Man’s Burden”), Neruda writes, “… tomatoes… grant us the festival of ardent colour and all-embracing freshness.”

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