The poem “Where There’s a Wall” by Joy Kogawa uses imagery and symbolism to enhance the effectiveness of the poem’s message. Like most other poems, “Where There’s a Wall” contains several layers of meaning, and requires the reader to dig through the little details and examples in order to see the big picture.
One segment of the poem makes references to passageways such as “a gate” (4) and “a door” (6). The part of the poem that says “I incline in the wrong direction / a voice cries faint as in a dream” (37-38) implies that God is telling the protagonist to follow the right direction in life. Another segment mentions “rockets, bombs” (15) and “armies with trumpets / whose all at once blast / shatters the foundations” (17-19). These words describe the aggressive method to approach a problem, which is considered as “the wrong direction” (37).
Kogawa selected these words and phrases for the purpose of illustrating a more religious and peaceful method of solving a problem, as well as a more violent and aggressive method. The image of the “gates of heaven” is supposed to symbolize living a life that is devoted to God and finding the lesson that is attached to every failure. The image of the “gates of hell” is meant to symbolize how people can resort to violent conduct, thinking that they would be able to get what they want immediately.
As indicated by the yin and yang symbol, nothing on the planet earth can be regarded as just good or bad or black or white. Because of this, being a child of God without asserting one’s values to others could lead to a world of misguidance. As such, trying to be the king of the world to spread God’s love just might convert the adversity of a minority into the values of the majority.
The verbal-visual collage below is dedicated to “Where There’s a Wall,” a poem by Joy Kogawa. The collage attempts to paint a picture of two separate paths, each with a different outlook in life. This is supposed to represent the two main ways to overcome an obstacle. One way is to trust that God has a reason behind every situation and that there is always a way to surpass life’s struggles. Another way is to take drastic measures in order to make a statement and push for a change.
This image of a gate open to heaven’s skies symbolizes how choosing to have faith in God will transform any kind of hardship into a pathway to salvation. However, this does not mean that one cannot use force to get a message across if the situation calls for it. For example, freedom of speech and assertiveness are usually desired in the Western world to ensure that everyone is aware of each other’s state of being.
This image of a closed gate that is guarding the fires of hell symbolizes how walking down the path of sins can open the door to evilness. However, this does not mean that every human being who challenges authority or breaks the law is immoral. Social activist Nelson Mandela, one of the greatest rebels in history, dedicated his life to promote equality during a time that was desperately in need of justice.