Fiche de lecture (anglais) - strange fruit
Strange fruit is a song by Lewis Allen, sung by Billie Holiday. It tells about lynching in South of United-States.
There is many negative images in the text, like “bulging eyes” or “twisted mouth”, which refer to suffering, to death.
The key-word “strange”, repeated 3 times in the text, is an element of strangeness. One of the element of strangeness is a juxtaposition of cliches about the pleasant-to-live-in, gentle South ans the images of death referring to the harsh reality of the blacks fate, particulary obvious line 5 to 8.
The metaphor of the fruit brings strangeness, generally the fruit is associated with birth, life, the futur, hope (see a child is the fruit of a couple’s love).
There is a metaphor for the bodies of black men who have been hanged after being tortured. But we don’t know by whom because everything is suggested, but we can supposbe by white masters on plantation. Sometimes, when the slave did something wrong (like trying to run away), there were mutilated or branded with a branding iron (“bulging”, “twisted”), or after the civil war by angry, racists mobs inspired by the Ku klux klan’s ideology.
In the first 4 lines, we also find elements of strangeness, in the sense that there is blood on the leaves but at the same time, a hanged man doesn’t bleed ans also the fruit are hanging from poplar trees, but poplar trees do not bear fruit. The distortion between the normal cycle for fruit and what happens to the “strange fruit” of the song. Normally, fruit grows, then it becomes ripe, then birds, insects suck them, then they fall on the ground when they are overripe. Then, if not collected, they rot on the ground.
There are bodies suffer from the natural elements like real fruit but as they are tied to the trees, they rot there. So, it’s really a “strange and bitter crop” because it’s made of bodies and normally, the aim of a crop is to feed people, to make them live, not die.