Racism, Redemption, Forgiveness and Hope in Minor Miracle, a Poem by Marilyn Nelson

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About this sample


Words: 890 |

Pages: 2|

5 min read

Published: Oct 22, 2018

Words: 890|Pages: 2|5 min read

Published: Oct 22, 2018

“Minor Miracle” by Marilyn Nelson is a narrative poem about racism, redemption, forgiveness and hope. It tells a story about two friends who nearly got hit by a truck while they are riding bikes together. Instead of apologizing, the driver casts racist slurs on them and drives off. Then, he comes back to apologize and drives off again. Also, the poem is entitled “Minor Miracle”, and in a way, it is an actual miracle of human compassion despite their skin colors.

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Since “Minor Miracle” is a free verse poem, it has no rhyme, meter, or any specific structure to it. Yet, the author takes us through the story in a chronological order with the use of vivid imagery and narrative techniques such as dialogues and diction. The speaker is one of the two cyclists and the listener can be anyone in our society.

Nelson begins the poem with “Knock-on-wood” memory which means “some way in which you have been lucky in the past (oxford dictionary). This prepares us for a story that might have some dangerous factors which the author has managed to escape and interests the readers. Yet, it is the resonant imagery that keeps us going.

They were cycling in “a small Midwestern town” in “clear blue afternoon” which seems to be a very nice, peaceful, ordinary day. However, when they come to a “4-way stop” and a truck drives past them, almost hitting them, the problem occurs. The way the author describes how they gossip while stopping or the vehicle which almost hits them as “a rusty old pick-up truck” enables us to imagine the very scene that is happening at that time like it’s a living image in our head: The friends are having a good time when a truck “hurricane past”, which indicates a powerful & deadly force. Then, she goes on to describe the man as a guy with “stringy, blonde hair with a long fringe” and even with the detail of his cap as a “brand name beer cap.” Just with such details, the author already draws in our mind a small picture of the truck driver, yet leaves the judgement to the readers themselves since she does not point out his race, just a glimpse of his appearance. However, later on, after the insult incident, she gives us a descriptive image of the man who is “A tall, very much in shape young white guy slid out” with “greasy jeans, homemade finger tattoos, probably a Marine Corps boot-camp footlockerful of martial arts techniques”. This is when his race is mentioned (white) and raises the issue of racism. Especially, the word “footlockerful”, “martial arts techniques” emphasize a strong, perhaps aggressive, male which completely contracts with the one who awkwardly pushes “dirt around with the pointed toe of his boot” while apologizing to them for his racist slur. Such description and word choice have transferred to the readers the emotion and the visual like we are there with the characters at that very moment.

Also, dialogue plays a significant part in expressing the emotion in the poem. The very first dialogue in the poem is the racist insult from the driver to the cyclists “You fucking niggers.” This is a very important piece of dialogue because with just 3 words, a person could hurt the feelings of two other people, wound them, insult them just bcoz of their skin color. However, the next set of dialogue btwn the young white man and the two friends has partly resolved the problem. His apology for his wrongdoing and the way he actually feels embarrassed abt it (pushing dirt around with the pointed toe of his boot) makes us feel as if common human compassions does exist, that people do feel guilty and responsible for hurting others. The purpose of the dialogue is to make us feel what the narrator feels that day.

She leaves nothing out because she wants to emphasize the remaining hope btwn different races. The driver could have just left or the cyclists could have just been upset or reacted in an angry way since they have “made fists” when the drivers stop, the fists ready for what? Self-defense? Resistance? Rage? Or praying for no more insults? . Though so, the way Nelson describe it totally surprises the readers: from the awkward apology to the cyclist’ reaction as if nothing happen, as if it was just some minor incidents. And that is why it is miracle. They could have despised each other, could have let the anger get and the better of them, could have reacted the way they were supposed to be, with rage and hatred or with fear and cowardice . Yet, with forgiveness and hope, they decide to choose a much harder decision: to coexist , to live peacefully in hope of a better future with love and kindness. And though such hope is so small, so weak, so minor like the minor miracle that has happened, still it is sth to look forward to, to dream of and cherish. The title represents the meaning of the whole poem.

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Chronological order helps with the flow of the poem. The tension is gradually built up as the time from morning to noon. It helps the readers understand the poem more easily despite a surprise ending

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Racism, Redemption, Forgiveness and Hope in Minor Miracle, a Poem by Marilyn Nelson. (2018, October 18). GradesFixer. Retrieved February 21, 2024, from
“Racism, Redemption, Forgiveness and Hope in Minor Miracle, a Poem by Marilyn Nelson.” GradesFixer, 18 Oct. 2018,
Racism, Redemption, Forgiveness and Hope in Minor Miracle, a Poem by Marilyn Nelson. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 21 Feb. 2024].
Racism, Redemption, Forgiveness and Hope in Minor Miracle, a Poem by Marilyn Nelson [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2018 Oct 18 [cited 2024 Feb 21]. Available from:
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