Strange Fruit

This study guide will help you analyze the poem “Strange Fruit” by Abel Meeropol. We will show you examples of elements in the text that will be relevant for your analysis. In these notes, we will focus on the summary, composition, characters and speaker, language and style, rhythm and rhyme, imagery and metaphors, themes and message.

Presentation of the poem

Title: “Strange Fruit”
Author: Abel Meeropol
Published in: “The New York Teacher”
Date of Publication: 1937
Genre: Poem/ Song

Abel Meeropol (1903-1986), mostly known under his literary alias, Lewis Allan, was an American teacher and writer with Communist sympathies. Today he is most known for the poem turned into a song “Strange Fruit” and originally interpreted by Billie Holiday. The poem is said to have been inspired by a photo from the 1930s which depicted the lynching of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith, two African-American men suspected of robbery, murder, and rape.

Summary

The poem describes the strange and bloody fruits of trees in the Southern United States which are in fact the bodies of hanged black men. Their eyes are bulged and their mouths twisted, and the smell of decaying flesh mixes with that of magnolia flowers. They are described as fruits for the crows, hanging in the wind, rain and sun and eventually dropping from the trees like a horrific crop.

Excerpt

Below, you can read an excerpt from our study guide:

Violence

Violence is explored in “Strange Fruit” through the macabre image of the swinging bodies. Although the poem does not illustrate directly the act of those persons being killed, the references to “blood” (l. 2), “bulging eyes”, “twisted mouth” (l. 6) or “burning flesh” (l. 8) certainly imply that the hanged persons had violent deaths.

Furthermore, the poem illustrates aspects related to indifference to violence, as in the last stanza the bodies are presented left hanging indefinitely until they fall from the trees. This implies that nobody bothers to collect the bodies of the men because nobody cares about them. 

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Strange Fruit

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