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Refugee Mother and Child Poem Digtal Essay

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Bianca Banks

on 4 January 2013

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Transcript of Refugee Mother and Child Poem Digtal Essay

The representation of human suffering in Chinua Achebe’s “Refugee Mother and Child” No Madonna and Child could touch
that picture of a mother's tenderness
for a son she soon will have to forget.

The air was heavy with odors
of diarrhea of unwashed children
with washed-out ribs and dried-up
bottoms struggling in labored
steps behind blown empty bellies.

Most mothers there had long ceased
to care but not this one; she held
a ghost smile between her teeth
and in her eyes the ghost of a mother's
pride as she combed the rust-colored
hair left on his skull and then -
singing in her eyes - began carefully
to part it... In another life
this would have been a little daily
act of no consequence before his
breakfast and school; now she
did it like putting flowers
on a tiny grave. Chinua Achebe’s “Refugee Mother and Child” illustrates the undying love and faith one mother strongly holds with her son. Achebe also shows us the images of famine and poverty that refugees are forced to face. Chinua Achebe was brought up in Igbo Town, Nigeria, a place of pain and poverty. I believe that “Refugee Mother and Child” was written from the heart as Achebe describes the horrific conditions from the lives of unfortunate people. I feel as though Achebe has a connection with the characters in the poem which encouraged him to write it. “Refugee Mother and Child” delivers a vigorous and significant message to all other beings as it immediately makes you think of death and the struggles that less fortunate people are forced to face. The poem places ideas and images in your head of human suffering. Achebe’s poem is extremely successful in conveying the message of an indestructible love of a mother and a precious life stripped a young boy of his opportunities. In ‘Refugee Mother and Child’, Chinua Achebe shows the reader many aspects of human tragedy and physical suffering. As an example of human suffering, he describes the refugees in ‘struggling laboured steps’ and ‘washed-out ribs and dried up bottoms’. In the first stanza, Achebe illustrates the portrait of Virgin Mary and son as a religious image of care, affection and tenderness.This quote shows some similarity between the refugee mother and Virgin Mary as they have both had to watch their sons die. Immediately, you understand that the mothers love for her son is infinite, interminable and imperishable. This line is made more powerful by the use of sibilance. Achebe conveys the sense of grief in that the death of her son is inevitable and casts a shadow on the near future. This proves how intense her love for him is and how she will soon have to release him into an inevitable death. There is still a spark of hope and desperation for the son to live. In the second stanza, Achebe outlines the sickly, suffocating stench that hangs thick in the air from poverty stricken children with little more than nothing. This proves how unsanitary the conditions are for refugees and underprivileged people. With very little
to live from, refugees across the globe are facing daily challenges for sanitation and hygiene. Refugees and less fortunate people are forced to starve themselves. This metaphor illustrates how undernourished, emaciated and skeletal these children are. Day by day they struggle to fight for their unspent lives as famine clouds over. Every day, life is a struggle and many people just wish for the pain to be over or to be in a happier, healthier and more hygienic place. For the under privileged, every step is a massive challenge as they have no nutrition or vitamins left to energize them. In the third stanza, her love for her son is much more emotional and everlasting than any other mother with children like hers. Easily, we feel how deep her mother’s love for her child is. All other mothers have long forgotten any hope for their children as death is inevitable, however this mother is made the heroine of the poem as she holds confidence and faith for her son until the very last moment. This line opens the reader to the poem and makes us feel how emotional and affecting her love is. The writer repeats the word ‘ghost’ to emphasize how her smile and her pride were once alive but have vanished and disintegrated along with her son. She remembers happiness before the shadowing days of disease. She holds back her sadness and shame from her son so he will not be mournful on his deathbed. This point emphasizes how terrible the disease is and that his sickness is terminal. The words ‘rust-coloured’ illustrate how faded his hair and his life are. Achebe uses a figurative metaphor to portray the image of a mother with tears in her eyes but still holding on with a strong grip to any last shriveled piece of hope for her son. This proves how this certain love is rare and shows the contrast of lives between the less fortunate and over privileged citizens in our world. She is trying to avoid her sadness and hide her grief although she knows his death is inescapable. Achebe finishes the poem by repeating how there is a doomed death destined for the mothers lifeless son. The word ‘tiny’ highlights the importance of the death of a young boy, stripped of his chances and opportunities in life. Achebe ends the poem with the word ‘grave’ to emphasis that death is where it all ends and the punctuation makes the poem more definite. To conclude, Achebe’s poem, “Refugee Mother and Child” describes the other life, of poverty and death from which less fortunate people are compelled to live with. In the first stanza, Achebe successfully portrays the religious allusion of Virgin Mary and her heavenly son, Jesus as a comparison to the refugee mother and child. In the second stanza, Achebe illustrates the atmosphere of poverty by introducing metaphors to describe the human senses. Achebe portrays the image of young, helpless and underprivileged people starving, suffering and being sacrificed as we live our wealthy and indulged lives. In the third stanza, Achebe begins by expressing how intense and undying her love for her son is, as she vigorously clings on to any hope for her son whilst other mothers have ‘long ceased to care’. Achebe describes the mother clutching a ‘ghost smile between her teeth’ showing how she is hiding her fears and trying to put off the foreshadowing future. The love she has towards her only son is depicted as an undying love. ‘Putting flowers on a tiny grave’ Here, Achebe describes how stripped of his life the young boy is and how sorry, shameful and submissive the mother is. She is ashamed
of the way she cannot protect her young son and she is helpless as she watches him decay in the comfort and warmth of her arms. What is the poem about?

‘Refugee Mother and Child’ is a poem written by Chinua Achebe describing the poverty and starvation for refugees. The poem is about a refugee mother and her child who suffer in the arms of poverty. Eventually, her son perishes and as a mother she feels grief, distressed and helpless. In the poem, Achebe incorporates love, regret, religion, faith, suffering, memories, pain and change into the lives of the refugee mother and child. Chinua Achebe wrote ‘Refugee Mother and Child’ as a response to his childhood. He grew up in poverty with unprivileged children and suffering and felt inspired by their mental strength. Throughout the poem, Achebe leads us to an understanding of a mother's tender love. Techniques that Chinua Achebe uses in 'Refugee Mother and Child'

One technique that Achebe employs is sibilance and he uses it to further emphasize how death for the refugee mothers’ son is inevitable. We see sibilance used in line 3, ‘son she would soon have to forget’. Likewise, he uses personification and hyperbole to emphasize a point. All the way through the poem we see the use of alliteration which has the effect of stressing a metaphor or point such as when Achebe describes their physical appearance as ‘behind blown empty bellies’. If we look closely at the poem, we can identify how emotional the poem is and how Achebe has his own personal perspective on poverty. Your opinions on the poem?

In my opinion, ‘Refugee Mother and Child’ is a meaningful poem that comes from true experiences. It is very emotional and makes a reader think about how privileged their life is and what they would do if they were in that situation. Especially for mothers reading the poem, they can understand the feeling of being helpless for your child and we cannot imagine the grief, sorrow and shame she, as a mother has had to face. The End
Bianca Banks 9Q1
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