Themes: Death/Human Suffering, Parent/child, Courage, Religious Imagery, Vivid Imagery
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Type: Blank Verse
Form – 2 stanzas – different lengths – lines aren’t long – clearly explains with simple meanings
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- Written by Chinua Achebe
- This is a heartbreaking poem about a young mother in a refugee camp and her devotion to her dying child
- Poem uses simple language to convey the unbearable sadness of the scene
- Emotionally touching and descriptive
- Repetition of words “washed/unwashed”, “ghost and “mother are like sad little repetitive echoes throughout the poem
- Sensory language – smells and sights
- Sickening images evoked contrast with the mother’s spirit
- Poet relies heavily on enjambment to create effects
- The mother’s utter devotion to her dead or dying child is heartbreaking and tragic
- Mixed emotions – unbearable sadness and horror of the situation and admiration for the mother’s courage and love
- The Madonna and Child is a piece of religious imagery
- Gives the mother & child a superhuman goodness/sacrifice taking them beyond the camp
- The conventional image of Madonna and Child shows a sad-sweet expression – she knew she was going to lose her child – mirrored in this poem
- Jesus was born in a stable, conditions not far removed from the poem
- Skeletal images – “skull”, “rib” and “grave”
- Contrasts – between normality (combing her child’s hair) and the horror of the refugee camp
- Repetition “ghost” implying that the mother and child will soon be ghosts