Home ADVANCED LEVEL THE DYING CHILD Freeman Peter Lwamba ~ Selected Poems

THE DYING CHILD Freeman Peter Lwamba ~ Selected Poems

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Thin and red,

Skinny and bald,

The boy groans on the ground.

Swollen stomach

Full of waste,

Thin legs,

Thin arms,

Twitch

As the boy

Fights with flies

Over the empty plate.

Ten years old,

He looks older than ten,

And younger than young,

And so small

As he wriggles,

Prisoner

Of his unproportioned body.

“Mother,” shouts the boy,

“when I grow up

I will carry a gun

And not a pen”

“My son,” shouts the mother,

“My son,” cries the mother

“You will never live to carry a gun

There is no meat for us”

INTRODUCTION

This is a poem by Freeman Peter Lwamba that depicts the disillusion of the poor class after independence. It shows that those in the poor class are still living a miserable life and that uhuru promises have no value to them.

The mother is so pessimistic and hopeless that she may not be able to live longer with her son because they have no food. This is the kind of disillusion that most African leaders have created to the common people.

THEMES

POOR LIVING CONDITION

The poet shows that the family lives a poor life. They cannot afford to eat well because they have no food in the house. As a result the boy grows thin and thin as days pass by because there is apparent poverty in the family. The poet shows that the boy is fighting with flies over the empty plate. The poet says:

As the boy

Fights with flies

Over the empty plate.

MALNUTRITION

Due to lack of balanced diet the boy’s health is seriously damaged. The poet shows that it is even hard to tell the boy’s age by looking at his appearance since his body is unproportioned. Although he is ten years old looking at him you might think he is older than ten paradoxically still he looks younger than that.

The poet says;

Ten years old,

He looks older than ten,

And younger than young,

And so small

The boy is thin, red, skinny and bald; he has thin legs and arms and has a swollen stomach that is full of waste. These are symptoms of one of the malnutrition deficiencies.

DISILLUSION/DISAPOINTMENT

This family seems to be disappointed by the newly attained independence that has no meaning to the lives of common people. When the son tells his mother about his future dreams his mother responds pessimistically that he will never live to carry a gun because they have no food for survival and will soon die of hunger.

“My son,” shouts the mother,

“My son,” cries the mother

“You will never live to carry a gun

There is no meat for us”

AWARENESS/SACRIFICE

The young boy is aware of his poor state and the poor living condition at home. As a result he assumes that education (pen) cannot be an immediate solution to his problems. It seems that he is also aware that there is someone who is behind this state of poverty in his family.

The only means possible he sees that can bring him liberation is to use violence (a gun). This is to say the boy is ready to sacrifice his life and fight for his right for the better future.

The poet says:

“My son,” shouts the mother,

“My son,” cries the mother

“You will never live to carry a gun

GUIDING QUESTIONS

What is the poem about?

It is about a son and a mother who live in absolute poverty. It shows that those in the poor class are still living miserably and have nothing to hope for their future. The mother is so pessimistic and hopeless that she may not be able to live longer with her son because they have no food.

What type of the poem is this?

This is a freeverse/modern poem as it does not follow all the poetic rules but it is specifically a Lyric poem since it expresses strong feelings of sympathy by the observer towards the mother and her son.

Who is the persona and how do you know?

The persona in this poem is an observer who narrates the life of the mother and her son and what they say. He is not involved in this conversation but reports their words; e.g. “My son,” shouts the mother,

Comment on the structure of the poem.

It is made up of 5 stanzas of unequal length of verses and uneven number of verses in every stanza.

Comment on the language use

The language used is simple and easy to understand. The choice of vocabulary is also made perfectly as there are words that carry the pictures of poverty and bring the message across easily. E.g. swollen stomach, Full of waste, thin legs, thin arms, empty plate, unproportioned body etc. 

But also there are many figures of speech as described below:

Parallelism.

Swollen stomach

Full of waste,

Thin legs,

Thin arms

Paradox

He looks older than ten and young than younger. (This is a paradoxical statement as someone cannot look older and younger at the same time)

Symbolism

*gun* represents violence/sacrifice or revenge

*pen* stands for education

*meat* represents food in general

*empty plates* stand for poverty (lack of basic needs like food)

Images

Visual images of poverty like swollen stomach, full of waste, thin legs, thin arms, and empty plate

Anaphora

“My son,” shouts the mother,

“My son,” cries the mother

Thin legs,

Thin arms

What are the messages that we learn from this poem?

Leaders/government should help to improve the living condition of those in poor families to eradicate poverty.

People should eat balanced diet to avoid malnutrition.

Poverty is a contributing factor to violence in the society. The young boy says he will carry a gun not a pen.

The masses should be educated on the proper and legal ways of fighting for their rights.

Is the poem relevant to your society?

There are people who live in poverty and cannot afford the basic needs as a result they end up getting malnutrition deficiencies.

There are people in the society who use violence as a means for fighting for their rights.

There are people who die before they accomplish their dreams because of poor live they live.

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