A mother in a refugee camp

Refugee mother and her child
• Written in free verse. There is no rhyme
• The stanza lengths differ. The first stanza is
short compared to the other stanzas
(explained later)
• There is enjambment used, such as in the first
stanza, to produce fear and tempo throughout
the poem.
The stanza is exceptionally small in length in comparison
with the other stanzas. This signifies that even though her
son’s life is short and there is little time left, she won’t give
up or lose hope.
This short positive stanza indicates that there is very little
hope or goodness in the lives of the
refugees – most of their life is like the struggle depicted in
the later on in the second stanza.
Portrays a
mother. Another
interpretation can be
biblical, symbolizing
Mary and Jesus. The
child is unnamed,
making the child
present. This makes us
aware that inevitably
the child will die and
it’s mother will have
to forget.
Sibilance is present throughout the
beginning of the second stanza. It
emphasis the hardships and the
living conditions of the camp.
Unlike all the other mothers who
have given up hope and accepted
the fact that their children will die
and they can not save them, the
mother in the poem still has that
little glimmer of hope. This makes
both the mother and the poem
itself, even more tragic.
The mother is faking her smile due
to the overwhelming sadness she
has to face in order to keep her
mind off the harsh truth.
The combing signifies her mother
still not giving up complete hope
and showing happiness that her
child is ALIVE. Contrast to
the poem because of the slight
happiness present – makes the
scene even more
touching and tragic.
The word ‘ghost’ is repeated in
order to emphasize the point the
child is dying. Connotation of death.
The “ghost of a mother’s pride”
relates to the memory of happiness
she had
with her son before they were in the
camp and before her son got sick.
The word “skull” also emphasis
death. Shows how unhealthy and
how sick the child is.
The word “flowers” paints a
positive image. This contrasts very
sharply with the “grave” in the
next line.
In these final lines the poet
compares the mother combing her
child’s hair with the act of putting
flowers on a child’s grave. Both are
acts of love and show how the
mother is caring for her child.
The poem ends with the word
“grave”. Again, the word carries
connotations of death. Ends the
poem in a very morbid fashion.
Analysis - Senses
Throughout the poem, Achebe uses a variety of
sensory descriptions to describe the conditions
and suffering that they have to face on a daily
Examples are
‘unwashed children’
‘blown empty bellies’
‘washed out’
‘dried up’
Achebe combines touch and smell by using the
technique synesthesia. An example of this is “the
air was heavy with “odours”, as “heavy” relates to
touch and “odours” relates to smell. Another
example is “singing in her eyes”. This is effective
as it emphasis the conditions that they have to
face at the camp.