A Mother in a Refugee Camp

 

No Madonna and Child could touch

Her tenderness for a son

She soon would have to forget. . . .

The air was heavy with odors of diarrhea,

Of unwashed children with washed-out ribs

And dried-up bottoms waddling in labored steps

Behind blown-empty bellies. Other mothers there

Had long ceased to care, but not this one:

She held a ghost-smile between her teeth,

and in her eyes the memory

Of a mother’s pride. . . . She had bathed him

And rubbed him down with bare palms.

She took from their bundle of possessions

A broken comb and combed

The rust-colored hair left on his skull

And then—humming in her eyes—began carefully to part it.

In their former life this was perhaps

A little daily act of no consequence

Before his breakfast and school; now she did it

Like putting flowers on a tiny grave.

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33 comments on “A Mother in a Refugee Camp
  1. In the poem ‘A Mother In a Refugee Camp’ the poet conveys his thoughts and feelings about relationships by saying “No Madonna and Child could touch Her tenderness for a son” which can be interpreted as no one can have a closer relationship than a mother and a child and no one can feel as warm and affectionate to their own son as anyone else. “She had bathed him And rubbed him down with bare palms” This portrays that he believes the relationship between the mother and son is so close that the mother did everything she could to help the son. “Other mothers there had long ceased to care, but not this one.” This means that this mother is different from others and she was the only one who didn’t give up until he died and did everything she could to help him survive.

    • Avatar of Mr Bentley Mr Bentley says:

      These are quite shallow comments and do not go in to the depth and detail required. Who is the “Madonna and Child”? How can you relate that relationship to the one in the poem? How does that link then relate to the wider theme of relationships?

  2. Avatar of Cara Jackson Cara Jackson says:

    The poet conveys his feelings about a child being spilt from their mother by adding “No Madonna and Child could touch Her tenderness for a son” by referring to Jesus’s relationship with his mother the poet demonstrates the amount of love this woman has for her child, as Madonna gave birth to Christ the audience understands that she must have had a great amount of love for him after all he is still worshipped over today, yet supposedly even Madonna couldn’t touch the love that this woman has for her son. Also the poet’s use of religion within this part of the poem provides the audience with the feeling of purity, therefore suggesting that the mother’s love for her child is pure. coursing the ending of his death to sadden the reader further.

    Achebe also provides the audience with the knowledge that the mother’s love for her son within his poem “A Mother in a Refugee Camp” is unconditional “ Like putting flowers on a tiny grave” this was her final tribute to her son, showing how she stilled cares even after he is gone, so much so that she wants the best possible send off for him.

  3. The poem ‘A Mother in a refugee Camp’ is about the relationship between a mother and her child. The poet Chinua Achebe, has delved deeply into the thoughts and feelings of a mother and her child and linked it to past and modern issues.

    In the poem it states ‘Her tenderness for a son She soon would have to forget….’ This shows the unnatural nature of the poem as it hints that her son is dead, and for the natural day having a child die before the mother is extremely unnatural. However, this could only seem unnatural for the modern day but this could be the normal circumstance for the world that they live in. Also, if you look at the title it says ‘Refugee Camp’ showing they were maybe from a harsher time. This could show that they have to fight for their life.

    Looking further down the poem it says, ‘She held a ghost-smile between her teeth’. Normally, the gritting of teeth shows determination, and maybe for her this is the determination not to give up on her dying son, to keep fighting for his life. Be that as it may, he uses the word ‘between’ giving the image that she is slowly losing the tenacious instinct to fight on, she is starting to give up fighting for his life as she is losing the hope and will to keep going. ‘She held a ghost smile’ could show that maybe her son is already dead and this is why their is a gap between her teeth as she no longer has anything to fight for as it has all been taken away from her. On the other hand, if you put the line together it hints that maybe the child is not dead but she is just putting on a fake smile, ‘a ghost-smile’, to try and comfort her child who is slowly dying and really she is trying to show him that she will never give up on him even if really she knows there’s no hope in him surviving.

    In the last line, it states ‘like putting flowers on a tiny grave.’ This line links to the one before, as it shows that she still hasn’t given up, however her child has or maybe he has even died. Also, because of the harsh world that they live in she has no grave to bury her dead child or even flowers to put on the grave. This conveys the image that she still cares and is determined to do her best even though her son is dead. The overall thoughts and feelings of this poem is the love and bond between a mother and her child, and what happens when that bond is slowly broken.

  4. Avatar of Katie Scott Katie Scott says:

    In the poem A Mother in a Refugee Camp, the writer describes the strength of a relationship between a mother and her child. The reference to “Madonna and Child” or Mary and Jesus, is used to portray the intensity of a mother’s love and represent the level at which a mother treasures her child. The relationship between a mother and her child is the most natural as there is a permanent bond that cannot be broken. However this is juxtaposed by the abnormalities displayed later in the poem. “A broken comb and combed/ The rust coloured hair left on his skull” The fact that the mother is committing what is a mundane and ordinary task to the reader, such as combing her son’s hair, contrasts the fact that he has hair “left on his skull” portraying the imagery of bones and malnutrition as well as serious illness leading to the loss of his hair.

    The phrase “She soon would have to forget….” implies that her son has died however her responsibility and title as a mother will never be gone and she feels she must respect him even after he is dead by continuing to act as his mother. Alternatively, this could connote the idea that the mother knows her son is going to die and can see his evident malnutrition. The writer includes many lexical terms to demonstrate pain, both of of the mother and child, to show that the child’s suffering not only affects its own health, but also that of the mother.

  5. Avatar of Camille Camille says:

    The poem starts with a comparison of a mothers love for her child with Mary and Jesus. It is clear by the third line that the child in the poem is soon going to die as the poet says
    “She soon would have to forget” this means she would soon have to move on and forget about her son, this shows how unnatural the relationship was as a child was dying before their parent.
    After describing the odours and horrific images of people dying from disease and starvation the poet shows that the other mothers can no longer cope with the struggle of surviving and now only await death but the mother featured in the poem is the not same.
    “She held a ghost-smile between her teeth” this could show that she is staying strong and forcing a smile for her son despite her true feelings however it could also be her smiling for herself gracing her lips and she remembers her son in all his glory as she holds him for the last time.
    After this, it describes the mother bathing her child and combing the child’s hair almost with maternal pride as if it were a normal daily routine except she knew she was doing this for the last time she would. This is another example of how unnatural their relationship was and how she had had to prepare herself for her child’s death as she had probably seen dozens of other children die in the refugee camp as well.
    The mother carefully parts her child’s hair which suggests the parting of death with her son, this description has such a feeling of finality it becomes apparent that she is preparing herself and her son for his death.

  6. The poet, Chinua Achebe, conveys a myriad of emotions towards the relationships presented in the poem. ‘A mother in a refugee camp’ is based around a woman and her young child as she holds his dead body in her arms after a long struggle.

    The relationship between the mother and her child is seen as irregular and unnatural; the poem shows this through the use of “Other mothers there/ Had long ceased to care, but not this one”. Chinua Achebe was brought up in a well educated and fairly wealthy family so was therefore not talking from his own experience, however, the poet could be referring to something that he has witnessed or heard that defies his beliefs about the mothers of children living in poverty stricken places. Determination of the mother is portrayed in the poem through “she held a ghost-smile between her teeth”; the concept of a “ghost-smile” may suggest that the determination has faded and that the mother has finally given up. We later, however, discover that the child is dead and therefore the mothers determination has not deteriorated as much as the child had given up finding the will to live. The ghost smile now suggests that the mother was still determined, but to bury the child as best as she could. Achebe could therefore be portraying feelings of hope and sadness at the idea that the mother still cares yet the child has died despite her best efforts to keep the child alive.

    The idea of some mothers still caring could be a wider relation to the misinterpretation many people have of items presented in the media. Often with many stories they present a stereotypical image and one that is often false. Achebe may therefore be trying to correct the image of children in poverty stricken countries, such as Africa, being abandoned and unloved by their parents. This shows that he feels comforted by the knowledge that the children are often loved by their parents and thinks that more should be done in order to prevent young life being lost in such an unnecessary way. A wider view could be presented on how many people are made aware by the struggle people in these countries face, yet little is still undertaken by wealthier and more developed countries to solve an easily fixable problem. There is enough supplies in the world currently to feed 3 times the global population but some people are still starving and dying of malnourishment which seems unnatural and inhuman in this modern age.

  7. Chinua Achebe conveys his thoughts and feelings about relationships in ‘A Mother in a Refugee Camp’ by having the main character of the poem become a mother who is telling her story about the relationship between her son. The poet has suggested that the relationship between the mother and her son is unique compared to other mothers in the refugee camp. This is shown where it states ‘Other mothers there had long ceased to care, but not this one’ This shows that the mother is determined to keep her son alive despite the situation they are in. Therefore this line shows that the mother is different as she carries a hope and has refused to give up on her son. However, an alternate explanation to this line could be that most mothers have given up already because they know what the outcome is and as they live in a developing country, they are used to having children die, unlike the mother. Also, the poem shows that the mother cares about her son by not letting his health deteriorate her mood (on the outside) and giving him comfort, rather than losing hope. This is shown where the poems says ‘She held a ghost smile between her teeth’ This quotation could state that the real smile has disappeared and she is putting on a fake one for the comfort of her son and herself. Therefore she is different to the other mothers in the camp by not only caring about her son’s health, but also his emotions. The mother could already know the outcome of her son’s life but is not facing the facts and giving herself fake hope. However, another meaning of this poem could be that the mother is losing hope. When the poem states ‘between her teeth’, this implies the teeth are open. On the other hand, when peoples teeth are gritted, it symbolises determination yet in the poem there is a gap in the teeth, hence she is losing the will to continue. Therefore the mother’s relationship with the son shows she doesn’t want him to help with working on a farm, or to make a better living for her family, but because the mother actually loves her son. The relationship between the mother and her son is also shown when it has finished where it states ‘began to carefully part it’ this could be the death of her son or the ‘parting’ of their relationship. However, the poem is still called ‘A Mother in a Refugee Camp’ therefore despite having is death, she still considers herself as a mother and therefore the relationship has not ended. However, this also shows her true feelings for her son as in a developed country, a mother still contemplates herself as a mother, therefore this shows how much her son meant to her, unlike other mothers in a country of refuge.

  8. Through the entirety of the poem, the poet (Chinua Achebe) conveys his thoughts and feelings about relationships. From the second line “Her tenderness for a son” he conveys a family bond woven together probably by God himself as an element of religion is involved in the first line of the poem where the mother is named “Madonna” a well known second name for Mary, the mother of Jesus. . The word “tenderness” portrays the mother cares for her child, further it illustrates a the careful touch, like she is treating him as if he is a ticking time bomb. Following this idea of movement the word “waddling” describing the walking of a child further on in the poem juxtaposes the tenderness she has for her child. The mother of this new child has a very different relationship with her child, she is allowing her child to waddle along like a animal in pain.

    This idea of juxtaposing relationships between the two sets of mother and child is followed up further on in the poem where he says “Other mothers there had long ceased to care, but not this one.” The is the poem giving us evidence that the poet wants us to feel the relationship between the second mother and child is one with very little care. The fact that there is just one mother who is different (the one from the beginning of the poem) emphasises her original properties and her positive relationship with her child that involve’s care and love and tenderness.

  9. The poem ‘a mother in a refugee camp’ is written by Chinua Achebe and shows many thoughts and feelings towards relationships. The main relationship portrayed in the poem is the one of a mother and son.

    It is realised by the end of the poem that her son is dead but yet throughout you believe the child is alive and being cared for by a dedicated mother “Other mothers there/Had long ceased to care, but not this one”. Although in the refugee camp they are living in awful and extremely poverty stricken conditions, dying of starvation and desperate for a better life, this mother that the poet is describing is determined to ensure her son lives well – or so it seems.

    The intricacy of the relationship that the author shows between the mother and child is shown how she tends to her child “She had bathed him/And rubbed him down with bare palms.” This oozes in information of how she is trying to ensure that her son is perfectly groomed. However you must notice the past tense ‘had’ ‘bathed’ ‘rubbed’, this implies that the mother is no longer completing theses actions, at first you may think she gave up too, like the other mothers, but we learn it is because her son is dead. This is her farewell ceremony.

    “Like putting flowers on a tiny grave” tells us how the process of making her son clean and groomed is an act of love and affection to send him off. As the reader is shown earlier on in the poem you can see how unsanitary the conditions are, and how a thorough wash would have been a lot of effort to go to as locating clean water and using supplies would have been hard. Many may think that it would be a waste of supplies as the child is already dead however the woman loves her son so much she feels as if it is what she has to do to send him off in the best way possible. There was not a grave of which this child could be buried, there would not be a large funeral where all the family and friends would attend because this was a regular occurrence in this town.

    The poet thinks that motherhood never ends, even if a son dies. The relationship is unbounded if the love is unconditional, as it is within the relationship of a mother and son. It is an unnatural relationship as the son has died before his mother. Even after death the mother still cares about her son so intensely, you can see how she wishes she could have done more for him. Achebe thinks that a mothers love should be forever.

  10. In the poem ‘A Mother in a refugee camp’ Chinua Achebe focuses strongly on relationships contrasted to love and death. The first line of the first stanza states ‘No Madonna and Child could touch’ This relates to the idea of Mary and her child, Jesus. The idea of jesus relates to the picture perfect image – the ideal image of motherhood. The uses of ‘couldn’t touch’ relates to the child being seen as holy and relating to jesus, in some sense it could also portray that the mother see’s her own child as greater than Gods child. The use of ‘could touch’ could also imply that the child may be dead and she isn’t letting go of the child, and not letting the child ‘go to heaven’, Heaven also relates to the uses of mary and jesus. Death is also present in ‘She held a ghost-smile between her teeth, And in her eyes the memory’ The uses of ghost smile could relate to the death of the child in ‘No mother and child could touch’ as a ghost symbolises death. The ‘ghost smile’ could imply that she dosesnt smile anymore since the child may have died, or left. The use of ‘ghost smile’ could imply that she can see the dead presence of her child, and that she only smiles when she see’s the child. ‘and in her eyes the memory’ suggests that she see’s the child in her eyes as the best thing that happened to her, and it was taken away, the use of ‘memory’ clearly highlights that the mother has some fond, and some not so fond memorys of the child. she cannot smile because her head is filled with bad memorys, and that she has to release the bad memorys to make room for the good ones. The use ‘memory’ could also imply that she is talking about her childhood, and that her childhood may be dead to her.

  11. Avatar of Jack Howard Jack Howard says:

    How does the poet convey her thoughts and feelings about relationships in the poem A Mother in a Refugee Camp

    Chinua Achebe’s Mother in a Refugee Camp, paints the crippling picture of a mother holding her dying son in her hands for the last time, portraying both the inevitability of death and the pain of those whose loved ones have died yet they live on in a harsh light. Achebe portrays a very emotionally and physically distressed environment in which women and children were ripped from their homes and families and being starved with nothing to survive on and nowhere to go. The poem starts with the comparison of a mother holding her son in a refugee camp with the love and care which is usually depicted in all versions of Mary holding a dying Jesus in her arms, just one example of the many religious connotations within the poem. The poet states that none of the reputed depictions of tenderness could even come near the fragility and beauty of this scene of heartbreak and despair. This foreshadows that the son in her arms is soon to die, an idea which is confirmed by the third line which says that after laying her son beneath the earth, the mother would have to learn how to live life without him, and move on.

    The poem focuses the intensity and passion of the mothers love towards the child and is a powerful connection the Mary and Jesus’ relationship and the difficulty of letting go, as both mothers will have.

  12. Avatar of Chandler Chandler says:

    How does the poet convey his thoughts and feelings about relationship in the poem?

    Chinua Achebe portrays his thoughts and feelings about relationships in the poem “A Mother in a Refugee Camp” by writing the poem in a Woman’s perspective. Achebe is obviously Religious as he uses “No Madonna and Child..” referring to Mary, Jesus’ mother..but also the capital letter on “Child” also implies that he is speaking of Jesus. The idea of using two of the most respected people in society at this extremely religious time shows the mothers compassionate unconditional love towards her son. People in times of need would turn to religion and rely on it. His thoughts on general life for the young children in the refugee camp is brutal and he portrays the true abandonment of their live’s in the poem, “Air was heavy with odors of diarrhea…unwashed children…blown-empty bellies.” Here this shows the true suffering of the children in the refugee camp being uncared for and so malnourished that there bellies have actually started to swell.
    The poet has suggested that the relationship between the mother and her son is unique compared to other mothers in the refugee camp. This is shown where it states “other mothers there had long ceased to care, but not this one”..

  13. A mother in a Refugee Camp – Thoughts and feelings in relationship to the poem

    The writer of the poem portrays his thoughts and feelings through relationships in the poem ‘A mother in a Refugee Camp’. The author conveys a sacrifice of greater good with the use of the word ‘refugee’ and ‘camp’ gives the idea of an un-developed society. This juxtaposition in the title of the poem is significant because a ‘refugee camp’ is there to help people in need whereas the ‘mother’ is helpless.

    The ‘mother’ is referred to as ‘Madonna’ (Mary) the mother of Jesus, and the ‘Child’ is referred to Jesus, with the use of a capital letter. This religious imagery is used to portray the relationship between a mother and her child, how their relationship is holy.
    Furthermore, “soon she would have to forget…” connotes the un-natural idea of a child dying before their mother; similar to the way that Jesus died before his mother, Mary. The ‘sacrifice’ which was given to us all by Jesus was a loss for the mother, yet a reward for the rest of us, portraying the greater good which is within us.

    In addition, “other mothers there had long ceased to care, but not this one” gives the reader a glimmer of hope, that the mother has not given up, even if the child has. This shows that the indefinite relationship between the mother and son is never ending, and the determination of the mother is idolised as something we all should do.
    “She held a ghost smile between her teeth” illustrates determination. Her ‘gritted teeth’ gives the idea that no matter how hard life gets without the ones you love, it is never a time to surrender to the pain. The fact that the ‘ghost smile’ was ‘held’ in between her teeth gives the connotations of a barrier; she may be close to giving up, but not close enough.

  14. Avatar of jenna jenna says:

    A mother in a refugee camp- How does the poet convey his thoughts and feelings about relationships in the poem?

    Throughout the poem the writer conveys many thoughts and feelings about relationships. Mostly, the author outlines relationships between a mother and her son. Line 7 and line 8

    “Other mothers there,
    Had long ceased to care,
    But not this one:”

    is describing how a lot of mothers may have given up on their children when things got tough but not this mother. The line

    “But not this one:”

    defines the feelings of a strong bond relationship between this mother and her child.The line emphasises the fact that she is only one out of many that feels such passion towards her child that she will not give up on him even when others around her are doing so. However, the line

    “Other mothers there,
    Had long ceased to care,”

    portrays the situation of mothers giving up on their children. I believe that the author is thinking about the natural bond a child has with its parents and therefore why this bond is not evident in this circumstance.

  15. In the poem ‘A Mother in a Refugee Camp’ written by Chinua Achebe, we understand many different aspects on relationships in life and how they affect each other when there are problems, causing suffering and death.

    Obviously this poem is written about a place which is not developed properly, with war still consuming their lives on a daily basis, not being able to live peacefully. In the beginning of this poem the poet writes “No Madonna and Child could touch”. The name “Madonna” means Mother of Jesus, and “Child” has been personified, symbolising Jesus. This is a strong bond between Mother and Child. However, following on in the rest of the poem, we see “She soon would have to forget…”. The person the poet is talking about in the poem lives in a war-ridden place, therefore do not see much of what is happening in the rest of the world. The lady is losing a precious relationship because her son is dying. Considering this, religion would be a big part of this woman’s life helping her get through every day with some hope for the future. The poet expressed his feelings towards relationships/religion and how it helps people get through tough times and to give them support. Virgin Mary would be a role model, as this woman has just lost her son, just like Mary did. Even-though they are very different circumstances, the woman in the poem identifies with her, knowing that Mary must of got through the death of her son, which keeps her strong and willing to carry on.

    Jesus sacrificed himself for the people (including his Mother), hence, for the comfort of the child’s Mother, she could realise how important he was to his Mother, in-consequence, Chinua Achebe expressed he felt that the child sacrificed himself for the health of his Mother so she has more food for her and not having to worry about her child. The poet conveys his feelings towards the Mother with sympathy and how difficult it is to let go but it is important to get through it.

  16. Avatar of Deana Deana says:

    How does the poet convey his thoughts and feelings about relationships in the poem?

    The poet conveys his thoughts and feelings about relationships in the poem by the affectionate relationship between the mother and son.

    The relationship throughout the poem portrays the natural relationship between a mother and son ‘a broken comb and combed’. For a mother and child nowadays this is a very typical action, however this mother and son have a very diverse relationship ‘the rust-coloured hair left on his skull’. From the start there were suspicions that the son was alive, but this quote implies the vigorous lengths the mother went to protect her son. By grooming her son, the mother is making the child’s lifeless body presentable as there is no grave.

    The word ‘skull’ conveys the death of her son. Even though throughout the poem she still considers herself to be seen as a mother. But how can she still be called a mother if she has no child?

  17. Avatar of Jake Leggat Jake Leggat says:

    Chinua Achebe conveys his thoughts and feelings about relationships in many different places throughout the poem. However, Achebe says ‘Her tenderness for a son/She would soon have to forget . . . .’ Through these two lines we can see some of his main feelings. One of the things that he feels about relationships is that when you have one, you must fight for each other. We can see this because he says that ‘She soon would have to forget’, and this implies that her son is not yet dead, because of the word ‘soon’, and although she may already know that he is going to die soon, she hasn’t forgot about him or given up. This could mean that the poet believes that when you have a child, you take up the responsibility for it, therefore however hopeless the situation, you must never give up.

    This thought is mirrored throughout the poem, for example, when Achebe says ‘Other mothers there/Had long ceased to care, but not this one.’ This also implies that he believes in relationships you have to be there for each other right to the end, because all the other mothers had given up hope for their children; however Achebe emphasizes that one mother by using caesura. This could mean that the poet believes that in all relationships throughout life, whether it be between a poor mother and child in a refugee camp, or a young man and woman, you should care and be there for each other whatever the circumstances. Achebe could believe relationships are a commitment, and that in all relationships throughout life, sticking together is the main thing.

  18. How does the poet convey his thoughts and feelings about relationships in the poem?

    In the poem the poet, Chinua Achebe, conveys his thoughts and feelings about relationships.
    “No Madonna and Child could touch
    Her tenderness for a son”
    This suggests that she believe that no one could love their child as much as she love hers. Also this links in with religion, you can see this as it has a capital letter on “Madonna” and “Child” these represent Mary and God. Mary stands for mother of God and this shows that she believes not even the Mother of God loves her child as much as she does. This is also supported later on in the poem where it says “ And rubbed him down with bare palms” This denotes that cared for him and would rather scrub him with her bare palms then see him be dirty, also this shows that her child must of been young as she to rub him down and he couldn’t do this himself. By using “bare” it relates to rough and skinless hands that were very bare. This supports that she has a great love for her child.

  19. hinua Achebe portrays many thoughts and feelings about relationships in the poem “A Mother in a Refugee Camp”. For example, religion is used to display connections between a mother and child. “No Madonna and Child could touch” Achebe refers to Mary, the mother of Jesus to convey a strong relationship and how important it is to the speaker. The word “Child” starts with a capital letter although it is addressed in the middle of the sentence. This technique is used in order to relate the child to Jesus Christ. As the reader knows, Jesus Christ sacrificed many things in his life which is why the poet refers to this when he is describing the child. The poet also refers to religion to illustrate how religion was a large part of a refugee’s life and is something they often look up to.

  20. Avatar of Sophie Sophie says:

    How does the poet convey his thoughts and feelings about relationships in the poem?

    The poet Chinua Achebe displays his feelings about relationships clearly throughout the poem ‘A mother in a Refugee Camp’. Achebe shows his beliefs about the importance of strong family bonds and the idea of looking out for one another through the line ‘Her tenderness for a son’. This conveys the poets feeling that the parent – child bond is unbreakable and that no matter what happens, a parents love in unconditional. The effect of this quotation is to emphasise the intense feelings the mother has for her child; and as a result highlight the heartbreak the mother must have endured when her child suffered in impoverished conditions, and whose life ended before her own. The line outlines how the mother must have suffered during this time – yet how she stayed strong, and still supports her child until the very end. This is shown in the lines ‘Of a mother’s pride….She had bathed him’. This could relate to personal suffering that has taken place in Achebe’s life as a child, or to the events happening around the world in which people are forced to live in awful conditions and endure personal losses on a regular basis. Furthermore the poet could be referring to religion; where Jesus died before his mother Mary. This links with the poem as it states ‘No Madonna and Child could touch’.

  21. Avatar of Sofia Sofia says:

    In ‘A Mother in a Refugee Camp’, Chinua Achebe conveys his thoughts and feelings. The poet is a man but he is writing from a woman’s point of view which could be because of something his mother had to go through;his personal experiences, but it could also be of an issue that he thinks is quite significant and therefore is displaying what a mother had to go through in one of these camps.The title of the poem suggests that it was set in a rough time so, they looked up to religion more than we do.

    The first line of the first stanza has language of religion. “No Madonna and Child could touch.” Here the poet uses the name ‘Madonna’ which is referring to the mother of Jesus, in other words Mary. Madonna originally had religious connotations but Madonna is a synonym of Mary. ‘Child,’ is therefore referring to Jesus. They are both capitalised which stresses the importance. As mentioned before, this poem was set in a rough time and the only thing that they was keeping them strong was religion. Which is why the narrator in the poem looks up to Mary because she had to experience what Mary went through. Jesus died on the cross for all our sins meaning that he died before his mother which is seen as unnatural because usually the mother dies before her children; however, it could be seen as unnatural to us today because our ideology is different. Back then, it could have been seen as normal. Referring to Jesus and Mary at the beginning foreshadows what happens to the narrator.

  22. In the poem ‘A Mother in a Refugee Camp’, the poet, Chinua Achebe, conveys his thoughts and feelings about relationships. The main theme of the poem is the relationship between a mother and her son.
    The relationship between the mother and son in the poem is even stronger than the relationship between Jesus and his mother Mary. “No Madonna and Child could touch, Her tenderness for a son,” conveys that even the love between Mary and Jesus cannot compare to how much the mother in this poem cares about her son.
    However, the mother would soon have to forget the love for her son because he is dying.
    Even though her son will soon be dead, the mother has not given up hope. She is holding him in her arms for the last time and is reminiscing about the times when he was healthy and happy. She is trying to keep a normality about the situation, by combing his hair and humming to him with her eyes. The poem implies that she used to comb his hair routinely (before they went to the camp) and it didn’t have any meaning. However, but now when she does it, it is like she is saying goodbye to him.
    The fact that the mother does this for the son makes her special as “Other mothers there had long ceased to care, but not this one”.
    This shows that the poet feels that the relationship between a mother and son is eternal and cannot be broken by anything, no matter how helpless and dismal the situation is.

  23. How does the poet convey his thoughts and feelings about relationships in the poem?

    The poet, Chinua Achebe expresses many thoughts and feelings throughout the poem “A Mother in a Refugee Camp”. A strong theme which occurs through the poem is the relationship between the mother and the child.

    The first line of the poem, “No Madonna and Child could touch”. This line has a religious
    connotation, “Madonna” being another name for the virgin Mary whom gave birth to Jesus, possibly being the aforementioned “Child”. This suggests that the mother mentioned in the poem may have been religious and followed teachings of Christianity.
    The next line, “Her tenderness for a son” portrays how the mother felt towards the child and how strong the bond between them was.
    The two lines “No Madonna and Child could touch, Her tenderness for a son” suggests that the feeling and bond that the mother had with her child cannot be replaced by anyone/anything and is truly unique to them; not even Mary and Jesus could feel them same. Throughout these lines there are strong connotations of motherhood, affection, care and tenderness for her child. This is strongly relatable for readers; especially those whom are parents or have something/someone they strongly care about.
    “She soon would have to forget…” this line suggests that the child will not be around for much longer. This could connote possible departing from the child, maybe even death. The poem is set in a “Refugee Camp” which could also suggest that there could be high risk of infection, unsanitary conditions etc in which could lead to the child dying or becoming ill and the mother having to forget him. The refugee camp could be due to a war in their home and this may mean that the child could be taken away from the mother at a certain age to join the war and fight, thus the separation.

  24. Avatar of Meg Abery Meg Abery says:

    Chinua Achebe portrayed his thoughts and feelings to the relationship in the poem A Mother in a Refugee Camp.

    ‘Ghost smile between her teeth’ the ‘ghost smile’ is inferring to the smile which was once there and so genuine but now not there no more but replaced with a fake smile of hope. As if she is trying not to give up in such a devastating time. Even today when a person has lost a child or someone close to them they put on a smile to hide the heartache and pain away from the world. With the world ‘between her teeth’ is implying close to giving up. The saying grit your teeth illustrated determination but in this poem it presented with a gap which means the determination is slowly disappearing and close to giving up. This is because of the use of the world ‘between’. This quotation is portray the love the mother had for her child and that even when the child is gone she is always going to remember and love the child the same as she did when the child was alive.

  25. Avatar of Ellie Ellie says:

    How does the poet convey his thoughts and feelings about relationships in the poem?

    In the poem ‘A Mother in a Refugee Camp’ by Chinua Achebe, the poet conveys his thoughts and feelings towards relationships. Throughout the first lines of the poem it portrays ideas of religion, “No Madonna and child could touch”. By using the word “Madonna” it relates to Jesus’s mother Mary. Furthermore this could also demonstrate how the mother loved the child more than how much Mary loved her son Jesus hence how the poet states “No…could touch”. Throughout this poem it constantly brings up how much the mother cared and loved her child while also relating to Mary and Jesus. “She soon would have to forget”, the depicts how because Jesus sacrificed his life for his people and how the mother of the child wants to sacrifice her life for the child but she can’t because theres nothing she can do to save her child because her son has a illness. Furthermore this portrays that the poet feels that the relationship between a mother and son is indefeatable and so strong that the other would be willing to sacrifice her life for her child.

  26. Avatar of Rhianna King Rhianna King says:

    Chinua Achebe conveys numerous thoughts and feelings about relationships within his poem ‘A Mother in a Refugee Camp’. The poem is about the relationship between a mother and her child and the issues of poverty was also addressed.

    Within the poem, the experience of a mother who was living in conditions of poverty is told. Both the surroundings and the children who live in the refugee camp are described: “The air was heavy with diarrhea,/ Of unwashed children…/Behind blown-empty bellies,”. By describing the children as ‘unwashed’ and by describing their ‘blown-empty bellies,’ Achebe conveys that the children in the refugee camp have been neglected by their mothers and left to fall into a state of starvation and filth, which implies that being a mother does not automatically lead to unconditional and irrefutable love, as many think, but rather that a mother could turn her back and not worry about her child when the situation becomes so dire. However, by describing the children to be in this state, Achebe highlights the need for adults and parents to teach, care and raise their children because they are helpless and innocent therefore cannot possibly care for themselves. Achebe describes one mother as having “and combed/The rust-colored hair left on his skull…/Like putting flowers on a tiny grave.” This conveys that it is natural for a mother to love and care for her own son; however, doing a normal act like combing his hair(which would prior to the child’s death have been a natural thing for a mother to do) becomes unnatural because it is seen to be unnatural for a mother to outlive her own child. Furthermore, by saying ‘Like putting flowers on a tiny grave.” the poet causes the mother to be paying one final tribute to her son which does imply eternal love and that she will continue to care for her child even long after he is deceased. Also, even the poem’s title names the child’s mother to still be a ‘mother’ even once her child is no longer alive, suggesting that the poet believes motherhood to be an everlasting state of being- once you become one, you are always one.

  27. A Mother in a Refugee Camp
    Essay Question: How does the poet convey his thoughts and feelings about relationships in the poem?

    The poet conveys a plethora of thoughts and feelings about relationships in the poem.
    Half way through the poem we discover that her child has died, ‘She held a ghost-smile between her teeth’ From the use of the word ‘held’ it implies that she doesn’t want to let the ghost escape because that could mean her child is finally leaving her which also shows that the Mother isn’t giving up on her child because she wants to hold onto every last part of it which you would further understand later in the poem when it states, ‘she [had] bathed him.’
    The ‘ghost’ could be from within her instead of implying that it’s her childs ghost, ‘She held a ghost-smile between her teeth.’ This depicts that because her child has died apart of her has metaphorically died too.
    Additionally, ‘between her teeth’ could portray that her teeth are gritted which could convey feelings of anger that her child has died; even though, she had put so much effort and love into keeping it alive and is angry at herself that she’s failed the child or gritted teeth could imply determination but now there is a ‘[gap] between her teeth’ the determination is gone.
    The poet conveys his thoughts about unnatural relationships as being unfair and heartbreaking because no mother wants their child to die before them.
    Furthermore, ‘Held a ghost-smile between her teeth’ shows that her pain of her own child dying is still there; however, there is a smile appears because she would be seeing the help getting to other in the ‘refugee camp’. Another analysis of her smile could be that it’s fake and because she has so much determination she knows that shes got to carry on, try to survive herself and help the other children so puts on a mask to cover up her true feelings.
    The use of the word ‘ghost’ could be referring to religion when people say ‘holy ghost’ which could imply that her poor child was helpless and never did anything wrong in the fact that he couldn’t help himself which could be comforting to the mother is she knows her child has gone to heaven.
    This link to a wider society as it arises the question, do relationships really die? When people lose family members today you see them visiting their grave and never stop loving them. Which i believe contradicts wedding vows as they say, ‘death us do part’ but truely death only parts the living body. Also you see many old couples that have lived together for most of their life that end up dying at similar times to each other because the heart cannot cope without the other person.
    Which links to the poem because although her child has died she still thinks about it and still shows unconditional love for it, ‘combed the rust-coloured hair left on his skull’ this implies that she’s clinging onto the child by combing it’s hair like she would if it was still alive and she’s also carrying on her love for the child by getting it ready for death by making it look presentable like many people do in todays society in mortuaries where they put make up and brush the hair of the desist. Another part of the poem that supports the idea that she still cares for the child is when she ‘rubbed him down with bare palms’ which proves that she’s willing to do anything to improve her child’s health; doesn’t mind doing anything for her child to help it even if it means trying to wash it with her bare hands.

  28. Avatar of Deana Deana says:

    ‘A Mother in a Refugee Camp’ illustrates the upsetting picture of a child dying in their mothers arm, and portrays that death is inevitable and life must go on. During the beginning of the poem the mother is holding her son in a refugee camp which resemble the image of love and care Mary had for her son Jesus when he was born. This foreshadows that her son is eventually going to die and this is highlighted by the third line “She soon would have to forget”. Words such as ‘tenderness’ juxtapose lexical such as ‘forget’ because it creates a calm atmosphere despite death being a major theme within the poem.

    Other lines such as “…odors of diarrhoea” “…washed-out ribs” and “…blown-empty bellies” describes the disease and death that surrounds the camp. “Other mothers there had long ceased to care” this conveys how all the mothers have given up trying to survive and are now waiting for death to take them too. As the mothers grooms her son and makes him ‘presentable’ for death this portrays the pride she feels towards her son. These actions would commonly be recognised as normal day to day actions that a mother would do to prepare her son for school for example, but the way this mother prepares her son for death is similar to a way somebody would put flowers on a grave.

    The poem conveys the sheer pain and agony that the mother has to go through by witnessing her child’s death right in front of her eyes. The overall message of the poem could represent how a mother’s love is put to the test to see whether she would stick by her son and care for them even though they are going to die. It also shows how the mother cannot accept that her son is going to die and cannot let him go.

  29. Avatar of amy p amy p says:

    The poet conveys a variety of thoughts and feelings towards relationships throughout the poem ‘A Mother in Refugee Camp,” in particular, that of a mother and her child. This relationship is distorted and made to appear unnatural under the extreme difficulties that they face.

    The last line of the poem “Like putting flowers on a tiny grave,” symbolises a final act of love from a mother to her child. The phrase is describing how she was combing the child’s hair as he approaches death. The word ‘tiny,’ illustrates how innocent the child is and how he does not deserve this fate. Furthermore the word indicates how the child is just a ‘tiny’ piece in a countries struggle against war and that many other family’s are facing the death of loved ones. Throughout the poem, the narrator stresses how the mother’s proirity is her child, and although the same thing is happening to possibly hundreds of other parents who are in similar situation the mother sees him as the most important thing and that she will not give up hope, even though other parents have the same idea, but about their own child.

    In addition, the quotation demonstrates how the mother has finally given in and faced the inevitable truth that her child is going to die from starvation or an associated illness however, despite this, she will not give up on her child, and the mother is ensuring that even though he is going to give up himself, she will make sure that he knows she still loves him and will care for him until the very end, even if others have given up entirely.

  30. ‘A mother ina refugee camp’ by Chinua Achebe focuses on the relationship between a mother and child in a place of poverty and disease.

    The line ‘she soon would have to forget…’ and the inclusion of the ellipsis is a portrayal of a moment of silence you give when a life has deceases. By saying she will soon be doing this is connotes that infact she will be losing a loved one, and the fact that this is almost a known fact emphasises the living vonditions the character is in, where life can be taken away on such a regular basis that it is know expected.

    This idea of death is once again portrayed in the final line of the poem through the words ‘like putting flowers on a tiny grave.’ The lexical choice ‘tiny’ links back to the child character who plays a huge part in this poem.

    By using a child as the victim of death it emphasises the emotive side to the poem and also adds to the sadness as we sympathise for the mother who has to watchher young child wither and die as well as go through things such as ‘blown up empty bellies.’

  31. The poet has used religious lexical field in various ways throughout the poem. In the first line ‘No Madonna and Child’ refers to Mary and Jesus. ‘Child’ has a capital to indicate the importance. Through this we can tell the poet wants to show how the pain of loosing a child is shared through everyone and is always important and wants to relate the incident closer to religion possibly to give hope of heaven. Similarly it could link with how Mary had to watch her son die.
    There is also many examples of juxtaposition in the poem. The helpless words used, ‘unwashed… diarrhoea…blown-empty bellies’ contrasts the conception of care and safeness in a refugee camp. When the poet states ‘other mothers there had long ceased to care’ which juxtaposes the importance portrayed throughout about the child’s death. The juxtaposition shows how black and white life is for people in this situation and also conveys the unnatural nature of life like this.
    One way we see the main difference between most mothers and this mother is her care taken into mourning the child. ‘rubbed him down with bare palms… combed the rust coloured hair’ portrays the raw emotion of having to do this to her dead child despite it being ‘a little daily act’. She also ‘held a ghost smile between her teeth’ to demonstrate how she has not let go of her child and how she now feels dead like a ‘ghost’.

  32. Avatar of jenna jenna says:

    “A mother in a refugee camp” by Chinua Achebe focuses on the relationship between a mother and her child, in a place of poverty. The phrase “she would soon have to forget” is used as a representation of how people like her do not have a choice in the way that they live. The word “have” suggests that it is inevitable. This could be linked with the conditions in which they live. “The air was heavy with odours of diarrhoea” is a negative description which demonstrates that obviously people would not choose/want to live there, yet they do not have a choice they “have” to.

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