SONG OF LAWINO BY OKOT P’BITEK ANALYSIS OF POEMS

SONG OF LAWINO BY OKOT P’BITEK ANALYSIS OF POEMS

SONG OF LAWINO BY OKOT P’BITEK ANALYSIS OF POEMS

TITLE: SONG OF LAWINO

POET: OKOT P’BITEK

SHORT NOTES ON THE POEMS

Songs of Lawino is a dramatic monologue poems that reveals two characters, Lawino and her husband Ocol who are in disagreement.

Lawino and Ocol belong to Acoli tribe of Northern Uganda, thus they present any other African husbands and wives.

Ocol is educated as he poses a university degree while Lawino is not educated.

In this case Ocol up hold western civilizations while Lawino is an upholder of African ways of life.

Ocol finds himself follow in love to another girl called Clementine making Lawino to protest against because she upholds Western ways of life of which is much attached to it. (Loves it).

1. MY HUSBAND TONGUE IS BITTER

This poem is all about Lawino’s complains about Ocol. Lawino tells how Ocol looks down Lawino and insults her and her relatives by looking down traditional, her clan and family.

For example, when Lawino says:

He abuses me in English

And he is so arrogant

He says I am rubbish

He no longer wants me

He says I am primitive

Because I cannot play a guitar

He says my eyes are dead

And I cannot read

And I cannot hear even a single foreign word.

He says I am just a village woman

I am of the old type

And no longer attractive

My head he says

Is as big as that of an elephant

But it is only bones

There is no brain in it

He says I am only wasting his time

2. THE WOMEN WITH WHOM I SHARE MY HUSBAND

It talks about Clementine. Lawino introduces Clementine the city girl who is in modern ways and she is the great rival to Ocol’s love.

Lawino despises the way Clementine resorts through the use of artificial ways of beautifying herself like the wearing style, wigs and the use of cosmetics like powder.

For example, when the poet says:

Ocol reject the old type

He is In love with a modern women

He is in love with a beautiful girl

Who speaks English

 

Ocol is no longer in love with the old type

He is in love with a modern girl

The name of the beautiful one is Clementine

She dusts the ash dirt all over her face

And when little sweat begging to appear on her body

She looks like guinea fowl!

Brother when you see Clementine

The beautiful aspires to look like white women

Her lips are red hot like a growing charcoal

She resembles the wild cat

That has dipped its mouth in a blood

It looks like an open ulcer.

 

3. I DO NOT KNOW THE DANCES OF WHITE PEOPLE

This poem talks about the attitude of Lawino on the dances of the white people. She thinks are meaningless and immoral.

Lawino prefers the traditional dances which she believes are meaningful, require skills and they are danced in a day light and in open.

She says they are dancing in darkness with the dances drunk, smoking and wearing improper dresses.

For example, when says:

It is true

I am ignorant of the dances of the foreigners

And how they dress

I do not know

Their games I cannot play

I only know the dances of our people.

It is true, Ocol I cannot dance the ballroom dance

Being held tightly

I feel ashamed

Being held so tightly in public

I cannot do it.

Each men has a women

Although she is not his wife

They dance inside the house

Shamelessly, they hold each other tightly tightly.

They come to the dance dead drunk

They drink white men’s drinks

As well as waragi

They close their eyes

And they do not sing as they dance

They dance silently like wizards.

4. MY NAME BLEW LIKE A HORN AMONG THE PAYIRA

In this poem Lawino describes the games and other accomplishment of the Acol youth.

She remembers how beautiful and skillful she was when she was still young and how she used to be admired by all the boys including Ocol because of her dancing and singing.

For example, when the poet says:

I was made chief of girls

Because I was lively

I was bright

I was not dull

I was not heavy and slow.

I did not grow up full

I am not cold, I am not shy

My skin is smooth

It still shines smoothly in the moon light

 

When Ocol was wooing me

My breast was erect.

5. THE GRACEFUL GIRRAFE CANNOT BECOME A MONKEY

In this poem Lawino describes her attitude towards the European styles like wearing style and hair treatment.

She sees there is no need of copying the European in their fashion because what is good for may not necessarily be good for Africans.

She describes also the traditional hair style and adornments of body and how they attract boys. Also describes how Ocol insults her.

For example, when says:

My husband tells me

I have no ideas

Of modern beauty

He says I have stuck

To old fashioned hair style.

He says

I am stupid and very backward

That my hair style

Makes him sick

Because I am dirty.

My husband is in love with Tina

The women with the large head

Ocol dies for Clementine

Ocol never sleeps

For the beautiful one

Who has read!

I am proud of the hair

With which I was born

And as no white women

Wishes to do her hair like mine

Because she is proud of the hair

With which she was born

I have no wish

To look like a white women

6. THE MOTHER STONE HAS A HOLLOW STOMARCH

This poem talks about Lawino. Lawino describes how every young Acol girl is taught to look after home and prepare food.

Also she despises the tasteless of the tinned and frozen foods and the cooking stoves of the white men. Lawino reveals her ignorance of how to eat with forks and spoons.

For example, when says:

My husband says

He rejects me

Because I do not appreciate

White men’s food

And that I do not know

How to hold the spoon and the fork

He complains endlessly

He says

Had I been to school

I would have learnt

How to use

White men’s cooking stove

I do not know how to use foreign stoves

My mother taught me

Cooking on Acol stove

     

8. THERE IS NO FIXED TIME FOR BREAST FEEDING

In this poem Lawino describes how Ocol becomes a slave of time to the extent of being unhappy and restless and also Lawino blames him for treating his children and relatives with a great disrespect because they cannot observe time.

Also Lawino compares the western ways of telling time by counting minutes, seconds and hour with the traditional ways of observing nature or by needs felt by human being.

For example, when says:

My husband is angry

Because, he says

I cannot keep time

And I do not know

How to count the years?

My husband says I am useless

Because I waste time

He quarrels, because he says

I am never punctual

He asks me

How many days

There are in a year

And how many weeks

I four moons

But I cannot answer.

Ocol has brought home

A large clock

It goes tock-tock-tock-tock

And it rings a bell.

I do not know how to tell the time

Because I cannot read the figure.

8. I AM IGNORANT OF THE GOOD WORD IN THE CLEAN BOOK

This poem is all about Christianity. Lawino shows that the missionaries are wrong in their ways of thinking education, sexual morality and naming individuals.

She blames the preachers for preaching good things but practicing things centrally to Christianity.

Also Lawino shows her attitudes towards Christianity and those who love it.

For example, when says:

My husband looks down upon me

He says I am mere pagan

I do not know the way of God

He says I am ignorant

Of the good word in the clean book

And I do not have a Christian name.

 

Ocol laughs at me

Because I cannot cross myself properly

“In the name of father

And of the son

And the clean Ghost”

And I do not understand

The confession, And I fear

The bushy faced, fat belied padre

Before him people kneel when they pray

And all the teachers

Are alike, they have sharp

Eyes for girl’s full breast

Even the Padre who are not allowed

To marry

9. FROM THE MOUTH OF WHICH RIVER?

This poem is still reveals the continuation of the Lawino’s criticism against Christianity and their priest and preachers together with their doctrines.

She criticizes the preachers for failing to answer the questions concerning Christianity and that of Christian doctrines of creations, virgin birth and Eucharist.

For example, when says:

When they mount the rostrum to preach

They shout and shout

And most what they say

I do not follow

But as soon as they stop shouting

They ran away fast

They never stop a little while

To answer even question

Immediately

They start collecting

The gifts

Do not buy the places

In sky land with money.

To them

The good children, are those who asks no questions

Who accept everything

Like the rubbish pit, Like the pit latrine

 

Which does not reject

Even dysentery.

You consider the birth of Christ

They also say

His mother did not know a man.

And when they teach

The mother of Christ

Did not know a man

I cannot understand it.

10. THE LAST SAFARI TO PAGAK

In this poem Lawino talks about the traditional elements. Lawino tells us how Ocol despises the traditional medicine, food, child upbringing and religious.

Lawino believes that like European medicine some Acol work and some do not. She compares her traditional beliefs in traditional sprits to Ocol’s belief in rosaries, angels and the power of prayer.

For example, when says:

My husband quarrels bitterly

He says, I do not know hygiene

And I do not know

How to look after the sick

He says I do not know

The use of quinine

And I have not been taught

How to prevent disease

 

My husband rejects me

Because he says

That I am mere pagan

And I believe in the devil

He says

I do not know

The rules of health

And I mix up

Matters of heath and superstition.

 

11. THE BUFFALOES OF POVERTY KNOCK THE PEOPLE DOWN

In this poem Lawino talks about the leaders who engaging in political conflicts and forgetting that people are suffering from poverty, ignorance and diseases.

Lawino talks about two leaders of political parties that is her husband and his brother (Ocol and his brother) who always talks about independence, unity and peace while themselves are in conflict and disunited even if they belong to the same family.

For example, she says:

Why my husband opens a quarrels

With his brother

I am frightened

You would think

They have not slept

In the same womb

You wouldn’t think

They have shared

The same breasts!

Ocol says, His brother is liar

And a big fool

He says, the congress party

Will remove all Catholics from their jobs

And they will take away

All the land and schools

And will take people’s wives

And goats, and chickens and bicycles

And will become the property of the congress party

12. MY HUSBAND’S HOUSE IS A DARK FOREST OF BOOKS

In this poem Lawino tells us that western education has brought him to the point where he belongs neither to European culture nor to African culture.

Lawino exposes the irrelevance and effects of western education and asks Ocol of what use for him are books as a person, if knowledge in them cannot help to create better society.

For example, when says:

My husband has read much

He has read extensively and deeply

He has read among white me

And he is clever like white men

And the reading has killed my men

In the way of his people

He has become a stump

He abuses all things Acol

The way of black people are black.

But oh! Ocol, you are my master

You are the father of these children

You are a man; you are you

Do you not feel ashamed?

Behaving like another man’s dog

Before your own wife and children

13. LET THEM PREPARE THE MALAKWANG DISH

Under this poem Ocol advised by Lawino on how to regain his manhood. On Lawino’s views she sees that Ocol can regain his manhood by throwing away all the symbols of hypocrisy, by begging for forgiveness of the elders, offering traditional sacrifices using traditional doctors and medicine.

For example, when says:

Take a small amount of millet porridge

Let them prop you up

Drinks some fish soup

Slow slow

You will recover.

Chew the roots of omwombye

It is very bitter, but it will clean your throat

Remove those dark glasses

Throw them away

Then remove the scales

That have formed on your eyes

During day light

When you close your eyes

In prayer.

CHARACTERS

  • Lawino
  • Ocol
  • Clementine
  • Oclo’s brother
  • Ocol’s mother
  • Preachers/Padre

A: LAWINO

An African woman who lacks formal education (not educated)

She is Ocol’s wife

She is not converted to Christianity

She is a strong upholder of African ways of life whether good or bad

She despises all the new ways of life whether good or bad being followed by her husband.

She is a responsible mother as she loves and cares of her children

She is a little jealous to Clementine who followed in love to Ocol (her husband)

She does not regret to be an African woman

She believes on the ancestors in eradicating the disease by scarifying, equally important they can cause some troubles.

She despises the behavior of her husband who behave like Europeans like timing, dancing.

She is a conservative woman who does not believe in any change.

She represents other African woman who believes on African ways of life and neglecting European styles.

B: OCOL

He is Lawino’s husband.

He is the son of chief

He follows in love to Clementine who attracts him because of her Westernized fashions)

An African man who has got Western education to the level of University degree.

He imitates the Whiteman in everything and proud of being an upholder of Western civilizations.

He despises al African traditional ways of life whether good or bad.

He also despises his wife (Lawino, his relatives and all black people that they are primitive.

He is a little beat arrogant because he abuses Lawino in English since Lawino knows nothing about English.

He is always restless, unhappy as well as unsecured because of his tendency of observing time.

He is a hypocrite political leader (DP leader) who preaches unity and at the same time he is in conflict with his brother who belongs to another political party (UPC).

Like any other educated African male, he represents Africans who do not cooperate with their families and relatives after getting formal education particularly western kind of education.

C: CLEMENTINE

She is ocol’s girl friend and a rival to Lawino

She despises all African’s ways of life.

She is a Westernized girl, because she follows all European fashions

She uses artificial like cosmetics in beatifying her self

She wears tight and slim clothes

She always attending dances during the night

She does not eat too much, because African women are the ones who eat too much.

She is arrogant because she despises Lawino in English

She is Lawino’s rival because she follows in love to her husband Ocol.

She represents any other African women who imitate differently after gaining formal education

THEMES

Theme refers to the central ideas in the work of art. The themes in this book include the following:

1. CONFLICT

Conflict refers to the misunderstanding or opposition between two sides. Normally a conflict arises when different groups have conflicting ideas, beliefs, purposes, opinions interests and values which need quick solution.

From the book the poets have disclosed the following conflicts;

<> A conflict between African culture and European culture. This is has existed as a result of two cultures which ultimately lead into conflicts in the society like; traditional religion vs Christianity, traditional dances vs foreign dances, traditional medicine vs modern medicine, traditional food vs European food and African ways of telling time vs European/modern ways of telling time.

<> Personal conflict. Under this type of conflict, the poet portrays that there is misunderstanding between people as listed here below;

Ocol vs Lawino: Ocol despises his wife Lawino, her relatives by regarding them un educated, he also considers them primitive, pagan and superstitious. In response to Ocol’s insult, Lawino regards European culture has killed Ocol’s manhood, she blames and accuses on the behavior of her husband to be attached to western civilization.

Ocol vs his relatives: Ocol despises his relatives and look down, he considers them as dirty, pagan, and primitive he fails to welcome at his home place including his own mother fearing that they would endanger him. (they are bad people to him)

Lawino vs Clementine: Clementine follows in love to Ocol. Worse still, she is arrogant because she insults and despises Lawino in English. On the other hand Lawino despises Clementine for her behavior of imitating western fashion like wearing tight clothes, slimming and using of cosmetics which are not the proper way an African woman should emulate.

<> Political conflict: Politicians who lead political parties preaches differently from their actual daily performance.

Good example is Ocol and his brother who lead DP and UPC political parties as they call upon the society to unite and maintain peace while themselves are in disagreement for they compete for money, and suspect one another.

This is seen when Ocol hires a man to kill his brother, on the other hand, Ocol’s brother has smuggled a pistol against Ocol.

2. PROTEST

Protest refers to the state of being against with certain ideas or statement/ways. In this book Lawino seems to be the one who protest against foreign ways.

Lawino attacks Christianity – she attacks the religious leader for using religion as a tool/means of exploiting their converts; they do not practice what they preach.

Lawino protest against songs and dances of the European – she attacks by saying their meaningless and immoral to the society.

Lawino also protest against European medicine – she attacks Ocol’s negative attitude towards African medicine and show positive attitude to European medicine.

Lawino protest against European food and cooking style – she dislikes European tinned food and frozen food because it is tasteless.

Lawino protest against western education – she condemns western education for corrupting Ocol’s mind.

Lawino protest agaist artificiality and aping foreigners – because she says what is good for Europeans may not good for Africans.

3. DISUNITY

Disunity among the people – the people of Acol portrayed by the poet as disunited because of different issues like religion especially Christianity, political parties like Ocol and his brother (UPC VS DP).

4. POSITION OF WOMEN IN THE SOCIETY

Role of the women refers to the social responsibility or obligations of people with female gender in the society. Similarly, their position is the social status accorded to them by the society. The poet portrays a woman differently as listed here below;

<> Woman as an oppressed, humiliated, alienated, exploited person in her society. This is evidenced on the way Lawino is maltreated by her husband because she is uneducated, uncivilized as well as unchanging woman.

<> Woman as a mother as well as a responsible person in the society. This is because Lawino cares her children by ensuring that they get meal and her family too.

<> Woman as an upholder of African traditional ways of life by fighting against western culture which add nothing to the societal development.

<> Woman as a tool for refreshing men. The poet portrays this by showing Clementine who is attached in love to Ocol despite being Lawino’s husband.

<> Woman is less regarded in acquiring education unlike men. The society deprives them from getting education that may result to development of their rights. The poet portrays this by showing how Lawino lacks education.

5. HYPOCRISY

Hypocrisy refers to the way of pretending they are good while in-fact it is not. This shown by the writer as follows:

Hypocrisy shown by the leaders of political parties – Ocol and his brother (UPC & DP) as they pretend that they fight for independence, peace and unity while not.

Also hypocrisy shown by the preachers who always preaches good things but what they do is centrally.

The foreigners especially European are hypocrite because they pretend as if they do good things to Africans while in-fact not.

6. WESTERN CULTURE

Europeans used religion and education to destruct African culture. This is because western culture brought disunity among Africans, Christian’s vs non-Christians, educated vs. non-educated. In this case Europeans brought different problems to Africans in terms of social and political outlooks.

7. AFRICAN TRADITION

The poet portrays African beliefs like:

Making sacrifices to the ancestors as the way of eradicating diseases.

Believing on the power of ancestors, spirits and gods.

They also believe that priests and diviners can tell the cause of disease.

They believe that whenever a child gets ill, some witch is behind the problem like a shadow can capture the child’s shadow for evil purposes.

They believe in the power of human curse by the father and mother to the child. Also names given to their children have meanings.

It is serious taboo for a woman to refuse to have sexual intercourse with her husband when ready to have a child. Similarly, a woman is not allowed to have sexual intercourse when the baby is still young.

8. BETRAYAL

Betrayal is the act of going against moral understanding or agreement made between each other. The tendency of betrayal of any kind in a society causes disunity, humiliation, oppression as well as alienation among members of the society.

The poet shows that Ocol betrays his relatives by insulting and despises his wife and her relatives as he regards them primitive, pagan and superstious.

Also Ocol betrays his wife by following in love with Clementine as a result conflict arises among the couples.

Ocol fails to use his acquired education to liberate his society from ignorance, poverty and disease instead he alienates himself from them.

CONCLUSION

Songs of Lawino and Ocol reflect African ways of life because what the poet has disclosed in the book real fit to daily life starting with conflict among the people, husbands and wife to betray one another, despising of women and hypocrite leaders especially politicians who favor for their self interests without considering whether others are starving.

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