After reading Girl’s at War and Refugees Mother and Child, What impression do you get of Biafran War which took place in Nigeria between 1962 and 1970? Every war is devastating and The Biafran War, which took place in Nigeria between 1962 and 1970, isn’t the exception to this. This war was a political conflict caused by the attempted secession of the southeastern provinces of Nigeria as the self-proclaimed Republic of Biafra. The conflict was the result of economic, ethnic, cultural and religious tensions among the various peoples of Nigeria.
One person who knew and lived in this tragic moment of the history of Nigeria was Chinua Achebe. Chinua Achebe is a writer born in Nigeria. He wrote a lot of texts and poems about the situation of his country. Ones that stand out are “Refugees Mother and Child” and “Girls at War”. In this poem and text we can see the critical situation lived by the people in this war, the writer, who was involved in political parties, witnessed the corruption and elitism at that time and he printed these experiences in his texts and poems.
The poem “Refugees Mother and Child” paints the pathetic 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. When the writer says: “No Madona and child could touch that picture of a mother’s tenderness for a son she soon would have to forget” is making a comparison with a version of Jesus Crist death, when Mary knew his inevitable destiny and the pain that she was going to suffer.
The first four lines of the second paragraph describe the aura of disease, illness and death which surrounds the camp; describing the smells of the camp, and the ribs of the children protruding from sickness, painting a truly horrifying picture of sick infants and helpless people. There is a remnant of a smile gracing her lips and she remembers her son in all his glory as she holds him for the last time. Her maternal pride had led her to clean him up before laying him to rest, and now she takes out a comb and with singing eyes, she arranges her son’s hair which is rust, a sign that he suffers from washiorkor; a protein deficiency. This event is compared with a normal life that she would have wanted to have, in which she would normally do that action to her son before he leaves school. But the way she does that has such an air of fatality to it that is similar to putting flowers on a tiny grave. This poem is a reflect of what really happened in Biafra War, the blockade of the surrounded Biafrans led to a humanitarian disaster when it emerged that there was widespread civilian hunger and starvation in the besieged Igbo areas.
The Biafran government claimed that Nigeria was using hunger and genocide to win the war but there’s no doubt that starvation had occurred, but it wasn’t clear if it was a result of the Nigerian blockade or the restriction of food to the civilians by the Biafran government. In the text “Girls at War” the writer shows us that the truth is that the government was corrupt and unjust. One of the main characters is Nwankwo, he was the Ministry of Justice and was an apathetic and selfish man. The story tells us how things were after and before the war, how the main characters and the situation of the country changed.
At first, the people were excited about the war, the text says: “[…] thousands of young men were daily turned away from enlistment centres because far too many of them were coming forward burning with readiness to bear arms in defense of the exciting new nation [.. ]”; and the women participation was important at that time, as we see with Gladys at the beginning of the story, she was searching people at a check-point and she was strict with her work. Then Achebe shows us how the situation turned out after the breakout of the war.
All the check points disappeared and “girls became girls once more and boys boys”. Beside this, we can realize that Nwankwo was indifferent and he only cared about his own benefits, he was a proof of the corruption of the government when the author narrated: ”As his driver loaded tins and bags and cartons into his car the starved crowds that perpetually hung around relief centres made crude, ungracious remarks… He simply looked on in silence, as his trunk was loaded with milk, and powdered egg and oats and tinned meat and stockfish. In the war there is people that always take advantage of this awful situation and that happened in this terrible war, we can see the irony and misbelief of the people that witnessed how their nation fall apart, how they reacted when someone complained about the frivolity that means enjoying a party while out there were people dying. The text makes reference about an incident in which there was a Red Cross man who got drunk in a party because he knew a pilot that was killed, flying in relief in awful weather.
This man exploded and talked to all the people at the party and said: “Why should a man, a decent man, throw away his life. For nothing! Charley didn’t need to die. Not for this stinking place. Even these girls who come here all dolled up and smiling, what are they worth? A head of stockfish, that’s all, or one American dollar and they are ready to tumble into bed” What was the reaction of the people? they criticized him for what he said, and even punished him; there were young officers that walked up to him and slapped him. Can we see the irony of the situation?
How cold and heartless the people can be sometimes? That is what every war carries on with, poverty, misery, corruption, hunger and death. Nwankwo and Gladys were changed by the war, “Gladys was just a mirror reflecting a society that had gone completely rotten and maggoty at the center. ” Nwankwo also succored an injured soldier that was lying in their way, so he acted in good will. Therefore, at the end of the story when the explosion occurred the only one that came back to help the soldier was Gladys, while Nwankwo was fleeing blindly to the bush.
The soldier and Gladys died in the explosion revealing what every war brings: death. The end of the story highlights the tragedy of life of these people living in the uncertainty of war. The author’s style is as follows: in the poem visual impressions and synesthesia is used to cause sensations in the reader. The text is quite graphic and direct about the situation experienced. In conclusion, the writer easily transmits to us what many people lived in the Biafran war.