Niyi Osundare and first they came

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No exact time is mentioned for Chinwae and the narrator was taken away ‘one evening’. The different use of times also links with the ‘waiting’ part as it shows that ‘they’ are waiting unremittingly to apprehend these innocent people. They haven’t got anyone to secure their right to live and we can imagine that they had to be on alert at all times, prepared for the worst. We can see that they had no security or assurance and lived everyday in fear of death. The first three stanzas are concluded identically as they all involve the narrator reponse to these different, but equally heart rending episodes.

The use of the line, “What business of mine is it? ” suggests that he is adamant that it is none of his busines. Following this, “So long they don’t take the yam, from my savoring mouth? ” Rhetorical question is used here as the narrator tries to justify himself with the implication that there is no reason why he should risk loosing what he has got for others sake, which is painfully selfish. He also fails to understand that the oppressors thrive when people are separated. The phrase ‘savoring mouth’ adds emphasis to the fact that food is very important in a developing country like Africa.

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The repetition of these lines is very effective and makes the reader fill with a great deal of annoyance towards the greedy, uncompassionate narrator. The fourth stanza, in contrast to the first three stanzas donot have the repetition of these lines at the end and the third person pronouns turn to first person creating a sudden effect as the reader realises that it is now about the narrator. The use of phrases such as, ‘a knock on the door’ make the poem slow paced and dramatic to build up tension and fear. Following this, ‘froze my hungry hand’ implies that he knew who was at the door and what was awaiting him.

Having always thought that he was never going to be affected, we can assume that he wasn’t expectant of this knock and the sudden realisation must have striked terror and shock in him. This is evident from the previous line as the poet uses ‘froze’ to describe his hand. The high degree of terror and startlement he went through is evident from this because his hands freezing in the hot climate conditions of Africa would deliver his response to being thrust into this hellish reallity all of a sudden. Personification is also used here, for instance, ‘hungry hand’.

This is used here to bring to mind the sole reason why he forsaked all the other victims. Personification is used again to describe the lawn as a ‘bewildered lawn’. This is used to project his feelings and show that he was confused and stunned. The repetition of the word ‘waiting’ makes the jeep sound as if it is menacing like a visous, savage animal waiting to seize the narrator. Additionally the use of the word usual in ‘usual silence’ shows that it was a daily occurrence and he was just one of the thousands of people who were victimised.

Furthermore, I feel that there is also a lot of justice and resonablity in the timing as he denied everyone else for the yam and ‘they’ came for him when he sat down to eat his yam. I strongly feel that he deserved this and hence have no sympathy or pity towards him. The word ‘silence’ in the line, “waiting in its usual silence” creates an omnious tone and ends the poem without a definite outsome. Anything could have happened to the narrator but we know that he faced the consequences he deserved for his inconsiderate actions.

In stark contrast to ‘Not My Business’, Neimoller uses very few poetic techniques to keep his poem very straightforward and elementary. The poem is very clear cut as Neimoller has avoided any lengthy accounts of what happened to the victims or any descriptions about what was done to them to keep the poem very sharp and hard hitting. As a result of not mentioning what happens to the victims after ‘they’ came for them, there is a consistent feel of anxiety and fear as the reader imagine the extreme cruelty the victims could have been put through. As well as this, the poem also ends without a definite outcome.

These factors leave a feeling of uncertainty and ambiguity throughout the poem. In addition to this, the use of starters like ‘first’ and ‘then’ make me think that there was a list of people ‘they’ were trying to abolish and obliterate. The lack of emotion here is pathetic and heart rending as it instantly brings to mind Hitler’s hitlist. It is evident from their targeted hatred towards certain groups of people that they were aiming to apprehend all influential and powerful people in society such as ‘Jews’, ‘Trade unionists’ and ‘Communists’. It is also notable that the people are divided into different groups, which shows separation.

I feel that their lacking of unity and concord is to blame for their situation. We can see that repetition is used to shows the narrator’s response towards the people being taken away. It is clear that he chose to turn a blind eye to other people’s distress because of his selfish attitudes as he excluded himself from each group conveniently. This is evident from the lines, “I did not speak up”, “because I was not a Jew”, “because I was not a trade unionist”, and “because I was not a Communist”. It is inevitable throughout the poem that the oppressors would come for the narrator and we learn about this in the last stanza of the poem.

In conclusion, I think that the poets were very effective in getting their message across as they both left me feeling that the narrator deserved what happened to him and hence made me realise that people living in these situations need to unite together and stand against oppression because tyranny grows if no one objects to it. It also reminded me not to take fore granted the freedom we have in many democratic countries and helped me to appreciate it a lot more as I felt sorry for the innocent people and the harsh situations that they found themselves in.

In our country, laws made by democratic processes are for everyone to respect and obey or else they face punishment. As well as this, people over 18 are given a chance to vote for a member of parliament to represent them and they have a right to express their objections towards government decisions. Additionally we have the privilege of free press where newspapers are not controlled by the government and are free to print different opinions and criticism without fear of arrest or imprisonment. Although a lot of people might feel this to be the normal way of life, this poem reminds us that there are a lot of people who are less fortunate.

I found that ‘Not my Business’ left me with a lasting feeling. Although, ‘First They Came for the Jews’ is short, stark and hard-hitting, I found ‘Not my business’ more touching and heart felt. While ‘First They Came for the Jews’ gets straight to the point, ‘Not My Business’ made me feel a great deal of annoyance towards the narrator at the aggravating way in which he adamantly said “What business of mine is it? ” The use of the word ‘savoring mouth’ is very effective to show that the narrator chose to be ignorant for his own selfish reasons.

It also made me feel sick to the stomach at the torture the people were being put through. This was because of the obvious violence used, which was vividly expressed using brutal verbs, similes, personification and several other poetic techniques. I feel that the use of poetic techniques created the impact. There are very few poetic techniques in ‘First they came for the Jews’. Nevertheless, both poems clearly express the poets’ attitudes to the societies in which they live. I think that the element of karma included helps the poets to get their message across.

Both narrators refused to take note of what didn’t affect them and this selfish deed later became their downfall to clearly prove that ‘what comes around goes around’. Both poems put across the significance of taking action to prevent injustice and oppression regardless of whether it affects you. While the poems arouse the readers sympathy because of the cruelty that happens to the victims, it not just a heart wrenching, grief stricken story, it is a wakeup call to people living under repressive regimes to stop keeping quiet and ignoring the situation.


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