The poets of both ‘Vultures’ and ‘What were they Like?’ present people in a very interesting way. ‘Vultures’ is a poem not just about vultures and the commandant, but rather explores whether there is hope because there is love everywhere, or whether there is despair, because even though love is there, evil is still always present. However, in WWTL, Levertov is obviously focusing on the effects of the evil of people rather than questioning the nature of evil itself in people.
To begin with, Achebe relies heavily on juxtaposition and contrast to represent the co-existence of love and evil in people. The ‘commandant’ is described as having ‘human roast clinging rebelliously to his hairy nostrils’. Not only does this imply that the commandant has animalistic qualities, but also the powerful imagery successfully communicates to the reader how much evil a human can contain, that even the smell of humans literally cooking is ‘rebelliously’ hanging on to the man’s nose. Yet nevertheless, he can still stop at the ‘wayside sweet-shop and pick up chocolate for his tender offspring’. This heavy and blindingly obvious contrast is clearly showing how yet there is still a ‘glimpse’ of tenderness and love, like the vultures he describes. Moreover, this encapsulates this feeling of despair of how even the most vindictive of human beings is still capable of love. Alternatively, the ‘roast’ used to describe the burning Jews and the word ‘tender’ used to describe his child both suggest at meat. This possible link could show that now matter how much love he shows to his child, it will never outweigh his unforgivable evil nature. However, Levertov’s contrast is shown in the tone of the questions and the manner of the answers. The question ‘had they an epic poem’ can be seen as ignorant in the sense that it gives the sense that the questioner – most likely of a Western society – uses the traditional benchmark of literature to judge a society, and the idea is invoked that the...
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