“The Sea Eats the Land at Home” by George Awoonor-Williams’
Poetry can mean various things because through poetic forms, authors may express deeper meanings and ideas. It may be the case with George Awoonor-Williams’ poem “The Sea Eats the Land at Home.” Although the name of the poem may confuse many readers, the overall work presents a clear message of inevitable changes and time that takes away everything.
“The Sea Eats the Land at Home” is a poem that speaks about sea “attacking” a peaceful village with people. The water ruins people’s houses and causes a lot of damage. It “eats” a homeland of people making them cry and fear for their future which has been damaged greatly with the sea.
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The author himself was very familiar with such a situation because he grew up in a poor family that was very dependent on the well-being of the village they were living in (“Kofi Awoonor: The poet who dared death”). Sea affected the country greatly, and people were often experiencing material losses because of it. Therefore, poet’s experience has inspired him to write a poem about such a situation because he has seen people losing their small possessions and becoming even poorer that they were because of the natural incident. Since Ghana was very poor, it could not protect its citizens from the sea with any technological improvements and did not reimburse people their losses. Fo this reason, when the sea was “attacking” people, they were reminded one more time about the inevitability of their difficult situation. The sorrow induced with such incidents made the author write about an important page of Ghanaian life that was tragic in many ways
As it was mentioned before, the poem speaks about sea destroying Ghanaian village and causing a lot of damage to the land. It describes a mother and her children looking desperately at what nature is doing to their home. It also portrays other people who lost things that were bringing them joy and happiness. Hence, water did not merely damage things but ruined something truly important to people. They lost parts of their lives, and experience sadness because they will never return these things. With this, one can clearly understand the theme the author meant while creating his work. He wrote about water being a messenger of time. Thus, the sea was not a mere natural element, but also a sign. It showed that nothing was lasted and remained untouched. On the contrary, everything was changing and taking dear things and people away. It showed how merciless time was against people, and how little they could do to stop or protect themselves from it. One can also add that the poem represented an inevitability of human life that had to deal with difficulties and brought many challenges to people. They must accept their fates because they could not change them.
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In order to strengthen and make the poem more convincing, the author used a lot of imagery and figurative language. For example, he personified sea making it look like a living creature. The title of the poem “The Sea Eats the Land of Home” makes the sea look like an actual monster eating helpless land. The poet wrote “At home the sea is in the town, / Running in and out of the cooking places” (Awoonor- Williams). Thus, readers can imagine a wild water beast running and terrifying the land as well as damaging everything on its way. They feel that threats of water are bringing people together hence readers are empathetic with people described in the poem.
The lines “It came one day at the dead of night, / Destroying the cement walls…” is a great metaphor for sea being an inevitable action or a process that changes people’s lives forever (Awoonor- Williams). It is a force which cannot be stopped, and no one can stand it. It is a great metaphor, but also a simile because it compares the sea with a fateful force that changes people and cannot be controlled. In some ways, the author drew parallels between the sea and the fate because both of them influenced people greatly. The figurative language contributes greatly to the poem’s understanding because thanks to it, it can be seen a deeper meaning behind the author’s words.
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One should also note a great language used while describing people’s emotions during the natural disaster. The author wrote “It is a sad thing to hear the wails,/And the mourning shouts of the women,/Calling on all the gods they worship,/ To protect them from the angry sea” (Awoonor- Williams). This part represents the helplessness of people in dramatic situations as well as despair they feel. The “angry sea” is a metaphor or miseries and losses people try to avoid, but must face. The lines contribute greatly appreciating the theme aesthetically because they represent the dramatic beauty of the situation. A person imagines the women weeping and praying, and their voices die out in the astonishing scream of the nature. People lose all hope. This moment is scary, but there is also some purity since it allows people to rethink their past and have a new start.
One also understands and appreciates the poem’s message cognitively thanks to such language. Readers begin to accept and realize the true meaning of such living because a person always has to fight against something much greater and stronger than he or she is. The description of a desperate mother helps readers grasp the true atmosphere of the sinister situation. The author wrote “Her ancestors have neglected her, /Her gods have deserted her…”, and with these words, he showed the loneliness and solitude of a person dealing with life-changing issues (Awoonor- Williams). Thus, thanks to an effective usage of ethos, the author appealed to readers’ emotions and made them understand the true meaning of the poem. Therefore, they were also able to comprehend the work’s theme and overall message.
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Later on, the author also provided a persuasive description of the raging nature that evoked many controversial thoughts. The author wrote “And above the sobs and the deep and low moans, / Was the eternal hum of the living sea” (Awoonor- Williams). Thanks to these lines, readers can clearly see a living monster attacking Ghanaian residents. They also hear people’s screams and feel the pain the author wanted to describe. Many readers relate to this experience. They think about losing dear people or leaving a place they once called home forever. People begin to wonder about worthy things that made them who they are, and realize that they cannot return the past since it is lost forever. For this reason, it is easy for modern readers to understand the emotions described in the poem.
It is also essential to speak about the place of nature in this poem. The sea is a central figure of the work. It seems to be alive and acts as a thinking creature. The fact that the poet wrote about the sea reminds readers that they should not mess with the nature. People keep on pushing the limits when it comes to using nature and shaping it in order to fit all demands. Nevertheless, such a thing would not bring people anything good. On the contrary, in case people continue treating nature recklessly, they will get punished just like people in the poem did. The sea in this case played a role of natural vengeance because it showed that angry element could not be stopped with people’s acts.
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The poem also contributed to an understanding of one’s place in the world. Therefore, people realized how important it was to live in harmony with everything that surrounds in order to avoid such dramatic incidents. A person does not exist in a vacuum; on the contrary, he or she is a part of something much greater than oneself. For this reason, people have to appreciate the greatness surrounding him or her as well as be able to live in accordance with its principles. The sea that ate homes reminded readers that their houses could be eaten just the same because of their selfishness and inability to think of anything else beyond themselves. Moreover, people have to understand that selfish things they do may cause negative consequences they would not be able to deal with. Hence, it is much smarter to not hurt nature, but be its part. With his poem, George Awoonor- Williams reminded people to think of nature before it begins to punish people for their acts.
The poem of Ghanaian poet represents strong feelings and ideas, and it carries a powerful message of finding the strength to accept inevitable. Thanks to the author’s figurative language and effective usage of metaphors, personifications, and similes, readers truly outlive the experience the author has described. They see the raging water taking everything away, and they feel the emotions of people who have lost everything. The poem warns people not to fight time because what has to happen will happen. It also encourages people to see beyond themselves accepting the nature around and taking care of it. Thus, the work is a great example of a persuasive and powerful poetry that mesmerizes people’s hearts and makes them think about global issues.