Vultures
Chinua Achebe
Chinua Achebe
Chinua Achebe was born in Nigeria,
West Africa in 1931. His father was a
missionary and he was brought up as
a Christian.
In the late 1960s, during the war
between Nigeria and Biafra, he and
his wife and children were almost
killed when their home was bombed.
The war ended in 1970 when the
Biafran population had been starved
into defeat. Achebe wrote about his
experiences of war in the 1971
collection Beware, Soul Brother
where Vultures first appeared.
Social &
Historical
Context
Faces of War in the 2oth Century
Although Achebe was born
in Nigeria he worked for the
government of Biafra and
witnessed the terrible
things that happened to the
Biafran population by the
Nigerians during the war.
Published only a year after
Biafra had lost the conflict,
Vultures reflects on the
cruel and murderous deeds
‘ordinary’ people commit
during war.
Children
starved
in the
Nigeria Biafran
War
Belsen concentration camp
What is it
About?
Brainstorm what you know about
Vultures. Use a spider diagram to help
you organise your ideas.
Vultures
Things you associate with them
Vultures
The poem is divided into four sections.
Lines
Meaning so far
1-21
Describes two vultures sitting high up in a dead
tree
22-29
Love is described as a person who chooses to
ignore evil
A Nazi concentration camp commandant walks
home with the fumes of burnt flesh in his nose and
stops to buy sweets for his child
The poet reflects that goodness exists within evil
but that evil also exists within goodness
30-40
41-51
Images of Vultures
Consider the description of the vultures in the first
section. Find quotes to show that the birds appear
disgusting and horrible but can still be loving.
Section Two
Read the description of the Nazi Commandant in section
two. Note down the contrasting imagery used.
Evil / Cruel / Ugly
Good / Kind / Loving
Fumes of human roast
Pick up a chocolate
Remember what
we said about
Chinua Achebe’s
experiences of
war? Re-read lines
1 – 21. How do the
actions of the
vultures compare
to the way people
can behave in a
war?
Language
Contrast
Many images in the poem contrast, emphasising the
contrast between good and evil. Find examples of each
and add them to the columns below.
Evil
Good
Picked the eyes
Swollen corpse
Tender offspring
Bounteous providence
Imagery
Think about the words the poet uses. Copy down the chart
below. Make notes on what the poet’s words suggest to you.
The Images
Notes on the images
The greyness and drizzle of
one despondent dawn
Broken bone of a dead tree
Conveys a dull, wet morning – little light
or hope suggested
Smooth bashed-in head, a
pebble on a stem
A dump of gross feathers
A swollen corpse in a waterlogged trench
Cold telescopic eyes
Ate the things in its bowel
Imagery
The Images
Going home for the day
Fumes of human roast
Hairy nostrils
Wayside sweet-shop
Tender offspring
Daddy’s return
Icy caverns of a cruel heart
The very germ of that kindred love
the perpetuity of evil
Notes on the images
Poetic Techniques
Match the technique with the correct definition.
Technique
Definition
Metaphor
The use of the same sound at the start of words
Alliteration
A figure of speech not meant literally
Onomatopoeia
The attribution of human qualities to an object
Personification
A word which imitates the sound it represents
Poetic Techniques
Think about the poetic techniques discussed on the last slide.
Copy down the chart below. Find examples in the poem and
write down the effect created.
Technique
Evidence Effect
alliteration
‘drizzle of
one
despondent
dawn’
Along with the imagery, alliterating the
dull ‘d’ sound sets the dark, miserable
tone of the opening section.
Check Understanding
Using the notes you have made
so far answer this question:
Explain how Chinua Achebe uses language
to comment on the inhumanity of war in
‘Vultures’.
Useful Stuff
Vultures short films:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sbdkp35A8Wc
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oi4UaW3Swlw&f
eature=related
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q4838GG528U
&feature=related
BBC Bitesize Poems From Other Cultures:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/gcsebitesize/english/
poemscult/acheberev2.shtml
More Useful Stuff
Annotated PPT version of Vultures
http://web.wheelerslane.bham.sch.uk/files/
Vultures_0.ppt
A copy of Vultures with notes &
questions
http://www.mrsbaltsas.org/Brit%20Lit/Afric
an_American_History_Month/Vultures_%2
0Chinua%20Achebe_Assignments.pdf
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Slide 1