Refugee Mother and Child Summary and Analysis: Chinua Achebe

Read our detailed notes on the poem Refugee Mother and Child by Chinua Achebe. Our notes cover Refugee Mother and Child summary and analysis.

Refugee Mother and Child Poem:

No Madonna and Child could touch
that picture of a mother’s tenderness
for a son she soon would have to forget.
The air was heavy with odours

of diarrhoea of unwashed children
with washed-out ribs and dried-up
bottoms struggling in laboured
steps behind blown empty bellies. Most

mothers there had long ceased
to care but not this one; she held
a ghost smile between her teeth
and in her eyes the ghost of a mother’s
pride as she combed the rust-coloured
hair left on his skull and then –

singing in her eyes – began carefully
to part it… In another life this
would have been a little daily
act of no consequence before his
breakfast and school; now she

did it like putting flowers
on a tiny grave.

Refugee Mother and Child Introduction:

“Refugee Mother and Child” is a poem composed by Chinua Achebe depicting the destitution and starvation for displaced people. The poem is about a displaced person mother and her child who endure in the arms of neediness. In the long run, her child perishes and as a mother she feels despondency, upset and vulnerable. In the poem, Achebe joined love, lament, religion, confidence, enduring, recollections, agony and change into the lives of the outcasts’ mom and tyke. Chinua Achebe expressed “Refugee Mother and Child” as a reaction to his experienced childhood in neediness with unprivileged kids and enduring and felt propelled by their psychological quality. All through the poem, Achebe drives us to a comprehension of mother`s delicate love.

In 1967 common war broke out in Nigeria when the Catholic ruled region of Biafra endeavored autonomy from the Moslem overwhelmed focal state. Amid those pivotal years, Achebe filled in as a minister for the Biafran government.

The war went severely for the Biafrans who endured hugely, and starvation was overflowing. The writer’s firsthand involvement of the hardship and battle propelled him to state “Displaced person Mother and Kid”.

Refugee Mother and Child Summary:

  • It is a refugee’s camp somewhere in Africa.
  • The poet gives us a sensible picture of a mother and her youngster. Several needy individuals are tossed out of their homes because of political unsettling influences or normal catastrophes. The displaced people are in a hopeless condition.
  • The poem starts with the poet comparing the scene of a mother holding her son in a refugee camp with the love and care which is usually depicted in all versions of Mary holding a ding Jesus in her arms.
  • The poet states that none of the reputed depictions of tenderness could even come near the fragility and beauty of this scene of pathos and heartbreak.
  • There are multitudinous mothers and kids in the same hopeless condition in the exile camp. Their youngsters are gradually biting the dust of neediness and illnesses.
  • Be that as it may, the poet attracts our consideration regarding a specific mother and her kid.
  • They are compared with St. Mary holding baby Jesus in her arms.
  • Madonna cherishes her youngster since Jesus is the guardian angel of humankind and the child of God.
  • The world venerates her and her child. Compared with this, the artist presents a poor conventional, obscure mother and child.
  • The next four lines 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.
  • The mother knows her child is gradually dying. It is of no utilization looking after him.
  • Different mothers in the camp know this fact about their youngsters thus they are indiscreet about their diminishing kids. They would prefer not to additionally squander their chance and vitality and love for the withering kids. It is purposeless for them. So they are latent.
  • The air was substantial with smells of loose bowels of unwashed youngsters.
  • However, this mother is altogether different. She is the panorama of parenthood. She adores her kid. Her affection for him is boundless and divine.
  • She doesn’t need anything as an end-result of her affection and forfeit.
  • She brushes his filthy hair left on the skull of his head. She painstakingly parts the hair as though she were setting him up to his school toward the beginning of the day. She is completing a ton of work including kissing his temple. It was a demonstration of placing blooms in his little pine box the last love of a mother to her child.
  • The writer utilizes the words ‘ghost’ and ‘rust’ as illustrations of death.
  • The mother continues grinning while at the same time brushing his hair, since she realizes that soon the child will pass on.
  • While conveying baby Jesus in her arms, St. Mary, too, knows well that her child will be nailed to the cross for the advantage of humankind. Subsequently he would turn into the Hero of humanity.
  • Yet, the refugee mother can’t be pleased with any such accomplishment of her poor child. His demise is definitely not an issue for the world. However her maternal love for her youngster outperforms even the affection for Madonna for her baby Jesus.
  • The evacuee mother can’t expect anything as an end-result of her forfeit and maternal love for her poor debilitated youngster. Still her adoration and watch over him till his final gasp.

The examination with Madonna and Baby Jesus serves to elevate the passionate interest of the ballad. Straightforward and coordinate, the poem “Refugee Mother and Child” contacts our hearts with adoration and empathy and improves the pride of parenthood.

Refugee Mother and Child Themes:

Below are the main themes of Refugee Mother and Child.

Motherly Love:

The main theme if this poem is motherly love. One proverb in particular that relates to the poem is “Love never gets lost, it’s only kept.” This proverb means love is a feeling you can never get rid of.   This proverb relates to the poem with the mother’s relationship with her child. Even the child has passed away the mother still will always love her child regardless. A mother’s love is the strongest love no matter what the situation is. This proverb can also relate to another proverb that is written “Love is a pain killer.”  A mother will go through hell and back for their loved ones no matter what.


Struggle is another theme of this poem. A proverb that relates to Achebe’s poem is “A united family eats from the same plate.” This proverb means regardless of the situation family should always be taken care of: even if the family is struggling not knowing when the next meal will come. The fact of the matter is family is family, nobody should be left behind. This proverb is related to the poem with the idea of struggle. For instance in the poem it talks about how hungry the children were when it said “struggling in labored steps behind blown empty bellies. This relates because if one person starved they all starved, even though they tried their best to survive in their situation it was hard because they were in a refugee camp.

Refugee Mother and Child Analysis:

  • The poem outlines the undying affection and confidence one mother emphatically hold with her child. The artist demonstrates to us the pictures of starvation and destitution that displaced people are compelled to confront.
  • The title of the poem emits the underlying impression that the poem centers on displaced people: one who escapes to look for shelter. The lives of evacuee youngsters, their folks, their sentiments, their feelings and their agony. ‘For a son she soon would have to forget ‘. This hints her child is kicking the bucket, and she would need to overlook him to adjust to her grievous misfortune.
  • The illustration in the first stanza, ‘ No Madonna and Child could touch that picture….’ identifies with the possibility of Mary and her tyke, Jesus. The photo consummate picture – the perfect picture of parenthood. The photo of a delightful, quiet mother with her heavenly new conceived tyke.
  • The artist utilizes the reiteration and the differentiating thoughts of the word ‘washed’ in portraying the withered condition of the evacuee kids. ‘Unwashed…’ – the clean state, ‘and ‘Washed-out…’ the physical condition of the kids because of the absence of nourishment.
  • ‘Blown empty bellies ‘, the physical appearance of the youngsters’ stomachs on account of the restricted nourishment supply of just sugars. From this unfortunate eating regimen the mix of acids and gases victory the stomach of the youngsters. This distinctive portrayal could likewise be a play on words to the blowflies in Africa.
  • ‘A ghost smile’, this analogy could be two thoughts: The mother is upbeat since she is with her child, you can tell she is glad yet her grin is black out, hard to take note. Her joy can’t without much of a stretch be seen, her grin isn’t appeared in a physical appearance, and it holds joy that radiates its feeling in an inclination which can’t exactly be clarified, yet can be felt by others. This similitude indicates how the mother keeps a phony, or ‘ghost’’ grin on her lips for her kid’s purpose – so her child doesn’t have any apprehensions or stresses.
  • The use of the word ‘skull’ is a typical image for death and hints or speaks to the passing of her child.
  • In the poem Achebe demonstrates the numerous parts of human disaster and physical enduring. For instance of human enduring, he portrays the evacuees in struggling labored steps” and “washed-out ribs and dried up bottoms”.
  • The Madonna is Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, and the Kid is her child, Jesus. A statue of the Madonna holding the Baby Jesus is regular in the Catholic Church. Keep in mind that Achebe composed this sonnet in the Catholic area of Biafra, where statues of the Madonna and Tyke would have been normal.
  • No reason is offered with respect to why the general population are in a displaced person camp. Maybe there had been a war, or some kind of common catastrophe, yet Achebe has apropos portrayed how such radically the loves of those change who are compelled to leave their home and take protect by concentrating on one mother who is holding her diminishing child.