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Song of Lawino Poem by Okot p'Bitek

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1032 words Published: 7th Jun 2017

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In Song of Lawino, by Okot p’bitek, the main theme revolves around Lawino attacking Ocol, her husband who had left her for a “modern” woman, and his ways while praising her own culture. She is a proud and traditional Acoli woman who holds a certain disregard for the western culture that her educated husband had fallen into. A lot throughout the novel, she keeps on cursing Ocol and making a racket and din about all his misdeeds. She also launches an attack on Clementine, Ocol’s new “westernized, educated wife”. Now, whether or not she had a solid case for acting so strongly against Ocol and Tina is what we shall be looking at in this essay.

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And that “she looks sickly” and is a “piteous sight”. These unprovoked accusations will be considered as “jealousy” by many especially since Lawino admits “I do not deny, I am a little jealous”, which I consider a huge understatement since Lawino’s hate which is evident in the second chapter is proof that she is in fact very jealous of Tina’s influence over Ocol. However, how much ever Lawino is jealous of Tina, she absolutely does not have a case since this cannot justify any misdoing on Ocol’s part because polygamy was a common thing at that time and Ocol had every right to marry Tina. And Lawino’s jealousy was not acceptable evidence against Ocol. Some may say that Lawino expressed more than jealousy and was actually defending her rich African culture, but she did, however, do it at the cost of degrading the western culture.

Nevertheless, he does his role well, and goes to many lengths saying that the local congress party was against Catholics (the faith Ocol believes in). This, apart from creating a bad will for him among people, also causes conflicts within his own family. We see that, Ocol’s brother was the leader of the congress party, the arch-enemy of the Democratic Party that Ocol leads. This causes Ocol to become bitter and turn the whole issue personal. He says that his brother wants to kill him and he also forbids Lawino to visit her “husband in law’s” house and indeed orders her not to even talk to them. It was once said by a great man called Vivekananda that “when a man has begun to feel ashamed of his ancestors, the end has come”. This is exactly what Ocol does.

In this case, I feel that Ocol was being too unacceptable. Although Ocol is against his brother politically, I think making the issue personal was a stupid thing to do. He was in fact blowing up the matter to something big. Lawino, who in this case was being very thoughtful, realizes that these two men were doing senseless. After all, the main aim of the parties was supposed to be national unity and now “the war leaders are tightly locked in bloody feuds, eating each other’s livers” and she correctly notices that “ignorance stands there like an elephant”.

In the chapter seven, where it says “there is no fixed time for breast-feeding”, Lawino has something more to her favor. Ocols obsession over time is a debatable issue. Yes, in modern times, people would agree with Ocol that ‘time should not be wasted” and so it must be used to its full potential. However, I feel that Ocol is taking the issue of time too far by wanting to keep fixed time for every little thing in the house. Lawino says;

For such a case, I think Lawino does again have a point. It’s perfectly sensible to breastfeed when there is a need to. So, Ocol’s heaps of abuse on Lawino’s illiteracy for not knowing time is just plain unacceptable. He needn’t insist everything in their house happen on time when the Acoli’s have managed their priorities for years by simply following the suns movement and the rooster’s crow.

Until now, Lawino mostly did have a solid case in many things that she was saying. However, the rest of what she says is, in my viewpoint, a matter of opinion and so it will not hold a solid case against Ocol. She laments about Ocols decision to follow the western culture instead, but lawfully, there was nothing wrong with that. Ocol had every right to follow the way of life that he wants by all means. Being university educated may have changed his way of thinking and caused him to want to westernize. Lawino’s accusations of him of being a traitor to his traditions may have been culturally correct, but definitely not strong enough to sue him. Some may say that Lawino was in fact being irrational as she was trying to impose her culture on Ocol, without letting him be.

And he also goes in to regret “why was I born Black?” Ocol tries his hardest to deny the African blood in him and he wants to assimilate into the white people’s culture instead. This is not acceptable because if he has the right to enjoy his ways, then Lawino does too.

So, we can say that in this particular matter, both Lawino and Ocol are at fault. The above argument, apart from referring to culture, is also applicable to the differing religious faith that the two follow. Agreed, Lawino does not think much of “the hunchback” or the “clean ghost” and neither does Ocol of Lawino’s traditional African religion where he says “we will smash / the taboos / one by one / explode the basis / of every superstition / we will uproot / every sacred tree/ and demolish every ancestral / shrine”. Hence the two should have learnt to co-exist with each other rather than squabble endlessly other their faiths.

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So, in conclusion, after evaluating the cases of both Lawino and Ocol, I deduce that Lawino’s case is stronger than Ocols. Seeing that Lawino has been more of a victim under Ocols hands than Ocol under the white mens’, as seen in the argument given above, Lawino does indeed have a proper case against Ocol. Although Lawino had a small part to do with it, her marital tribulations have been highly unstable mainly because of Ocols foolish attitude and his senseless actions.


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