Critical analysis of Richard Ntaru's poem "The Pauper." Give a brief analysis of the poem "The Pauper" by Richard Ntiru.

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karythcara's profile pic

Karyth Cara | College Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

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Richard Ntiru is an African poet from Uganda in East Africa. There is little biographical information available on Ntiru but critic Rosette Francis called him "one of the young writers" in 1971. Critics generally agree that the underlying impetus of Ntiru's work is to show the "tensions and conflicts" embedded in the "cultural confusion" (Yeshufu) that juxtaposes Ministers of Parliament having "triple" chins with paupers who "lean on a leafless tree" (Ntiru) in order to dramatize "the futility, corruption, injustice, poverty, moral decay" (Yeshufu) in the confused culture of man. This poem certainly is illustrative of these elements of tension and conflict, juxtaposition of power corrupted with the injustice of abject poverty, the cultural confusion that pits the pauper, framed in shining headlights and snapshots, against the beautiful.

Ntiru's poem "The Pauper" is structured in five-line stanzas with no end rhyme. The underlying rhythm is built upon iambic tetrameter but that is varied with the absence of meter or with alternate meters. An example of iambic tetrameter giving way to no meter follows in these lines:

What brutal force, malignant element [tetrameter]
dared to forge your piteous fate? [tetrameter]
Was it worth the effort, the time? [no meter]

Note that the first of these three lines is varied by the addition of a fifth metric foot while the second is varied by being "headless," or having a missing opening unstressed beat:

What bru' / -tal force,' / ma -lig' / -nant el' / -e -ment'

-- dared' / to forge' / your pit' / -eous fate?'

Was it worth' the ef' -fort, the time?'

While there is no end rhyme, Ntiru does employ line internal assonance to tie lines together. Assonance is the repetition of a consonant sound within or between lines. A good example is in the early part of the poem where there is line internal assonance on the /s/ sound:

your eyes
in all directions, in no direction!
What brutal force, malignant element
dared to forge your piteous

Alliteration, the repetition of the first letter, is shown in "limply lean on a leafless." Another repetition Nitru employs is word repetition: "Pauper, pauper, craning yours eyes in all directions, in no direction!"

The theme extends beyond the description of a pauper with feet so hardened that jiggers (parasitic fleas) are unable to penetrate the thickened pad-like flesh. The theme raises the question of the creation of the pauper and asks about the motives and reactions of the Creator.

What brutal force, malignant element
dared to forge your piteous fate?

The Creator is questioned while Nitru subtly connects this Creator to the parliamentary government that periodically raises the Pauper Question for discussion. In our imaginations we can hear the Pauper Question being raised: "We must take pity on the poor pauper, but what shall we do about him? After all, he is of some economic interest as tourists snap photos of him, but what are we to do about him?"

Pauper, pauper crouching in beautiful verandas
of beautiful cities and beautiful people.
Tourists and I will take you snapshots.
And your MP with a shining head and triple chin
will mourn your fate in a supplementary question at
question time

For additional discussion on thematic elements, see: A. Rasheed Yesufu. "Darkness and Light: the Interplay of Pessimism and Hope in the Poetry of Richard Ntiru."

litteacher8's profile pic

litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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A pauper is a person who is very poor. The content of the poem is basically a description of suffering. This poem uses very descriptive, emotional language to describe the despair felt by the poor. One cannot help but feel horrified and shudder at the details.

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