Thursday, July 21, 2016

Themes of “The Dining Table”

Below are a few of the prominent issues discussed in Gbanabom Hallowell’s poem titled “The Dining Table”.

War is evil: “The Dining Table” is an indication that war is suffering. In war, no one is spared. Everyone bears the brunt: the old, the young and even the pregnant woman. In the poem, words such as “gun wounds”, “scorpions”, roadblocks” and “pepper” all suggest pain, anguish, and hopelessness as the effects of war.


Suffering: War brings suffering, and suffering breeds chaos. And chaos sows no seed but long time enmity. Those who watch the scene of horror as in “the oceans of bowls” experience vegetables die on their tongues. The poet-persona who “promise to be a revolutionary” suddenly realises he too is “full with the catch of gun wounds” so excruciating that he lamentably groans: “…my boots/have suddenly become too reluctant to walk me”.

Violence: When there is war, everyone becomes a beast. Even the weakest of men find themselves wielding weapons of death such as guns and cutlasses just to eliminate the enemy. In war, if you do not kill someone, someone would kill you. So there is always killings and senseless bloodshed during war. It is indeed a time when the best of heart is one who lives to tell the story.

Child soldiers: In the poem, “The Dining Table”, there are child soldiers who fight in the war. Since the poet is from Sierra Leone and is referring to plateau, a table-land, which is an fitting description of the country, we can say that the poem is referring to its 11-year old civil war. Apart from Sierra Leone, other African countries have also been found guilty of enlisting children to fight in the war. In the poem, the poet-persona states that “Children from Alphabeta with empty stomach dine with us”. Of course, it is unthinkable that the children could boldly hold a rifle and take someone else’s life with glee. But with the aid of some brainwashing and alcohol and weeds and similar stimulants, would want to doubt the poet-personal’s observation that the vulnerable children now have “switchblades in their eyes”. He goes on to to observe: “When the road is emptied of children’s toys, who needs roadblocks?” What is more, Hallowell has hit the heart of Africa’s worst nightmare, a disaster she brought upon herself through greed and arrogance. Is this Diop’s Africa, my Africa