Both “Catrin” and “Refugee mother and child” offer two different perspectives of a mother’s constant and continual love. “Catrin” shows the continuous struggle between mother and child starting from birth whilst “Refugee mother and child” shows the very last moments of a mother caring for her dying child until the very end. Both poems offer different perspectives of a mother’s love through the poet’s use of diction and techniques.
The mother in “Refugee mother and child” cares for her child even though he is dying. She is still happy to be holding the child that she had given birth to but at the same time feels regretful that her son had to be born into such a terrible situation. “Most mothers there had long ceased to care but not this one”, the mother in this poem has an unrelentless and undying love for her child, this is emphasized in the quote by saying “most mothers” would have given up but this one did not.
Her love stays strong to show that a mother’s love is eternal and Chinua Achebe uses the phrase “ghost smile”, a haunting memory of a smile that used to be there to express the mother’s sorrow since she’s about to lose her child, but happiness too because she will be there with her son in his dying moments before he passes away. She will always love her child no matter what and this expresses the idea that a mother’s love for her child is forever lasting. She held her child tightly in her arms, a boy which is about to die but she still has pride in her eyes. … in her eyes the ghost of a mother’s pride” Her pride for having a son still lingers around but it is very faint, the use of the word “ghost” confirms that though her pride is still there it is just a former shell of what it used to be. This doesn’t deter the fact that her love and dedication is unceasing towards her son. The mother’s persistent love for her child is represented and emphasized when she does a simple act of combing his hair. “-began carefully to part it… Her carefulness when she parted his hair conveys how much this simple act meant to her because it was the last motherly act she could do to show to her son that even if he is gone, her love for him will remain unfading. At the end of the poem, there is a comparison between two completely different worlds, the world of reality which the mother is in and the world which she longs and wishes for. Her last act of motherly care is compared with the other life and how it would just be a little reminder of love, “In another life this would have been a little daily act of no consequence”. But the comparison is to show that the implest act of love from a mother is actually in her perspective, the show of everlasting and caring love. “Catrin” is written in first person through a mother’s perspective from the time she gives birth to the time her child is a rebellious teenager. It starts off with a reflective thought from the mother as she remembers when she was waiting to give birth to her child in the “hot, white room”. , this shows that the first memory she recalls of her child was when the child was still in her womb. It signifies the start of the continuous and unfading struggles, love and relationship between the mother and her daughter.
Then the memory has a time lapse and continues off at the part where she gives birth to her child and the “battle” begins. This symbolises the start of their antagonistic relationship of love which consists of conflicting emotions of love. Gillian Clarke constantly reminds the readers that the love between mother and daughter is fierce, strong and is set in stone. “Our first fierce confrontation” the repetition of the letter “f” connotes the strength of their love and how it is passionate with an element of fierceness in it.
It also emphasizes the harsh and painful moment of the delivery which is the start to the beginning of the relationship between the mother and the daughter which is full of ups, downs and arguments but it also shows their love and how it is resolute and rigid even through the heated arguments. A mother’s love for her daughter is unyielding and intense, the “tug of war” love represents this and is established when the mother and child fight for the possession of the umbilical cord which is referred to as the “red rope of love”.
It is also highlighted with the visual description of the pain she feels as she gives birth “I wrote all over the walls with my words”, the screams that bounce of the delivery room walls shows the intense emotion of love and pain that she felt while giving birth, the umbilical cord in birth symbolises their love and shows that even though there is always fighting, their love will always remain strong. But the umbilical cord needs to be severed in the process of giving birth. The cutting of the umbilical cord represents the daughter’s need to be an individual “We want, we shouted, To be two, to be ourselves”.
This illustrates the physical struggle which a mother has to go through to give birth to a child and her perspective on how being an individual is an important factor in the relationship between mother and daughter. Joy and happiness spreads through the mother as she looked at her baby breathing in the “glass tank”. “In the glass tank clouded with feelings”, the word clouded indicates intense and heavy emotions of love, joy and celebration that ran through her as she looked at her child.
While watching her baby breathe in the glass tank, she said it “changed us both” meaning that she finally knows what it feels like to have a child, and that feeling is the pride of a mother. After another time lapse, it shows the mother has mixed feelings, she’s not certain whether to feel joy and celebrate the fact that her daughter is growing up and resisting as a teenager and an individual. Her beloved child is now becoming more independent and does not have to rely on her as much, and she feels torn because of this. Still I am fighting you off”, the physical struggle of giving birth has turned to an emotional fight of love and pain that the mother is experiencing with her daughter’s difficult and quarrelsome attitude. Even though they are both older now, Gillian Clarke shows the readers that the struggle of love is continuous and endless through a mother’s perspective. The poet defines the strength and defiance of the child by describing the daughter “With your straight, strong, long brown hair and your rosy, defiant glare”. The words straight and strong emphasize the daughter’s disobedient and rebellious attitude as a teenager.
It pains the mother to see her daughter wanting independence but unfortunately it is the process of growing up. It hurts her deeply, but she has to go through with it and keep strong mentally. There is another reminder of “the red rope of love” at the end of the poem but it is now referred to as “that old rope” and this confirms the fact that when there is love there will always be a struggle emotionally and physically and this is also established through the quote “Tightening about my life”. The rebellious attitude of the daughter frustrates the mother but she has keep strong willed to see through it because she still loves her daughter.
The daughter’s defiant attitude is shown at the end of the poem when she asks to skate in the dark for one more hour. She is emotionally hurt because her daughter is becoming more of an individual, more independent and that she’s growing older with every passing day. Both poems show two views of a mother’s perspective. Though both perspectives are different, they have similar views such as the everlasting love a mother will always have for her child and. Gillian Clarke shows the lifelong struggle between mother and daughter whilst Chinua Achebe reveals the mother’s continuous love even after the inevitable passing of her child.