Vultures by Chinua Achebe

10 KIM studied Chinua Achebe’s poem ‘Vultures’ last week. Watch the video we made last year about the poem and then make a comment about how the poem reflects the ‘Get up! Stand up! theme. Make specific links to the poem.


26 thoughts on “Vultures by Chinua Achebe

  1. Chinua Achebe’s poem ‘Vultures’ Shows how evil can be amongst us and how even the most evil of people can have tiny fraction of goodness inside them. It shows how the Nazis could keep what they were really doing, locked away from their families and ‘normal’ lives. It helps us understand our topic ‘Get up! Stand up!’ by illustrating how each person could have together made a difference by standing up for what they knew was wrong instead of living behind the lies of the Nazis and acting as if this wasn’t their business to influence. It show us how, if nothing is done about an issue, it can grow beyond control.

  2. The poem, ‘Vultures’ by Chinua Achebe reflects on the horrors that occurred many, many years ago during the Holocaust, which links to our theme, ‘Get up Stand up!’
    He uses the image of the vulture to link the revolting pictures to the Commandant at Belsen.
    The way in which Chinua words the sentences is very deep and meaningful. He gives off a sense of realisation as to just what happened and to just how awful it was. The way that he has personified love is really effective, because of the fact that it is so true. Love does turn its head and act as if nothing is happening. We will get on with our lives and care for our off-spring, and yet turn a blind eye to what is happening to around us.
    It makes you think about how a human that can show love and affection to his/her family can organise things such as mass murder and abuse. If we continue to be self obsessed history is bound to repeat itself.

  3. Jarrod Strong Restident of 1 ludlow pl Katikati,NZ, southern hemisphere, Earth,solar system, milky way, The universe says:

    I think the poem is quite confusing and written complexly. After we broke it down it was made a lot easier to understand and found out what the author was trying to get across with it. The poem told us about the Nazis and the way that they were still human and had love inside them after all the bad things that they did to other humans even though they are themselves. Why couldn’t they have respected human rights and treated others the way they would treat their family and wider community?

    • Jarrod, as you now may know, Nazi’s were brainwashed. they did not know what they were doing was evil. they all thought it was for the ‘greater good’. They thought that all people need to be converted to ‘good people.’ Most nazi’s didn’t know what happend to the jews. Yes they had ideas, but never did they witness it, and why would they care? they were brainwashed. And for the people who were still normal, they were scared. One wrong move and you were as bad as the jews. Only a few people were truly evil in the world war, the rest only thought they were doing it for a better future.

  4. lars morrice resident of 1 ludlow place,Katikati,NZ, southern hemisphere, Earth,Solar system,milky way, the universe says:

    At first I found the poem hard to understand and weird. But when we broke it down it made a lot more sense because I knew the meaning of it. The poem shows how even the most evil things have the capacity to share love. It makes you think that the Nazis showed love to people who they understood and believed in the same things as them but they still chose to be evil towards people who were different.

  5. Chinua Achebe has tried to show what it was like at the death camps and compared it with a vulture. He’s saying that people can’t just ignore what’s happening around them. When he talks about how the Commandant and how he burnt all those bodies and bought a chocolate bar for Daddy’s little boy, he wants to get across and make you think about how the horrible and ugly man burning all those bodies could still live a normal life and forget about what he did. At the end of the poem he compares love and evil as though they are the same.

  6. Chinua Achebe is saying that people can just turn a blind eye to the things around them. People should
    have the right to think for themselves and to do something about things they know is wrong. People like
    the commandant in the poem, show love to their kids but are remorseless to others who they are told
    that they are “not human”. People such as the Jewish, who were rounded up by Hitler’s men and put
    into death and concentration camps.

    The commandant was compared to a vulture, and though people saw them as evil and ugly, they were
    capable of love. Achebe also wrote that evil will never leave human nature and it will always remain
    with us forever.

  7. I feel that Chinua Achebe’s poem ‘vultures’ reflects the theme get up!! Stand up!! Very well as the theme of the poem is about how people have rights no matter how evil they are.
    Our theme is human rights and the poem shows that even the evil commandant has rights. He has the right to be free even if he has just denied the innocent Jews that right. He has the right to live a happy life even if he has just ended somebody else’s. The commandant even has the right to love his family just like the Jews loved theirs. So although the commandant has denied the Jews things that had every right to have he still has right like every other person on this earth.

  8. The theme is shown through this poem by his use of comparing the Nazi soldiers to vultures and how he said they can love each other and their children so much but they can hate others much and treat them so bad. It’s hard to believe someone can be that evil and then be capable of love too. Also how it said about love curling up and sleeping in the charnel house I think that also relates to the book the boy in the striped pyjama’s about how the mum tried to ignore what was going on a pretending she didn’t really know.

  9. Chinua Achebe’s poem ‘Vultures’ reflects our theme of ‘Get up Stand up!’ very well. The first time you read the poem it’s quite hard to understand because it’s well written as it takes a couple of re-reads to understand the actual theme it’s based on.
    The poet compares the vultures to the commandant at Bergen-belsen concentration camp. How the ‘bashed in pebble in a dump of gross feathers’ compares to the commandants line of work, and that the woman (personification of love) would turn her head to the evil things that happens if it protects her or her family. Also even the evilest person in the world would have at least a small amount of love inside him/her as the evil will be ‘perpetuity’ and always there.
    The theme ‘Get up Stand up!’ is reflected in this poem as the commandant has the freedom to leave his position in the camp however the smell of the burnt bodies will never leave his nostrils. Still even though he does what he does every day he can still care for his family and bring chocolate home for his children.

    I like your point about how the smell will never leave the Commandant. NC

  10. Chinua Achebe’s poem ‘Vultures’ relates well to the get up stand up theme. It is hard to understand at first and makes you think, but once understood the relation is clear.
    Humans have been compared to vultures in the poem. It shows how humans can be as vile and disgusting as vultures, perching on broken branches of dead trees and picking eyes out of corpses. It also tells us that love exists in everyone even the evil by showing the vulture couple perched together affectionately, and then the commandant buying a chocolate for his child on the way home from work the smell of human roast clinging to his nostrils.
    The poem talks about the holocaust, one of the worst crimes ever committed. Jews were discriminated, abused and murdered. This is about what the theme Get Up, Stand Up is about.

    Great points about the comparison between vultures and people. NC

  11. Achebe’s poem ‘vultures’ is a strong way to show the in-humane actions that were par-taken in the holocaust. It lets us see that we are all our own person and we are responsible for the actions we take. His use of the comparison between vultures and “the Commandant at Belsen” that shows us that love still lives in the darkest of places. If you can love something deeply, you should be able to spread that and that should over-rule evil every time. Vultures don’t choose what they do but we can.

    Love your last line Lauren. NC

  12. ‘Vultures’ by Chinua Achebe showed how humans can be involved in such ugly and violent crime, committed by people who can still love in such a way. How humans eternal guilt does not reflect these hideous crimes that were committed during the holocaust. Achebe took the right road when describing the Nazis to the vultures, as we foresee vultures as a side kick of death. Specifically chosen each word, Achebe hides a hidden meaning, how can a creature so evil still portray the capacity to love. He uses the similarities of the vultures to compare against the Commandant of Belsen and this effect works extremely well in illustrating the Commandant to be such a monster who commits such blatant terror.

  13. Chinua Achebe is comparing humans to vultures. He compares them with vultures as vultures are often regarded to as a disgusting, bile thing, eating the dead corpses of others, but still love each other. He is saying that humans can see and be the most hideous of creatures, and yet can still love and be loved. Achebe is saying that humans can turn a blind eye to the things that are happening around them.
    In the poem, the Commandant at Bergen Belsen is referred to as a vulture, who can sit and watch people being killed, who can burn the carcasses of the dead, and yet, love his children, and can stop at the dairy to buy them some chocolate. Vultures, in much the same way, watch animals die, so they can eat them. But the vultures way of life is a way to survive, where as the Commandants life is one of cruelty and hatred towards the Jews.

  14. This term we are looking at a theme called ‘Get up, Stand up!’ This means standing up for what you believe in and treating everyone equal. This poem ‘Vultures’ shows us how people should deal with things humanely without hurt or death – ‘with fumes of human roast clinging to his hairy nostrils’. The Commandant used abuse and obedience to punish the Jews and performs horrible stunts which led to the death of millions, yet he ‘will stop at the wayside sweet shop and pick up a chocolate for his tender offspring’. This shows that although he is awful to the Jewish race, he still has love inside him to give to his family. This poem also helps us realize that prejudice and discrimination are not the answer.

  15. This term we are studying the theme “Get up Stand up”. This relates to the Holocaust because it is about human rights and standing up for what you believe in. We also looked at a poem called “Vultures”. This poem is about a Commandant who worked at Burgen-Belsen as the person who burned human remains. On the way home he bought chocolate for his children. This made us think about the right for humanity and how someone so evil could be so kind, if he could give chocolate to his children how could he kill thousands of Jews? Was it his right to kill thousands of Jews and yet be allowed back on the street and associating with little children? It makes us think about how much fairer things are these days and how much more humane things are. We are probably way less obedient and ruder these days but yet we are given the right to speak up about what we believe in and have a fair say. Looking back on what horrific events have occurred we can realise how horrible discrimination can get if no one speaks up and tells us it’s wrong or unfair. Every human is prejudice no matter how kind we think each other are. Before making our opinions we need to look at all the facts and think about other people’s feelings, then make our decision.

  16. I think that the poem ‘Vultures’ relates to our topic get up, stand up because the commandant at Bergen-Belsen camp doesn’t have the courage to be humane toward the Jews. He is obedient to the Nazi’s so he still burns the remains of human bodies without a thought of how horrible and evil he is being. . Although the poem shows that in between all this evil he still manages to find the love and kindness to buy his children a chocolate bar on his way home from work. It says that love can be found in the most evil of people even if it’s buried deep down inside of them. No one has the excuse to say that he had no choice, because everyone has a choice about what they do the question is if they have enough courage to stand up about it.

  17. I think that Chinua Achebe’s poem, ‘Vultures’ is related to our theme ‘Get up! Stand up!’ because it shows that even in really evil beings there is room for love by comparing Vultures and a Commandant to each other. The Vultures could love each other even though they could pick out the eyes of a swollen dead corpse and the commandant could buy chocolate for his kids even though he burned Jewish people. I think that the poet believes that if someone is capable of love then he should be capable of a lot of love and that no one should choose who to be nice to and who to hate through race and nationality.

  18. The poem ‘Vultures’ by Chinua Achebe shows how love can survive inside even the most evil beings. Achebe compares the commandant at Bergen-Belsen concentration camp to putrid vultures. He states that both have the capacity to love and be loved but somehow manage to commit their terrible day to day crimes without emotion however they can reserve their love for their families.

  19. In the poem ‘Vultures’ it relates to the Nazi’s in the Holocaust. How can the Vultures been so awful in eating the dead but still have love and affection towards each other? This is also how he sees the Nazi’s, how can they been so horrible killing innocent people and then go home to their family? Chinua describes the relationship between the Nazi’s and the vulture’s, he describes how they have evil in them but still can have love for each other. Chinua’s poem is very much in depth so to really understand the full concept of the poem you have to read in between the lines and think of what relates to that word and moment.

  20. I feel that the poem ‘Vultures’ has a lot of hidden meaning, the poem is said to be about vultures but if you read between the lines is truly about the cruelty of humans, and how they can kill for no apparent reason, and still have that warm goodness in their hearts. For example, the vulture perches on piled bones while nestling close to his lover. This shows that vultures have love for one another, that they can love even though they are scavengers and eat innocent animals. In the poem, it’s the same with Nazis. While by day their killing and burning the Jewish, and by night when they leave the concentration camp with the smell of burnt human flesh clinging to them, they find the warmness in their heart to do something good to their loved ones by just simply buying a chocolate. Chinua is trying to explain that even though some people do horrible things in their lives they still have goodness in them and are not all evil.

  21. “Vultures” by Chinua Achebe shows that if discrimination and prejudice happen over a large amount of people, terrible things can happen. The poem makes you think, why when the Nazi’s (and in the poem the vultures) could show love to each other, were they so horrible to the Jews’. It was because of people who just did what they were told or simply ignored what was going on that this happened.

  22. ‘Vultures’ by Chinua Achebe has tried to show you how much the death camps were like a pair of vultures. It shows how the German commanders’ could go home and buy chocolate for their children, who they loved and where a vulture can be an ugly creature and yet have and love a mate. It shows how evil each is and yet that they still could love or be loved. The poem frequently shows you how they both can be loved and then brings you back to how evil they can be with words that are vile or disgusting.

  23. Chinua Achebe’s Vultures reflects on the co-existence between the essential themes of good and evil. Evil cannot be eradicated infinitely from a soul, thus the “pertuity of evil is lodged.” The same rules that apply to vultures, “grimy” scavengers in the ecosystem, apply to humanity, as there is good and bad in everyone. Ultimately our choices are the deciding factor in which choice we shall make: malevolence or benevolence. Love is lodged in aspects of life, whether you are a sinner, or saint.

  24. i only read this poem once during school, we didn’t cover it as well as i had liked to, but the way i remember it the poem makes a comparison between love and evil and says that the two aren’t mutually exclusivee! for example aa vulture can be seen by a man in the desert feasting on the carcass of a man who had walked the path before… he can shudder and curse at said vulture and say.. “what a truly evil beast” and walk on… later that vulture would fly home to its nest in a broken tree roost up close to its mate and it would have provided enough food for the whole family that he protects with love

    the poem also describes a nazi general going home after work to his own famliy.. it is then seen through the eyes of his daughter who can see her father as nothing more than her daddy brining home sweets for her unaware of the deed her father has done

    basically the message behind the poem is.. is it not more comforting to know that “within pure evil there is still love” than the juxtaposed “withing pure love there is still evil”

  25. i did the poem in school and to me achebe compares vultures to the holocaust to show people how people can be just as cruel and heartless as vultures are. Achebe had experianced a war himself and wanted to share his knowledge of what people are like within the world so he used a better known war (the holocaust)to make you think about the pain and suffering that hitler caused the jews. He uses vultures to make you relise the horrible nature that they have, but the poem has an unexpected twist because in the second or third verse it shows a loving side to the vultures showing you that they are comfortable in a charnel house even though they got to face the wall due to the bones and dead bodies behind them. It shows that vultures have one mate for their whole life and it relates to the fact that even though the nazi’s went to work and killed people they’d still go home with sweets and chocolate for thier children. Achebe uses the word ‘daddy’ to show that he has a close bond to his children and hes loved even though they are clearly unaware of what hes doin in work. Acbehe is trying to get his point across that people are like vultures and are just as evil and heartless. He uses oxymorons and methpors to prove his point.

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