Revising ‘Vultures’

Earlier in the year a number of students studied Vultures a poem by Chinua Achebe. Some Year 11 students also looked at the poem as part of their work on Schindler’s List.
The poem is roughly divided into three sections. The first of these observes two vultures as they scavenge for food amongst human remains before resting up with each other as mates. The second section follows the Commandant of Belsen as he buys sweets for his beloved children. Both of these sections support the observations in the final section which ruminates on how even in the most evil person, love can take shape, whereas in every love there is the smallest speck of evil.
The main message of the poem is how love is found in places where it is least expected, like the commandant’s heart, or the exact opposite that wherever there is love there is always evil. As the conclusion of the poem is ambiguous it is hard to understand. On one hand, Achebe praises providence that even the cruelest of beings can show sparks of love, yet on the other, he despairs – they can show love for their family but allow themselves to commit atrocities towards others.

BBC Bitesize has a good set of notes on the poem and the poem itself.

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