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    Analysis of A letter to my mother by Chenjerai Hove Essay

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    The purpose of this text, which is a letter from a traveller home to his mother, is to inform her of his experiences on his travels, and is thought and feelings on this. The tone of the letter is largely one of nostalgia and suggestions of homesickness which can be seen in the many contrasting ways he portrays the way of life from his home in Africa to his new home in Norway. However the writer acknowledges that he has learned that travelling is a way to broaden one’s horizons and expand one’s mind so, but looks forward to the day he can return to his roots and share his experiences with his family.

    The tone of nostalgia is prevalent throughout this text, it even begins with the word ‘Remember’ which suggests that it is going to be a very reflective and personal piece. This is repeated again with reference to ‘memories’ of the way of life the writer has left behind, and the fondness with which he looks back on it.

    The fond recollections of home which are described in detail such as the way they view the weather, particularly the rain as something which is to be ‘celebrated’ because it ‘gives life to people, plants and animals’. This stands in stark contrast to the way in which Norwegian regard this type of weather. ‘Have not stopped cursing the weather’ shows that they see it as the opposite of the blessing that those who live in Africa see it as. This is again emphasized when the writer treats the type of people who would have cursed the rain in his home as unnatural and evil. These people are a ‘witch who wishes that life should not be brought’, this shows how the local attitudes to the rain could not be more in opposition. This all works to show the writer’s nostalgic view of his home culture and longing to be there, with people he shares the same values with.

    The writer goes on to talk about the weather conditions of Norway that are new to him and how his inexperience of the ice and snow could possibly lead to real, physical harm. ‘A step on the ice is a potential disaster’, this shows that he could easily fall and cause harm to himself in this new and strange environment, which instantly contrasts with the experienced and graceful Norwegians who have been living in these conditions all their lives. ‘they float on it like Arabs’. The writer also goes on to show how the Norwegian use of the ice for entertainment or sporting purposes is completely alien and almost baffling to him. ‘they even run races and win competitions’ His astonishment is again emphasized by the use of a rhetorical question-‘can you imagine?’, this shows that using something which would be strange and dangerous for him in a competitive manner is bewildering and that he doesn’t quite feel like he fits in yet and that he is so far removed from the culture as to always be an outsider.

    Further contrasts are shown between the geographical differences of Norway and Africa are introduced by the phrase ‘by the way’ which suggests the writer’s excitement to tell his mother about a novel experience. ‘I forget you have never seen the sea’ this could be taken to be typical of all people of his place of origin, this would be something that they could consider exciting and opening up new ideas to them. This contrasts with the way Norwegian settlements re set out, they are all in coastal areas and gain much of their sustenance from the sea, ‘Norwegians are people of the sea’ and ‘it brings everything they want’, this suggests that while the sea and all it’s bounty are enough to make the local Norwegians happy and content, it does not seem to do so for the author, further alienating him from those round him. This is further emphasized by the Norwegian folk wisdom ‘if you don’t eat fish, like me, you are supposed to be miserable’ . The Norwegians would argue that he is unhappy because he does not eat fish, however the source of his unhappiness is more likely to be his homesickness and desire to be with those he misses.

    The writer becomes more upbeat towards the end, and begins to describe his thoughts as he looks towards the time when he can return home and share with his mother his experiences and all that he has learned. The use of the verb phrase ‘I hope’ shows that he is looking to that time in the future not with sadness but expectation, that it is something to look forward to.

    The repetition of the lexical item ‘Maybe’ gives the impression that the writer is uncertain but hopeful, and that he would like nothing more than to be able to return one day. The writer goes on to list the things that he one day hopes to return to do, ‘gaze at the beauty of that African moon’ this suggests that the African moon is unique and perhaps has some magical quality. This suggests that the writer would love to be able to be at home doing these things, but must continue his journey.

    The writer seems to acknowledge that it may be many years before he is able to return, ‘I may be older, but I will not have given up the idea of being young’ , this suggests that while the writer knows he will be away for years, he will never forget about his homeland and the people he left behind, and will one day return. The use of the lexical item ‘idea’ suggests that the writer considers that it doesn’t matter what age he has reached, as long as he does not feel old in himself then he will not be too old to continue his journey and to continue gaining knowledge.

    The writer finishes on a positive note, telling his mother how he is determined to carry on his quest to learn and for life experience ‘many streams to the river of knowledge’. This metaphor is describing knowledge as a river, which is constantly flowing, changing and heading somewhere new, just like he was when he left for Norway. The ‘stream’ which flows to the rivers is his path to this knowledge, one that he feels he must continue to travel. The writer is more forceful here than before, having often used the lexical item ‘maybe’ to which showed uncertainty but hopefulness, he now uses the verb phrase ‘ I know’ , this shows his mind has been made up that he shall not give in and come home yet just because he is unhappy. The noun phrase ‘other lads’ refers to his new home in Norway, which could be considered his classroom or learning grounds for his life lessons, but also suggests it could be anywhere in the world due to lands being plural, and that he may move on to somewhere new one day.

    All in all the writer uses various techniques to show the contrasts of his homeland to his new home, his homesickness and his desire to soldier on, to continue to gain new knowledge and life skills and experience.

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    Analysis of A letter to my mother by Chenjerai Hove Essay. (2017, Jul 03). Retrieved from

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