Both poets express strong feelings about injustice and cruelty in society in the past and present. The poem Nothing’s Changed is written by Tatamkhulu Afrika who is describing what life was like in South Africa while apartheid (separation of blacks and whites) was in place. He also described what his feelings and emotions were like. Afrika uses a contrast between the affluence of the whites and the poverty of the blacks is clearly conveyed in the details of the eating places. ‘The whites only inn’ is a pun on ‘in’ to help convey the feeling of injustice and racism of South Africa at the time as only whites could afford to go.
A ‘working man’s cafe’ is a black cafe which sells ‘bunny chows’- another reference to the injustice and poverty inflicted on the blacks. There is also a contrast between the ‘tall purple-flowering amiable weeds’ and the ‘incipient Port Jackson trees’. The weeds are friendly but because they are weeds they are cut out. However, the Port Jackson trees are not indigenous to South Africa, so they represent the whites and ‘incipient’, pushing their way in. In the poem Vultures, which is written by Chinua Achebe, Achebe is considering the co-existence of evil and love.
He chose disgusting and vile vultures that pick the eyes from corpses to prepare the reader for the viciousness and evil in mankind that is described in the poem. The scary thought that surrounds the poem is that evil people may feel love however; love is not enough to halt evil. The poem begins with a very graphic description of two vile vultures that nestle lovingly and look at each other adoringly after feasting on a corpse. The poet remarks on the strangeness of love, existing in places no one would think possible.
He later goes on to consider the ‘love’ a concentration camp commander would give his children after spending another day burning the bodies of innocent people discriminated because of their race and colour of their skin. This reference to the concentration camp at Belsen relates the racism of apartheid linking the two poems by the unnecessary racism towards different coloured people, religion, culture or lifestyle. However, after a day of killing and burning innocents he buys some sweets for ‘Daddy’s little girl’ on his way home.
The conclusion of the poem is very ambiguous as on the one hand Achebe praises God or providence that even the cruellest beings can show a glimmer of love. However, Achebe despairs over the fact that if evil people display some goodness or kindness it will not stop them committing the worst atrocities. The structures of both poems are completely different from each other as in Vultures the poem is written in free verse, with lines in different lengths. Due to the shortness of the lines I had to read the poem slowly which helped me appreciate the full horror of the poem and mankind.
The poem is divided into four sections each of which is marked with an indented line. As there is little punctuation the reader is forced or dragged into considering the horror and the idea of the evil that plagues mankind. However, in Nothing’s changed the structure is very different when compared to Vultures. Nothing’s Changed has a cyclical structure as the title is repeated at the end as the final line of the poem. This dramatically helps reinforce the sense that even though apartheid has been abolished there will still be racism, inequality and injustice.
Nothing’s Changed is an autobiographical poem about the poets life when he lived in district six, in Cape Town South Africa. It was a mixed race community, where everyone was living in peace and harmony. Unfortunately, in 1966 the minister of interior ordered District Six to be destroyed by bulldozers and to be declared a whites only area. Vultures is not an autobiographical poem like Nothing’s Changed it is a descriptive poem using past and present tense. The main aim of the poem is to remind the reader of the evil in mankind.
The theme and layout is introduced at the very start of the poem, as the poem begins with a cold and repulsive portrayal of Vultures. They are used as a flag bearer or symbol of evil and their purpose is to set the theme for the poem. But in Nothing’s Changed the poet is expressing his anger and sadness that even though apartheid has been abolished, nothing has changed. There is still oppression by the whites towards the blacks. Injustice, inequality and racism still remain and the bitterness, hatred and anger the blacks felt will never leave.
Even though Nothing’s Changed is more personal and subjective about the poet’s lifestyle and experiences, Vultures is more contrasting, more philosophical and a reflective journey with more movement. Both poems have an equally powerful and shocking message to cry out. A similar use of alliteration and effects are used in both poems and monosyllables and stanzas are present. (“Small, round, hard stones click under my heals. “) A graphic description of the ugliness of nature helps compare the two poems by linking how everything is evil no matter how good.
Both poems convey a negative and a depressing view on humanity. The cyclical structure helps suggests even if laws were abolished injustice and inequality would still and always exist. The images produced in the readers head would be more shocking if the reader read Vultures compared to Nothing’s Changed. Symbols of evil are compared to in nature as Vultures and in humanity as the commandant at Belsen concentration camp. The details are more vivid in Vultures but both messages are equally powerful and equally shocking.