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Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Homeless not Hopeless by Sola Owonibi

Literary Analysis (Summary)

This simple poem by Sola Owonibi focuses on homeless people, their plight and significance in the society. In every society, there are people of different societal strata. We have the upper, middle and lower classes. The poet’s Nigerian society is not egalitarian. We have the rich and the poor. In such a society, there is always a chasm between the poor and the rich. On a universal scale, the privileged and the underprivileged have no meeting point.

In this regard, Sola Owonibi, through Homeless not Hopeless, has brought to the fore the plight of the underprivileged people in the society, their significance and indispensable role in building and sustaining the society. With that, Owonibi is trying to bridge the gap between the poor and the rich with the aim of having a class-free society.

The poet believes these lowly set of people in the society are also human and so they should not be stigmatised or alienated because of their inferior or poor economic status. The poem, in other words, gives us a detailed imagery of the lives of lowly people, their struggles to make a meaning out of life and their high hopes for a bright future. Despite their economic and social deprivation, these common people in the society exude high hopes. Their expectations and faith in the future seem not to be limited by the fact that they sleep under bridges. They declare their necessity and value! They do not let their society and present unpalatable condition dictate their hopes and aspirations for the future: “We are homeless, not hopeless”.

The poet-persona in the poem is one of the homeless people in the community. He is the voice speaking on behalf of the common men in the last stratum of the society. The poem makes use of the first-person narrative to show that the poet-speaker is a direct participant in the events highlighted in the poem.

He begins, “We are natives of the street”. Instead of calling themselves homeless people, the persona prefers the euphemism, “natives of the street”. This is because they live, work and survive in the street. Their lives revolve around the street. Although they are “holed-up under bridges”, they assert their humanity and necessity: “We are necessary/ We are part of your existence”. The persona is calling for the integration of the downtrodden and underprivileged people in the society. Despite the fact that they are not heard in the society they belong being “major fragments of the globe”, they are still part of our existence.

The poet takes us through the plight of these common people and their disgusting way of life. The poet-persona begins with their experience under the bridges at night. The privileged people “slump in the warmth” of their bed, in their comfortable homes, beside their “loved ones while the unprivileged ones “embrace the cozy cardboard beds laid on stinks”. This radiates a mental picture of homeless people who are suffering immensely. Instead of beds, they sleep on cardboards laid on stench.

Yet, they sleep comfortably “with cool breeze and endurance”. Life shows no love or kindness to them but they do see the need to endure. Their hopes are high. As they sleep, they “have conferences with indigenes of the elusive world”. The indigenes of the elusive world are the rich people in the society. The rich people seem elusive to the poor because there is no connection between them. Their world is miles apart from the poors'. The rich live separately, do business together and socialise with one another. They are not accessible to the poor except there are menial jobs. So, there is no regular relationship between the rich and the poor.

The only avenue that connects the poet-persona and his deprived colleagues to the rich is through their dream. In their dream, they “have conferences with” the high and mighty in the society. This alone symbolizes hope that one day, they too will be rich and move up the social ladder in order to commune with the rich in the real world. To them, no hope is lost!

The poet-persona goes to describe their experience during the day. When it is day, they troop out of the bridge “in bundle” for the business of the day.  They pack out their little belongings under the bridge and move into the city to seek for their daily bread. Since these underprivileged people are mostly unskilled and unemployed, they engage in all manners of menial jobs to keep life going. During the day, they go to companies, firms and homes of the rich to work for them. At the end of the day, they are given meagre wages. Some are left with no choice than to eke out a living “standing, kneeling and bending to beg for alms.”

The poet-persona, therefore, reminds the upper class that they are necessary in the society. No one does the dirty jobs than the underprivileged ones. The rich have to seek the services of the less privileged to carry out the trivial jobs around them. Hence, the rich needs the poor to survive. When the rich comes up with business ideas, they use the poor as tools to achieve such ideas for their dreams to come through. That is why the persona points to the rich that they are “translators of your dreams/ carriers of your burdens.”

Not minding their inferior status, the persona calls them “Angels” because they “open gates” of blessing for the rich through their hard work and life of toil. In simple terms, they stressed, “We are the lack/ that take your lack”. This pun explains the fact that those people are in lack. Yet, they take away the lack of the rich. The speaker concludes, “We are homeless, not hopeless.”

Above all, they feel they have added value to the society and contributed their quota to humanity. Even though they were deprived, homeless and ostracised by the privileged ones in the society, they are going to feel contented and justified when death comes.

The poem is written in 33 lines with run-on. One major recurrence throughout the poem is the repetition of “we”. This emphasises the fact that the persona aligns himself with the underprivileged members in the society. He is the voice representing the downtrodden whose voices are not heard and their contributions to the society not recognised.  They toil to translate and make the dreams of the rich come through. They carry their burdens, yet they are being neglected. Therefore, the speaker, using the plural pronoun “we”, stands up for them to tell the privileged ones that even though they have no homes and sleep under bridges, they are still a necessary part of the society. They also have dreams and hopes. So, they must not be underrated or alienated.

Homelessness of the underprivileged
The chasm between the poor and the rich
The adverse effect of poverty
Hopes amidst hopelessness

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  1. I love this analysis.

  2. the predominant theme

  3. Good one... This indeed is hopeful.

  4. This should be sang to the hearings of our government, and i hope they got the thermatic analysis of every themes in the poem....good job bro.

  5. Jennifer amaka23 May 2017 at 13:24

    Homeless not hopeless is my favorite poem it gives me joy and hope.

  6. Nice summary