Paper Title
A Linguistic Investigation of Chinua Achebe’s ‘Poems About War’
Regina Obiageli Udaba, Ph.D & Ojel Clara Anidi, Ph.D
Arts, Language, and Communication

Nigeria’s famous writer, Chinua Achebe, has popularized himself through his classic novels, but not much has been written about his poetry, let alone the language of his poetry. This study chooses to examine some of his poems and, more so, makes a full linguistic study of the selected poems, from the volume ‘Christmas in Biafra and Other poems’, using the parameters laid down by the all-embracing linguistic research on grammar, introduced by Noam Chomsky, known as, Transformational Generative Grammar (TGG). This kind of grammar builds and improves on the structural grammar preceding it.One of the advantages of the TGG is that it examines language use in all its ramifications – the graphological, the phonological, the syntactic or grammatical and the lexico-semantic levels. These levels of analysis, to the researchers, are especially useful in the interpretation of literary texts. Such an approach does not end up with the normal and casual remarks which the literary critic makes about language use in a literary work, like, the language of this work is simple, lucid, accessible, etc. Rather, this approach drives deeper into the language use of any piece of writing, describing the linguistic arrangements and stating what actually has made the language of the work lucid, accessible or otherwise. This linguistic approach complements the critic’s work and therefore helps to produce a holistic study of the text in question. The levels of analysis here are grouped into two main sections: the graphological and the grammatical.

Chinua Achebe, Nigeria-Biafran War poems, transformational generative grammar, graphological analysis, grammatical analysis


Chinua Achebe has immortalized himself through his classics especially in fiction. Any work on Achebe cannot be concluded without mentioning Things Fall Apartor No Longer at Ease, for example. Achebe’s other prose,There was A Country: A Personal History of Biafra (2012), which presented his experience in the Nigeria Biafra War has received similar attention. His two volumes of short stories, a volume of poetry, four stories for children and six volumes of critical commentary are referred to by Killam (1997),  as ‘other writings’. The ‘second fiddle’ position in which his poems are placed among his writings has informed this research, in order to highlight their merits. Most of his poems were published in Beware Soul Brother and Other Poems in 1971. He incorporated other poems and later published them in the volume entitled Christmas in Biafra and Other Poems, in 1973.

Achebe put his thrust in ‘re-navigation’ of Africa especially Nigeria’s political cum social ‘waters’, which the early colonizers had bastardized through their writing about Africa. In his 1964 essay, “The Role of the Writer in the New Nation”, as cited in Killam (1997, p. 17), Achebe writes thus:

As far as I am concerned, the fundamental theme must first be disposed of. This theme – put quite simply – is that African people did not hear of culture for the first time from Europeans; their societies were not mindless but frequently had a philosophy of great depth and value and beauty; that they had poetry and above all, they had dignity. It is this dignity that African people all but lost, during the colonial period and it is this that they must now regain.

After all the years of enormous task of re-establishing Africa and Nigeria, in particular, the unexpected but unfortunate experience of the out-break of hostilities against the Ibos (his own people) by their ‘brothers’ from the Northern part of Nigeria in 1966 led to the Nigeria-Biafra War. Achebe lived through the war and has tried to write about his experiences in his collection of poems, ‘Poems About War’.Achebe in seven different poems, with different titles and themes, in the volume discussed here brings home to his readers his face to face account of the disaster of war.


Download the rest of the work from the link below the references



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Achebe, C. (1964). The role of the writer in the new nation. In B. Cox(Ed.),African Writers.         Vol. 11

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