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Thursday, September 3, 2020

ENGLISH - Poem - THE AWFUL DENTIST





THE AWFUL DENTIST
By Jwani Mwaikusa

About the Author
Jwani Mwaikusa, in 1986 as an assistant lecturer in the then Faculty of Law. He was promoted to Associate Professor of Law in 1999. He was the chairman of the Centre for Media Studies, Research and Networking. Prof Mwaikusa, who was also a poet, had published numerous articles and book chapters on a wide range of subjects.

Jwani Mwaikusa

THE AWFUL DENTIST
Jwani Mwaikusa

He read medicine
Specializing in the tooth,
And graduated with honours
With new thesis
To cure the aching malady.

“Our teeth shall be alright!”
People chanted, welcoming his services.
And he started work, prompt and immediate.
They brought him all the teeth they had –
Decaying teeth, aching teeth, strong teeth.
And he started working on their jaws
Diligently pulling out every tooth
From the jaws of every mouth,
And they paid him with meat
Which now they could not eat.

And so went on the dentist
Making heaps and heaps of teeth
Useless! Laying them waste
Without fear that soon,
Very soon indeed
He would have no teeth to attend to,
No tooth for which to call himself a dentist.

INTRODUCTION

The word awful means something terrible, dreadful, horrendous or extremely unpleasant. So “The Awful dentist” is a poem by Professor Mwaikusa that depicts a terrible and incompetent dentist who studies medicine specialising in dentistry. People raise their hopes welcoming his service believing that at last their teeth will be taken care of because they now have a specialist in dentistry. As he begins his job they bring to him all the dental problems they have. Some have severe cases, some have mild cases and others just need dental services. Finally they get disappointed because the supposed saviour has turned out to be a disaster. Regardless of the status of the teeth he pulls all of them out.

THEMATIC ANALYSIS

DISAPPOINTMENT
The poem is generally about hopes raised and disappointed. The poet shows a society that is suffering from dental maladies. Finally they get a dentist who has graduated fresh from college hoping that their dental problems will no longer be a problem.  They chant welcoming him in great joy hoping for a better future. As he begins working they get disappointed because his mind is focused on pulling out every tooth brought to him. Even those with teeth that needed only some cure were pulled out. Many people remained toothless. This is the greatest disappointment. The poet says:
They brought him all the teeth they had –
Decaying teeth, aching teeth, strong teeth.
And he started working on their jaws
Diligently pulling out every tooth
From the jaws of every mouth
In a way the dentist represents those leaders who ask for votes and create greats hopes to the citizens but when they get into the offices, the common people get disappointed.

EXPLOITATION/SELFISHNESS.
The dentist is selfish and uses his education to exploit the common people, instead of using his education to bring about a better life for them. As he started working he began pulling out their teeth and made them incapable of eating meat. As a result they had to bring him all the meat which they now could not eat.
Diligently pulling out every tooth
From the jaws of every mouth,
And they paid him with meat
Which now they could not eat
This represents leaders who create worse conditions to the citizens so that they may exploit them in one way or another. The citizens keep on paying taxes, fees and fines but the services offered to them remain poor.

BETRAYAL
The dentist has betrayed the people. Instead of using his education to help them cure their illness he uses his education to exploit his clients. Many professionals and educated elites have betrayed the common people who had waited for their services for so long. Nonetheless, the poet shows that one day they will suffer from their own actions. This is also a wakeup call for the leaders who exploit the national resources not knowing that the natural resources are extinct. They can be used up and they will no longer have anything to exploit anymore. The poet says.
Without fear that soon,
Very soon indeed
He would have no teeth to attend to,
No tooth for which to call himself a dentist

REPERCUSSION OF FORMAL EDUCATION
One of the main characteristics of African indigenous education is that it was community oriented, geared to solving the problems of the community. The instructional activities were therefore directed towards the social life of the community so as to prepare the learners to fit in their community. Western Formal education on the other hand has been preparing graduates with paper qualifications, high grades and exceptional performance but they fail to transfer their knowledge to solve societal problems. The dentist in the poem falls under this class of professionals. He has good college grades but he cannot use his education pragmatically to solve people’s problems in his community.
He read medicine
Specializing in the tooth,
And graduated with honours
The society is disappointed because they don’t see the relationship between his college performance and the service he offers.


GUIDING QUESTIONS
a)    What is the poem about?
The poem is about an awful dentist who studies medicine specialising in dentistry and the society raises hopes that at last their teeth will be taken care of by this dentist. The clients are finally disappointed because instead of helping them cure the malady he began pulling out their teeth and laying them useless.
b)   What type of a poem is this?
It is a freeverse/modern poem as it does not follow all the strict rules for composing poems. It can also be termed as a Lyric poem as it expresses the feelings of this citizen towards the awful dentist.
c)    Describe the form/structure of this poem.
The poem is made up of three stanzas with considerable variations in the number and length of verses in every stanza.
Ø  Stanza one has 5 verses/lines of uneven length.
Ø  Stanza two has 10 verses of uneven length.
Ø  Stanza three has 7 verses of unequal length.
d)   Comment on the rhyming scheme.
The poem has irregular rhyming scheme with exception of the 4th and 5th couplets in the second stanza that have a regular rhyme;
Diligently pulling out every tooth
From the jaws of every mouth,
And they paid him with meat
Which now they could not eat.
e)    What is the tone and mood of the poet?
Both the tone and mood of the poet are sad and disappointed. The poet shows the disappointment the citizens have when the dentist performs contrary to their expectations.
f)    Who is the persona? How do you know?
The persona is an observer who reports about the service rendered by the dentist to the optimistic society but he ends up disappointing them. “They brought him all the teeth they had”. This line shows that the persona is not one of them but he observes as a third part.
g)   Comment on the language use.
The language used is simple and easy to understand. The selection of words is also carefully done to pass the message across. The words “graduated with honours” suggest that this dentist is expected to be competent in his area of specialization. As a result people “chanted welcoming his services” showing the hopes they have for him. The words “decaying teeth, aching, teeth and strong teeth” are included to show the diversity and intensity of their maladies. Some are very severe, some are mild, and yet some are still strong. The word “useless!” is postponed until the last stanza not only to show how he turned their teeth useless but also to show that the people discovered rather later than sooner that his service was also useless.
Figures of speech and musical devices
The poem has the following figures of speech and poetic devices.
Ø  Irony- the poem shows a situational irony since what happens is not what was expected. The irony appears in the following phrases.
v  And graduated with honours” - someone who graduates with honours is expected to be competent in his area not like the dentist depicted in the poem who makes heaps and heaps of teeth useless.
v  Diligently pulling out every tooth” in its strictest sense the word diligence means showing care and effort in your work or duties. The poet shows that this dentist was diligently pulling out every tooth. This is an irony because the dentist was not diligent in his work. Instead of curing the aching malady he was pulling out the teeth and making them useless regardless of whether they are severely affected or not.
Ø  Poetic license.
And so went on the dentist” for “And so the dentist went on...”
Ø  Reiteration...
Making heaps and heaps of teeth (the word heaps is repeated for emphasis)
Without fear that soon/Very soon indeed (the word soon is repeated for emphasis)
Ø  There is internal rhyme and end-rhyme in some verses.
v  Internal rhyme is shown in this verse. “Decaying teeth, aching teeth, strong teeth” (the sounds in these letters “ng” and “th” in this line bring about music in the poem.
v  End rhyme is shown in the 4th and 5th couplets of the second stanza in which the words “tooth” and “mouth” rhyme, but also “meat” and “eat” do rhyme.
Ø  Consonance. There is repetition of the final consonants in the following line;
Decaying teeth, aching teeth, strong teeth
h)   What are the messages we get from the poem?
Ø  Don’t trust someone because of his certificates. Paper qualification may be irrelevant in solving the immediate problems of the people.
Ø  We need to check our curriculum content for the purpose of modifying it or else we will be producing useless graduates.
Ø  Exploitation and betrayal are not good in our society. This dentist was creating a mechanism for the people to give him meat (resources) because they could no longer eat it as they were toothless.
i)     Is the poem relevant to our society?
ü  The poem is relevant to Tanzania today since we have many graduates who have graduated with honours from colleges, and universities but fail to apply their knowledge in their working fields.
ü  Many professionals have acquired irrelevant education by cramming the theories of western philosophers but they cannot be implemented in our societies to solve our problems.
ü  Also some professionals create mechanisms for poor people to give them money by setting almost impossible conditions for getting the services unless you have offered something (corruption). Many people are disappointed by the educated elites we have since their education is not used to create solutions but they use their education to create more problems and turn them into opportunities.

1 comment:

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