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Mafaiti-he loved to pluck a louse: Poem Analysis

The name Mafaiti” is a symbolic name. It’s a guerilla name that suggests the comrade loved fighting or combat during the liberation struggle. It symbolizes one with a fighting zeal or spirit. He loved plucking or removing lice (inda) from a comrade’s hair. Lice are symbolic of dirty or filthy conditions. The comrades spent a long time without bathing or washing their clothes creating a conducive environment for the breeding of lice in their hair and clothes. This points to the fact that the conditions in which the comrades survived were very tough and deplorable.

The persona (or voice in the poem) reminisces on the period during the liberation struggle. He remembers a comrade by the norm de guerre(guerilla name) Mafaiti and how he enjoyed or loved plucking lice from a fellow comrade’s hair. The tone of the stanza is very ironic. It appears plucking lice was enjoyable yet it shows the comrades were living in filthy conditions. He also recalls the comrade skillfully doing it and in the process talking about his wife and son. Mafaiti missed his wife and son. This brings out a nostalgic tone. It also brings out the sacrifice made by the comrades. They abandoned their families for the higher calling of fighting for the liberation of the country. The persona also developed nostalgia as a result of Mafaiti’s passion for his wife and son.

Stanza 5 says the persona marvelled or admired the way the louse grew fat in his hair. Again the comrade brings out irony. There was no way this could be admired. Rather it’s a way of revealing the harsh conditions of the war that created fertile ground for breeding of lice.

Stanza 6 brings out a very sad tone. Mafaiti died during the war. His wife and son were informed at the end of the war.Fire in stanza 6 is a symbol of war. It was real fire that claimed the lives of some of the comrades including Mafaiti.

Now the persona is unsure whether to visit Mafaiti’s wife and son to tell them how Mafaiti loved to pluck a plumb louse off a famished (hungry) comrade’s skull.

So, basically the poem brings out the themes of sacrifice, suffering and death experienced during the liberation struggle. Many comrades sacrificed their lives, families and time for the Liberation struggle. These are the likes of Mafaiti.