Kamala Wijeratne’s War Poetry: Unveiling Tragic Realities and Social Consequences

 As everyone is aware, the famous Sri Lankan poet and short story writer, “Kamala Wijeratne” has composed her masterpieces, “On Seeing a White Flag Across a By-road” and “A Mother Laments” which were written in her 1980s collection to portray the brutality of war and its aftermath and how it affected people’s lives in diverse aspects alongside the social issues that had been entrenched in society. As a whole, in the poem, “On Seeing a White Flag Across a By-road”, she brings out a funeral of a dead soldier to emphasize the aftermath of war and violence whereas in the poem, “A Mother Laments”, she brings out a lamenting mother’s inner feelings towards her son whom she lost due to war. Therefore, this analysis discovers how Kamala Wijeratne tries to emphasize the social issues and tragic consequences of war and violence through her poems accordingly.

Foremostly, as far as Wijeratne’s poem, “On Seeing a White Flag Across a By-road” is concerned, she observes a funeral of a dead soldier who died due to the rueful flames of war when she passes by. She starts explaining her experience by stating that the “sealed box” is delivered only with “white flags.” This explains that this dead soldier who served his country by sacrificing his life now is treated as an ordinary man who passed away without serving the ground where he stands on. Not only that but also “the sealed box has deified all identity” of this soldier which means that no one knows what is inside the coffin or the soldier’s body has been torn into pieces due to a bomb blast. Even if the parts of his body are collected, no one precisely knows whether the corpses are this soldier’s organs or not. Therefore, here, Kamala Wijeratne is trying to portray the tragic consequences of war and violence. Furthermore, due to the loss of her son, his mother has become “benumbed” while whimpering in “dull agony.” Besides, his sister’s “years” are “crippled.” This shows that maybe this soldier was the breadwinner of the family after losing their father even though it is not clearly mentioned. Consequently, his mother and sister catastrophically suffer from the utter loss of the family.

Furthermore, Wijeratne goes on and states that he is offered no “plaudits, flowers” or “banners” as to mention that he died a hero by fighting for “king and country.” It seems that all of his great works are coldheartedly neglected by the people whom he knew. Besides, “the nation has saluted him without haggle” which explains that the people who gathered there have not paid proper courtesy for the bravery he has revealed. What they do is, they just engage in their day-to-day activities such as watching “cricket news” while drinking “Coca Cola”, playing “popular music” and emptying “bluebottles” rather than attending this dead soldier’s funeral. All of these instances depict the way society has discriminated against the ones who served the country and its nation. People enjoy themselves while treating others like garbage. At last, people “will bury” him insignificantly “at sunset” by demonstrating that it is just an ordinary man who died due to a tragic incident. Wijeratne explains that no one will have a memory of him except his mother and sister who will suffer from the consequences of violence and war for the rest of their lives. Ultimately, Kamala Wijeratne emphasizes the way people underwent the tragic consequences of war and violence throughout her poem by captivating a specific incident.

Moreover, when referring to Wijeratne’s poem, “A Mother Laments”, she brings out the character of a mother who weeps due to losing her beloved son in the war. According to Kamala Wijeratne, this mother never wanted her son to be a soldier and fight on the battlefield. She always desired her son to be an ordinary human being because no mother wants her son to be dead pathetically in a “long-lost land”. Most of the mothers who offered their sons to serve the nation had become “a heroine’s diadem.” However, she tries to confirm that she is an ordinary woman who has desires for her son. Here, this mother already knows that her son has sacrificed himself fighting against the rueful flames of war even though it is not frankly mentioned in the poem. She further goes on and states that she never wanted to give up on her son as “Lucretia” did in history. Therefore, one can understand that this mother wanted her son to be around her while developing himself into “constructive manhood”, bearing “the ancestral name” and bringing “heirs” to comfort her in her old age. Instead, her son had been to war to fight against the enemies. Conversely, his mother is now suffering from the consequences of the path her son had chosen. In other words, this poor mother is undergoing a traumatic experience due to war and violence. Besides, one can interpret that this son might be the breadwinner of the family so he had no other choice but to be a soldier in order to safeguard his family. Thus, most of the time, sons had to become soldiers while going against their mothers’ wills to eradicate their social issues such as poverty and hunger.

In sum, Kamala Wijeratne proved the tragic nature of war and how people suffered from its consequences throughout the time along with the social issues throughout her masterpieces and one can understand how she achieved it by observing the above-mentioned evidence.

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