A Comparison between “Vultures” and “Two Scavengers in a Truck, Two Beautiful People in a Mercedes”
At a first glimpse of these two poems you would think that they were very different and about completely opposite things. But when you read each poem and understand each of there messages and meanings you will find that they are, in fact, alike in many ways. Both ‘Vultures’ and ‘Two Scavengers in a Truck, Two Beautiful People in a Mercedes’ are both comparative poems. Vultures is comparing nature with evil, and Scavengers is comparing rich to poor.
The structure of Scavengers and Vultures is different yet alike in some ways. In Scavengers the poet talks about the Scavengers in a truck and then the beautiful people in a Mercedes, similarly the poet of Vultures describes a vulture first and then the Commandant at Belsen second. Both poets illustrate the rich and the poor, evil and nature separately, one after the other. In Scavengers there is an opening stanza, a descriptive stanza then a final closing stanza, throughout this poem in switches from the Scavengers to the beautiful people rapidly, comparing and contrasting them; whereas in Vultures there are four stanzas, the first describing a vulture, the second joining the vulture and commandant together, the forth describing the commandant and the final one joining the two together again and ending the poem.
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Both poems are non traditional in that neither of them begin every line with a capital letter. Scavengers has no punctuation but some lines begin with a capital letter implying a sentence structure. In scavengers the lines are indented in an irregular manner to create an affect; the affect is to break up the poem on the page, in the same way that the people in the poem are separated by lifestyles. Vultures has very little punctuation and is written in a narrative style. The lines are very short so that on the page the poem looks rigidly set left with two indentations where stanzas begin but without a break on the page as is usual. This is to emphasize the rigid nature of the concentration camp.
Chinuna Achebe, the poet of Vultures, uses imagery to create the picture of the ugly bird
“Bashed in head rooted in a dumb of gross feathers”
This description give you a vivid portrait of a vulture, the poet also portrays a vulture as a monstrous animal,
“They picked the eyes of a swollen corpse and ate the things in its bowels”
These descriptive phrases create an image of an evil bird, which she then goes on to compare to a commandant, saying that this evil man is so much worse than a vulture. This is very effective because the reader already has an awful image of a vulture in their head and then to say that this man is as evil if not more gives great impact to the reader.
Likewise the poet of Scavengers also uses imagery to describe the different people in the poem.
“Grey iron hair and hunched back, like some gargoyle Quasimodo”
“A hip three-piece linen suit with shoulder length blond hair”
These two descriptions of the different people are very contrasting not just in appearance but the poet also uses these descriptions to show the different life's these people live.
The poet of Scavengers uses repetition to build up effect. In the opening stanza, when describing the beautiful people in a Mercedes, the poet uses the word ‘elegant’ to describe both the car and the couple. Lawrence Ferlinghetti, the poet of Scavengers, uses repetition here to convey how rich and important these people are.
In the same way the poet of Vultures uses alliteration.
“The drizzle of one despondent dawn”
This is to construct the depressed feeling of the vulture and to set the tone of the poem.
Both poets use similes and metaphors to display a vivid image. In Scavengers Lawrence Ferlinghetti uses a simile to describe the older of the two Scavengers,
“Like some gargoyle Quasimodo”
The reference to Quasimodo has great effect because people already know the story of the ‘Hunchback of Notre Dame’ and he is portrayed as being an ugly creature, so the implication is that the scavenger is of the same nature.
In the same way, the poet of Vultures uses similar techniques when describing a vulture,
“Bone of a dead tree”
Here Chinua Achebe uses metaphorical images of death to confirm in the readers mind the grotesque bird which she is describing; also the image of death corresponds with the cruelty the commandant imposes upon others. Another example of the effective use of language in Vultures is her use of the idea of the cremated people as being like a ‘roast’ meal and then going on to pick up the idea by referring to his ‘tender’ child.
The poet of Scavengers uses a powerful metaphor to bring the poem to an end.
“Across that small gulf in the high seas of this democracy”
I think that this last sentence is like the key to the whole poem. I believe the poet is mocking the American democracy by sarcastically referring to ‘democracy’ which implies equality; having shown that these two sets of people can never be equal. He draws attention to the importance of this last sentence by using similar sounding words ‘seas’ and ‘democracy’. I perceive the underlying message behind the political meaning to be one of hope because towards the end he says,
“As if anything at all were possible”
I think he means in the future equality may be possible.
The point the poet is trying to make in vultures is that while we may not like what vultures do, it is there nature to do those things but for a human to behave in a similar way is inhuman. His behaviour is compared with a normal human in his relationship with his child. The very last stanza invites the reader to think about whether this humanity is good, because even somebody who acts in a monstrous way can also act in a human like way, or bad, because it shows that ordinary people can act in an evil way.
I think both poems are trying to show the readers how others live. They describe the different hardships people have to live with, being discriminated against, not having rights or equality. The two poems prove that the world is not a perfect place and that we shouldn’t take everyday possibilities for granted, because some people don’t get chances.