The Anvil and The Hammer by Kofi Awonoor

Caught between the anvil and the hammer

In the forging house of a new life

Transforming the pangs that delivered me

Into the joy of new songs

The trapping of the past, tender and tenuous

 Woven with fibre of sisal and

Washed in the blood of the goat in the fetish hut

Are laced with the flimsy glories of paved streets

The jargon of a new dialectic comes with the

Charisma of the perpetual search on the outlaw’s hill.

 

Sew the old days for us, our fathers,

That we can wear them under our new garment,

After we have washed ourselves in

The whirlpool of the many rivers’ estuary

We hear their songs and rumours everyday

Determined to ignore these we use snatches

From their tunes

Make ourselves new flags and anthems

 While we lift high the banner of the land

And listen to the reverberation of our songs

In the splash and moan of the sea

 


Background

The poem The Anvil and The Hammer was written by Kofi Awonoor, an acclaimed literary icon and poet from Ghana. Born George Kofi Nyidevu Awoonor-Williams in Wheta, Ghana in 1953, he studied in Ghana, England and the United States of America. He worked as a university lecturer and also represented his country on the international scene in various capacities. He authored the controversial novel, This Earth, my brother. Kofi Awonoor was among those killed by terrorists during an attack at the Westgate Shopping Mall in Nairobi in 2013.

Analysis

Literally, an anvil is a tool with a hard surface used mostly by blacksmiths to work iron. The blacksmith often strikes the surface of the anvil with a hammer. The poem The Anvil and the Hammer derives its title from this activity.

The poem is about the clash of cultures especially the Western and African cultures influenced mainly by the many years of colonisation by the West. The result is a cultural twist leading to a change in norms, values, ethos and the general way of life of the African people: Caught between the anvil and the hammer/In the forging house of a new life.

Just as the anvil and the hammer work to shape a new piece of metal, the poet believes that rather than discard the African culture, Western ideas could be used to shape and

refine African traditions to create a new Africa. The poet portrays the old African way of life and traditional practices in the following words: The trapping of the past, tender and tenuous/ Woven with fibre of sisal and/Washed in the blood of the goat in the fetish hut. He compares these with the Western culture foisted on Africans through religion and a new system of government. He laments that African values and traditions have been largely eroded –Are laced with the flimsy glories of paved streets/The jargon of a new dialectic comes with the/ Charisma of the perpetual search on the outlaw’s hill. Note the use of the word “flimsy” which he employs to portray the attractions of the Western culture.

In the second stanza, he appeals to his ancestors to help restore the old African ways. Sew the old days for us, our fathers/That we can wear them under our new garment. While he admits that Western culture has indeed come to stay and would continuously influence African culture, he pleads for a synergy of both cultures for a better Africa: Determined to ignore these we use snatches/ From their tunes/Make ourselves new flags and anthems/While we lift high the banner of the land.

Structure

The poem has two contrasting stanzas. While the first stanza describes the conflict between African traditions and western civilisation, the second stanza offers solution to the conflict- Sew the old days for us, our fathers,/That we may wear them under our new garment. The solution lies in creating a balance of both cultures.

The Anvil and the Hammer is a free verse poem. It has no consistent meter pattern or rhythm.

Mood and Tone

The mood is nostalgic- The trapping of the past, tender and tenuous/ Woven with fibre of sisal and Washed in the blood of goat in the fetish hut/. The tone reflects hope: Sew the old days for us, our fathers,/ That we can wear them under our new garment,

Themes:

1. Clash of cultures

2. Resolution of the clash through cultural synergy

3. Revival of the African culture

Poetic Devices

1. Metaphor

The poem is metaphoric. The two cultures are likened to the anvil and the hammer: “Caught between the anvil and the hammer”. The colonial experience leading to the independence of many African nations is described as “the forging house of a new life”. The word “pangs” (like birth pangs) in the third line represents our cultural values.

2. Imagery

The poem contains powerful imagery that helps to deepen the reader’s thoughts. The poet uses many symbols beginning from the use of the words “anvil” and “hammer” which represent clash of cultures. The old African ways are described as follows: The trapping of the past, tender and tenuous/woven with fibre of sisal and/Washed in the blood of the goat in the fetish hut/. Western civilisation is described as follows: “…flimsy glories of paved streets/ The jargon of a new dialectic comes with the/ Charisma of the perpetual search on the outlaw’s hill”.

3. Oxymoron: A figure of speech in which contradictory terms appear together. Example: “flimsy glories“.

4. Antithesis: Sew the old days for us, our fathers,/That we can wear them under our new garment,

5. Alliteration: Example- The trapping of the past, tender and tenuous


See also The Dining Table, Ambush, Vanity, The Anvil and the Hammer, The school boy, and Othello.

 

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  1. Brima S. K. Koroma Reply

    l like your analysis. Keep it up!

    • Dayo Okubule Reply

      Thanks Brima S.K.

  2. Brima S. K. Koroma Reply

    I am urgently in need of a detailed analysis on the “proud king” a peom by william morris. Hope you may send it to mail.Thanks in advance.

  3. Francis Reply

    Nice… It been a while. Thanks you; your analysis was of a great help.

    • Dayo Okubule Reply

      @ Francis. I’m really glad to have you back. I’m sorry the bookconvo site crashed. I had to redirect the url to the bookstore. I look forward to your contributions on this blog. Kindly advise Mohammed Bah on how to study for the 2016 WAEC literature exams. You can view his comment in the WAEC/NECO Literature Study Guide post.

      • Francis Reply

        I’m here again, thanks for the link. And as for Mohammed Bah, I think he should read your new post on how to answer questions on literature. It will help.

  4. Alade Adeola Reply

    I need help about studying literature……

    • Dayo Okubule Reply

      If you want to study literature successfully, you have to enjoy reading. You could start with reading the prescribed texts, discussing them in class with your colleagues and asking questions in literature classes. You may then gradually move on to reading other literary works and paying attention to details.

  5. Ajiboye yinka Reply

    I love ur analysis. Pls. how can I get the video tape of She Stoops to Conquer and Othello?

  6. I k Reply

    The analysis is very clear and direct. The anvil and the hammer, a very nice poem from a controversial, but honourable man. I might be wrong based on my perspective concerning this poem. I think this poem is about sudden attainment of independence along colonial strain and rediscover y. TThe anvil and the hammer represents the ground where treaty were signed. Take a closer examination of the law court the legislative chambers, u will remember that which is knocked when a case has been deccidedcoded . This poem is filled with symbols.

    • Dayo Okubule Reply

      I quite agree that the poem is symbolic and capable of varying interpretations. That’s the beauty of literature. Thanks for the comment and contribution.

  7. oluwafemi Reply

    Actually, it is a thing of Joy for me to come across this platform. Saddened by the thought that aestheticism has faded away in the world of paper and ink, but with this, I sense a restoration of art within me. Kudos to you adm. About the analysis, a job well done it is. Dear adm, it will double my joy if you could like my group on facebook christened “aestheticism” for a better promotion of mother lit.

  8. S. A. Yunus Reply

    it really a great job

  9. S. A. Yunus Reply

    it really a great work

  10. Bless Adomaa Reply

    I am glad to come across this page.simple analysis.pls i need a guide on hw literature questions are set.

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  12. boakye prince Reply

    pls help me with this question….Kofi Awoonor discuss the dailima that exist among educated africans in The Anvil and Hammer…to what extent is the statement true pls

  13. Owoseni Reply

    Wow! This is a wonderful platform and i would like to be a member. Thanks

  14. alade Adeola Reply

    I need help in understanding this book.

  15. Stanley Nolly Reply

    @ Admin.. wat a powerful interpretation u rendered here…. l lyk ur angle to this analysis as it matches my literary point of view…. I,sincerely, will b looking forward to yet to come analysis on poems, especially, African poetry….. Thanks

  16. Tobey Reply

    God bless you Ma’am.Long live Dayo Okubule

  17. vivian Reply

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  18. precious eyo Reply

    pls I need an explanation on the following poems.. i. Alfred Tennyson : Crossing the Bar
    ii. George Herbert : The Pulley
    iii. William Blake : The School Boy
    iv. William Morris : The Proud King
    like every information on them, etc thanks you so much.

    • kingjaycee Reply

      yea i also need an explanation on them too, piano and drums ,etc. thanks

  19. Adetula Christopher Reply

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  20. kingjaycee Reply

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  21. Tayo Olatunde Reply

    A very precise and brilliant analysis I must say. You have actually said it all and the earlier commenters simply added to it accurately.

    May I just reiterate that Awonoor, in ‘The Anvil and the Hammer’ quite agrees to the fact of an interplay or clash of cultures (Western and African) courtesy of the advent of the West in Africa, centuries ago….

    However, Awonoor is of the opinion that the interplay of the two cultures should rather bring a new and worthwhile Africa we all dream of. That is, just like a blacksmith brings a desired shape to an iron from the ‘clash’ between the anvil and the hammer. The blacksmith puts a hot iron on the anvil and strikes it with hammer to bring the desired shape, form or look.

    As such, instead of condemning African culture and watch it go into extinction, we should use the influence of Western civilization to bring the best out of African culture. Instead of prioritising Western culture at the detriment of African culture, the two can be harmonized to bring a new look to Africa….

    Awonoor does not condemn either the Western civilization or the African culture, but is of the opinion to utilize the influence of the former for the betterment of the latter.

    • Dayo Okubule Reply

      Thanks for contributing to the topic. Your comment would go a long way in aiding students’ understanding of the poem. Thanks once again.

  22. Chioma Reply

    I love books to my door keep it up

  23. Ekowo Francis Pundit Reply

    This help me to understand that deeper meaning of the text, tnx. I know little of Awoonor’s death if not for this leaflets.

  24. Michael Omoregbee Reply

    Tayo Olatunde, I do not agree with you totally. The diction the poet uses seems to suggest that he tilts in the direction of the African, almost apologetically, though. You cannot miss the fact that the “old days” are worn “under”, closest to the skin and heart. In contrast, the “glories” (brought in by the West) are “flimsy” and the “new dialectics” are a “jargon”. You cannot miss the contrast of “their songs” with “our songs”. Notice too that, in an attempt to silence or mitigate the Western penetration, (“determined to ignore these”) the persona says they use “snatches” from their “tunes” as a defence mechanism.
    Finally, you cannot miss the last lines, the endearing persistence of the African imagery, seemingly saying that when all is said and done, we still “lift high the banner of the land/And listen to the reverberation of our songs/In the splash and moan of the sea.

  25. Michael Omoregbee Reply

    Tayo Olatunde, I do not agree with you totally. The diction the poet uses seems to suggest that he tilts in the direction of the African, almost apologetically, though. You cannot miss the fact that the “old days” are worn “under”, closest to the skin and heart. In contrast, the “glories” (brought in by the West) are “flimsy” and the “new dialectics” are a “jargon”. You cannot miss the contrast of “their songs” with “our songs”. Notice too that, in an attempt to silence or mitigate the Western penetration, (“determined to ignore these”) the persona says they use “snatches” from their “tunes” as a defence mechanism.
    Finally, you cannot miss the last lines, the endearing persistence of the African imagery, seemingly saying that when all is said and done, we still “lift high the banner of the land/And listen to the reverberation of our songs/In the splash and moan of the sea.

  26. helen Reply

    tanks

  27. Miracle Robinson Reply

    Am so happy that in my quest to learn,I came across this page …my thanks goes to you Barrister Dayo your analysis has really contributed a great deal for me …Thanks.

  28. david Reply

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  29. Bright Chidi Reply

    It feels good to be here, i was unable to get some of the recommended text From our local bookshop here bou With ur help barr i think am ready.. Thank you soo much

  30. khool khat Reply

    Think i found the best book site.!. Awesome analyses. Jamb here i come. .

  31. Hope Aham Reply

    You are More than i think, it was else understandable thanks.

  32. Oguta linda Reply

    Wow,just speechless finally found a place I can run to,ur guys are wonderful.i enjoyed every bit of the summary

  33. Nkani Collins Reply

    That’s À great job. Weldon

  34. Glory Reply

    Honestly, I am really impressed,I found literature very very cumbersome or do i say I believed that it is my achileel’s heels, thanks to a friend that changed my mindset on that and to “books to the door ” i am grateful for this site please ma kudos. this is a nice site for we students mostly when faced with the challenges or comprehending literature and its devices, thank you ma once again.

  35. martins Reply

    books to my door ur analysis is the best

  36. Sorious Jay Reply

    Hi Ma How Are You I Found This Of Your Website And It’s Very Educate

  37. Bucci Godwin Reply

    Where there is clash of culture one has to bend for d other
    to me d persona sees d western culture (d hammer) as an imposition on d African culture (d anvil)
    tho we try to ignore it wich proved fruitless he begs our fathers to sew d old ways for us dat we may wear it under our garment i.e dat we may nt entirely 4get our African culture.

    • Dayo Okubule Reply

      @Bucci. I love your interpretation of the symbols “anvil” and “hammer”. I share your views. Thanks for the contribution.

  38. Bucci Godwin Reply

    Loving dis site great wrk ma’am

  39. Modestus Reply

    consciously or unconsciously, u have bin a huge blessing to many. God bless u real gud @Dayo.

  40. Dayil Cletus Reply

    can you imaging I spent more than eight hours on this site without regretting anything I read? thanks ma’am

  41. Dayil Cletus Reply

    I wish I do see THE PROUD KING here before Thursday so I will read before the Lit-in-English Waec exam’s

  42. Umar Al'amin Reply

    Thank you very much….You are doing a great job assisting students like myself….keep it up…May God Almighty in his supreme mercy reward your Efforts ABUNDANTLY

  43. Oluwatobi Reply

    Wonderful guide for teachers and students alike. I enjoy this site.

  44. isatou s sankoh Reply

    thanks for making things easier.everthing is great…….

  45. isatou s sankoh Reply

    am a student preparing for wassce.u ar great.once again thanks

  46. nhorah Reply

    examine two theatre used in anvil and the hammer.. please answer

  47. Mercy Odamtten Reply

    what a poem! It educate Africans on their rich culture

  48. Thomas Reply

    Thanks !For your effort,i realy understnd what u mean.

  49. Teye Samuel Reply

    Thank, you helper of students.
    Blessed be unto you for your great work done.Continue to give us more.

  50. Dawam Dogorsuk Reply

    I am contented and impressed with the analysis. Thank

  51. D SESAY Reply

    In my own view, the poem, Anvil and the hammer ” is mainly an attempt by the poet to underscore the imposition of Western ideologies on the native African. The persona says, he is being caught between the anvil and the hammer in an attempt to shape him so that he dances to the tune of Western ideologies. He thus prays for a preservation of his African values as he wishes to wear them under “our new garment”

  52. Favour Ejim Reply

    Pls can you examine the theme of nostalgia in the poem

  53. Umeh Influence Reply

    God bless u as u send more

  54. akpoesiri Reply

    I love ur analysis keep it up

  55. Tam Paleowei Reply

    Am so much happy to have come in contact with such a platform as this, thank u so much Ma.
    Please is there any group on whatsapp /facebook created for this purpose?

  56. Emmanuel Reply

    pls I want the diction in the poem The anvil and the Hammer through my Gmail account.

  57. Friday Reply

    Dear Dayo,
    Am sitting for this year’s WAEC private GCE. Is the syllabus the same with that of Internal WAEC? Below is a partial breakdown of the Literature requirement of the syllabus I have.

    Kindly assist.

    African Prose
    (1) AmmaDarko – Faceless
    (2) BayoAdebowale – Lonely Days

    Non-African Prose
    (1) Richard Wright – Native Son
    (2) Patience Swift – The Last Goodman

    *William Shakespeare:OTHELLO

    Non-African Drama
    (1) Oliver Goldsmith – She Stoops to conquer
    (2) Lorraine Hansberry – A Raisin in the Sun

    African Drama
    (1) Frank Ogodo Ogbeche – Harvest of Corruption
    (2) Dele Charley – The Blood of a Stranger

    African Poetry
    (1) Birago Drop – Vanity
    (2) GbemisolaAdeoti – Ambush
    (3) Gabriel Okara – Piano and Drums
    (4) Gbanabam Hallowell – The Dinning Table
    (5) Lenrie Peter – The Panic of Growing Older
    (6) Kofi Awoonor – The Anvil and the Hammer

    Non-African Poetry
    (1) Alfred Tennyson – Crossing the Bar
    (2) George Herbert – The pulley
    (3) William Blake – The School Boy
    (4) William Morris – The Proud King
    (5) Robert Frost Birches – Birches
    (6) William Shakespeare – Shall I compare thee to a Summer’s Day?

    Secondly, can you assist me with a full text of William Shakespeare’s Othello?

    Best regards.

  58. Ansu Koneh Reply

    Thanks for the poem’s analysis. Would you highlight on its social setting?
    Moreover, which one of the forces overrun the poet in the end?

  59. Caleb frimpong Reply

    pls is there any whatsapp/facebook group created so we can join?

  60. Joel Amoah-Darkwah Reply

    Great i like your analysis
    Mad.Dayo keep it up

  61. Owolabi Philip Reply

    It’s great reading this summary on the anvil and the hammer

  62. Nii Ayi Reply

    i would like to get in touch. i really love teaching literature i think you could be a good resource person to turn to any time.

    kindly keep in touch

  63. Ezekiel Amadu Koroma Reply

    Your analysis are brief but contain what I need from the poem, ‘Anvil and the Hammer’
    Thank you very much.

  64. Opeyemi Reply

    thanks the analysis really help me.

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