matt's poetry pocketbook:
poems and poets

Butterfly, Chinua Achebe

Comment on "Butterfly" by Chinua Achebe

This poem is about excess of force.

Excess means wealth which means comfort. The driver, comfortable, speeding along the highway, protected by the product of his knowledge, going somewhere (where?) occupies a man-made space. The butterfly, meandering towards the sunlight, directionless, a natural one. The contrast of forces is between man as technological and the butterfly as biological. The butterfly is blessed. The driver, fallen from grace, violent.

Sacrifice usually means transfiguration - grace overcoming violence and death. Not in this case. They meet at the crossroads, a pastoral image but also a location of business, exchange - perhaps therefore politics. If you need a political interpretation then consider the poem as about the comfortable violence of wealth.

Matthew John Williams
July 2003