The Awakening Age by Ben Okri || Summary, Notes, Exercises || Grade XII Notes


4. The Awakening Age

About the Poet:

A winner of Man Booker prize for his novel The Famished Road, the Nigerian poet, fiction writer, and essayist Ben Okri (1949-) spent his early childhood in London. Informed by folk tales and dream logic, Okri’s writing also treats his family’s experience of the Nigerian civil war. In an interview for The National, Okri stated, “I grew up in a tradition where there are simply more dimensions to reality: legends and myths and ancestors and spirits and death. You can't use Jane Austen to speak about African reality. Which brings the question: what is reality? Everyone's reality is different. For different perceptions of reality we need a different language.”

About the Poem:

 Ben Okri , a Nigerian poet and novelist, in his poem "The Awakening Age” projects the sufferings obstacles and hardships of the African Negroes and appeals or calls for the peace, prosperity, happiness, liberation, unity and harmony among the people of the world. He wishes to awaken the whole world and its people from the world of darkness, and poverty to the awakening age of enlightenment The poem has seven stanzas and each stanza contains two lines. As the poem has altogether 14 lines, it looks like a sonnet. It opens with a colloquial word like 'Oye'. Then, he talks about journey of the people who travet in the meridian line, have vision of the new world. Here, these ordinary travellers may see sufferings and hardships of the poor people and wish to awaken them into the world of freedom, emancipation, equality, and prosperity of the modern world. Then, the poet talks about optimistic people who are very much hopeful about the woven history of mankind where they can climb over the hill through a rope of hope to obtain a new height. This rope of hope lead people to the age of enlightenment, empowerment, wisdom, equality and prosperity through hard works, creativity and hardships. They have clear heart full of purity and whiteness. Through this finely composed poem with apt rhyming schemes depicts the issues of partiality, inequality, poverty, racial and colour discrimination and he hopes to see the voice of equality, freedom, feelings of brotherhood, justice, unity and harmony among the people of the whole world. He prefers to see a loving place of equality where people help each other with brotherly and sisterly feelings. 


The poem "The Awakening Age" by Ben Okri is a poem of hope. Here in this poem, the poet has wished for all the miserable Nigerians who had been fragmented due to the devastating civil war that lasted for three crucial years. 

Here in this poem, the poet is wishing for their wellbeing after the outbreak of civil peace, a time for all to enter a new world of the awakening age. 

The poet wishes for all these miserable and fragmented Nigerian people that they may have a vision of a new world, a world of hope, prosperity, unity, truth, wisdom and creativity. He also wishes for them that they may experience the glory of the awakening age beyond their poverty rage. Here, by the awakening age, he refers to the age of enlightenment where there is peace, prosperity, liberation, joy, unity and harmony among people.

The poet has presented a suitable new world in the awakening age for all of them. He makes a call for all the Nigerians' hope to move further. For him, Nigerians are quite rich in their hopes and these hopes have connected them firmly from history. Next, he makes a call for their unity as well as solidarity to reach a new height of prosperity with positivity in their hearts. He also makes a call for their change in perceptions with truthfulness in a new world to gain much in their lives away from problems and pains. He talks about the new world of the awakening age where all these people have a chance to get jobs, wisdom and creativity beyond their poverty. In this state, their life will be joyous and they will be able to gain better in the time and space of the new world.

Understanding the text

a)    Who are the people ‘who travel the meridian line’?

The people 'who travel the meridian line' are those Nigerian people who have been divided into two sects as the south and the north due to the devastating civil war. These people have travelled a long path of hunger, poverty, unemployment and other aspects in their lives during their survival in fragmentations.

b)    What does the poet mean by ‘a new world’? 

By 'a new world', the poet means a fine world which is a world of hope, prosperity, unity, truth, wisdom and creativity. This is the world of united Nigeria that people have experienced after the outbreak of civil peace in Nigeria.

c)    How are people connected to each other?

People are connected to each other with hope from history. They are quite strong in their hopes. Due to this firm hope, they can rise to a new height of a prosperous and united nation with positivity and wisdom.

d)    What can we gain after our perceptions are changed? 

We can gain varieties of things after our perceptions are changed. Through changed perceptions, we can gain truthfulness away from problems and pains. When our perceptions are changed, we will be able to gain unity, truth, prosperity, work, wisdom and creativity. 

e)     How are we benefited by new people

We are benefited by new people by their support in various aspects. Our unity with them leads us towards a prosperous state. They support us to reach a new height where there is positivity in our hearts, truthfulness in our perceptions, work, wisdom and creativity.

f)      Describe the rhyme scheme of this sonnet.

There are altogether seven different stanzas that contain fourteen lines. Every stanza has two lines (couplet). The rhyme scheme of this sonnet is so simple and sonorous which has provided a rhythmic tone. Every stanza has a rhyming couplet. For example AA BB CC DD EE FF and GG. 


Reference to the context

a)     What does the poet mean by ‘the awakening age’

By 'the awakening age', the poet means an age of African people's recognition, realization, or coming into awareness of their condition, and the beginning of their new world. This age is the age of enlightenment where there is peace, prosperity, liberation, joy, unity and harmony among people. This age appears just after the bloody civil war of Nigeria. 

b)    Why, in your view, have these people ‘lived with poverty’s rage’?

In my view, these people have 'lived with poverty's rage' because they involved themselves in the bloody civil war for continuously three crucial years. During that time millions of people especially children died of starvation. They were concerned more in fighting for various internal issues regarding religion, culture, political ideology ethnicity etc. ignoring the sufferings of common Nigerians.

c)    Why does the poet appeal for solidarity among the people? 

The poet appeals for solidarity among people because he wants to see all the miserable Nigerians to reach a new height of prosperity in a new world, a world of hope, prosperity, unity, truth, wisdom and creativity. He believes that solidarity among people can only lead them towards perfection and prosperity.

d)    Does the poet present migration in a positive light? Why? Why not?

Yes, the poet presents migration in a positive light because he has presented this migration with immense positive hopes as well as good wishes. This isn't a physical migration of people but a migration of their state from one level to another through the mean of awakening. The poet wants to see them united, prosperous, truthful, wise, creative in a new world of awakening age away from the concept of miseries.

e)    Nepal is also known for its economic as well as educational migrants. Have you noticed any change in the perceptions and behaviours of these migrants when they return home from abroad?

Yes, I have noticed various changes in the perceptions and behaviours of these migrants when they return home from abroad. Migrants return home with immense joy in their minds and hearts. They feel extremely happy to step their motherland. They have good financial status and knowledge related to their foreign life. They try to show their imposing attitude over others. They try to be a bit standard and civilized than others. They try to expose themselves as if they are of high social status. After spending some days in Nepal, they start talking rubbish about their own country regarding jobs and opportunities. But some people wish to stay in their motherland and do business in their own country. People's perceptions and behaviours change according to their own experiences of the time and situations which they have spent or faced. Most of them wish to go to foreign lands again and again. Some of them wish to stay in Nepal and try to apply their skills for the development of their nation as well as their people. Some migrants try to reveal their experiences of foreign lands to others. They try to work for the welfare as well as the development of people and the nation. 

f)     Relate the rhyme scheme of this sonnet to the kind of life idealized by the poet.

This poem "The Awakening Age" by Ben Okri is a poem of hope where we find the rhyme scheme of AA BB CC DD EE FF and GG. Every couplet of seven different stanzas is perfect in its rhyme as well as meaning. With the help of the rhyme scheme of the poem, the poet is able to present the idealized life of Nigerian people in a new world of the awakening age. All these rhyming words at the end of couplets have a direct connection with the Nigerian people's lives and their ideal way of living along with wisdom, realisation, hope, prosperity, truth, opportunities and joy. His wonderful rhyming scheme has perfectly presented his hopes as well as well wishes regarding the ideal life of Nigerian people in a new world.

Reference beyond the context

a)    Write an essay on 'The Impacts of Migration on Nepali Society'.

The Impacts of Migration on Nepali Society

In recent days, migration in Nepal is a lot more in trend. Most Nepalese people are on the way to migration. People are seen migrating in both levels as internal migration and external migration. People are migrating to urban areas within the country and also to foreign lands. The sole cause behind their migration is to seek better living standards as well as opportunities. Nowadays, it is quite difficult to find out youth manpower in the country. Most of the youths of Nepal have moved to foreign lands in the name of education and jobs and settled their lives over there. The rural areas are facing a lack of youths. In most villages of Nepal, elderly people are living miserable lives. Most youths are spending their lives working in urban areas as well as foreign lands. Nepali societies are facing very bad impacts due to this concept of migration.

Following are some of the bad impacts of migration on Nepali society:

1.     The number of youths is decreasing rapidly.

2.      Most Nepalese societies are facing a lack of youth manpower.

3.     The relationship between people is becoming weaker.

4.     In most societies of Nepal, elderly people are spending their lonely life in a very miserable state.

5.     Due to the lack of people in societies, people are experiencing loneliness during the time of festivals. 

6.     There is no sense of love, affection, care, co-operation, security, peace and harmony among people of societies.

7.     Due to the lack of people, the development of societies even has decreased.

8.     The prime concept of humanity itself is in a question mark.

9.     People are seen away from relationships and selfishness among people is seen.

10.   Birth rate has also decreased dramatically. 




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