The Symbolism of the Sun in Charles Mungoshi, "Before the Sun"

Essay by konni93High School, 10th grade April 2009

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The sun claims a central role in Charles Mungoshi´s "Before the Sun", as can already be derived from the title. Upon closer reading, one can detect a three-fold symbolicism relating to the sun, mainly as a representant of life, but also in a religious sense.

There is, apart from the diverse metaphorical meanings, a strong thread of literal descriptions throughout the poem. The first thing that immediately strikes the reader is the simplicity of the language as well as the story-line. Over these, it is easy to oversee the deeper meanings. The description of the log as "big" sounds plain, almost pathetic. The only simile containing imagery is the description of the sunrise as "some/ latecomer to a feast". This lack complete lack of sophisticated language aids the development of a colloquial relationship between the boy and the sun, which is personified through the way the boy treats it simply as a friend.

The boy waits for the sun, suggesting childish impatience through the word "finally". The sun "winks", but the poet does not leave it at that, he adds "LIKE a grown-up". Is the emphasis put on "like", the line may be interpreted as the poem´s most direct statement that the sun is indeed not a "grown-up",and therefore,a child, contrasting sharply with the image of power and potence that the sun has in references throughout literary history.

Another recurring image is that of sanctity. It is most obviously expressed in the two references to sacrifice, the smoke a "scrificial prayer", as well as the offering of the cobs of maize, reminding of food offerings to sun deities as a symbol of worship practised by various ancient cultures. The title "Before the Sun" immediately paints an image of someone kneeling in prayer and again strengthens the idea of sacrifice.