Analysis of "Building the nation" Notes

Analysis of "Building the nation" Notes

Building the nation

By Henry Barlow (Uganda)

Today I did my share

In building the nation.

I drove a Permanent Secretary

To an important urgent function

In fact to a luncheon at the Vic.


The menu reflected its importance

Cold Bell beer with small talk,

Then fried chicken with niceties

Wine to fill the hollowness of the laughs

Ice-cream to cover the stereotype jokes

Coffee to keep the PS awake on return journey.


I drove the Permanent Secretary back.

He yawned many times in back of the car

Then to keep awake, he suddenly asked,

Did you have any lunch friend?

I replied looking straight ahead

And secretly smiling at his belated concern

That I had not, but was slimming!


Upon which he said with a seriousness

That amused more than annoyed me,

Mwananchi, I too had none!

I attended to matters of state.

Highly delicate diplomatic duties you know,


And friend, it goes against my grain,

Causes me stomach ulcers and wind.

Ah, he continued, yawning again,

The pains we suffer in building the nation!

So the PS had ulcers too!

My ulcers I think are equally painful

Only they are caused by hunger,

No sumptuous lunches!


So two nation builders

Arrived home this evening

With terrible stomach pains

The result of building the nation –

-          Different ways.





Henry Barlow


‘Building the nation is a symbolic and ironical title. It is symbolic because it symbolizes the whole building process of something especially a nation. And it is ironical because it satirizes the people who boast that they are true national builders while they are not.


“Building the nation’ is about the views from two different national builders. The first one is the leader and he publicly claims to be the real national builder while in reality he is not. The second national builder is a true one although he does no say it publicly. Despite their differences, they are all nation builders.


1st Stanza

The stanza relates the daily routine of the Permanent Secretary's driver who drives a PS to various places. In this stanza, the driver explains how he has participated in building the nation by driving a PS to luncheon at the Vic. To PS, this is an important, urgent function to attend.

2nd Stanza

The persona who is the PS Driver explains what has happened at important function at the Vic. he explains how PS and his fellow dignitaries enjoy eating and drinking at the Vic. They eat and drink as they share small talks, laughs and some jokes.

3rd Stanza

The driver says he drove the PS back after the luncheon is over. On the way back, PS is tired and yawning many times in the back of the car. When PS asks the driver if he had any lunch at the Vic, the driver says he hadn't but he is slimming. PS is indifferent to the driver; he doesn't care what his driver eats while he is enjoying with others at the Vic.

4th Stanza

In this stanza, PS continue to be indifferent to the driver. He also says that he had taken no lunch as well. This response amuses the driver. The PS says he only attended to matters of the State and diplomatic duties. This is hypocrisy of the PS and other leaders because they were not really at the matters of the state and diplomatic duties. They were just enjoying themselves.

5th Stanza

PS explains that all he is not interested in those things and they cause him stomach ulcers and wind. He says those are the pains they suffer in building the nation as leaders. The driver too says he has ulcers but they are caused by hunger but not by sumptuous lunches which are always attended by PS.

6th Stanza

The last stanza finalizes the poem by commenting on these two national builders. They all arrive home with terrible stomach pains as result of building the nation.



(Who is speaking in the poem). The persona of this poem is ironical, desperate, sad and angry man who ridicules, satirizes and disapproves the irresponsible leaders like the Permanent Secretary.


(Whom the speaker is speaking to). The addressee of this poem is the leader or leaders who are hypocritical and does not care much about his/her people.


The tone of the poet is ironic, satirical, sad and angry.



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Emmanuel Kachele

Emmanuel Kachele is a founder and Blogger of KACHELE ONLINE Blog, an educational blog where 'O' Level English - 'OLE', 'A' Level English (ALE) and other related teaching and life skills are shared extensively. This is an online center for all Tanzanian Secondary School English Language students and teachers (Forms I-VI) and all interested English Language learners and teachers worldwide.

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