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From the title: “to get ahead, get a head“, the reader would notice the play on words (pun), adopted by the poet in conveying the theme of the poem. The title phrase captures the pivotal role ‘head’ plays in ensuring success. ‘Head’, in Unuane’s “to get ahead, get a head “, may refer to executives/heads (leaders) in organisations; and also the popular ‘common sense’ in man.

This sonnet, like many others is divided in two parts, and relies on illustrations (of belligerent soldiers) to express its message. In the opening line of the octave (first eight lines), the picture of an army commandant is painted, as seen in “a star and logo in cap on head”. The ‘star’, could be a feature, that depicts the rank of the officer as higher than that of a foot soldier. In the following line, the commandant’s authoritative voice, in a bid to admonish his squad or battalion (as the case may be), yelled: “to get ahead, get a head”. The sanctity of a superior’s order, is also revealed in lines 3 & 4; “all eyes fixed on head (that is, the commandant). This is because failure in adhering to the experienced guy in warfare may lead to defeat and reprimand.

In creating a balance, lines 5 & 6 discuss the usefulness of every member, and how cooperation amongst them can help avert misfortune.

The oxymoronic line: “head attack, defence effect”, announce the end of the commandant’s speech and the battle, beginning. Picturesquely, the commandant orders his battalion to attack, while the enemies go into defence formation. As a result of cooperation and efficient communication between the head and other members, “haught-air filled buddies break through foe”.

In agreement with the scriptures, when it says “a house divided against itself shall not stand”, the last six lines X-ray the consequence of usurping constituted authority (neck rubbed mind with sword) and not consulting wisdom/common sense in our dealings.


Here is a link to the poem. To Get Ahead, Get a Head

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Osas Unuane

Osas Unuane

Osas Unuane

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