The Crow by Charles Mungoshi
In The Crow by Charles Mungoshi we have the theme of obsession, fear, brutality, control and relief. Narrated in the first person by an unnamed young boy it becomes clear to the reader after reading the story that Mungoshi may be exploring the theme of obsession. Both the narrator and Chiko are obsessed with killing the crow. If anything they are determined and single minded when it comes to the matter of killing the crow. This may be significant as Mungoshi may be attempting to highlight how a mundane task can overpower an individual. It doesn’t help that both boys should be in Church and there is a sense that what the boys are doing, not only missing church, but their actions are evil and driven by superstition. Both boys believe that the crow is an evil premonition and that it is bad luck. Which is incorrect and more based on folklore than on any type of reality. Crows in general are disliked by people though there is no good reason for this. Like humans they try and survive in the world. They’re not perfect but they are also not evil.
Many readers might also notice that Mungoshi limits the space that the boys hunt in. This may be significant as he may be suggesting that the boys know very little about the world. They know how to be brutal but they may not necessarily know how to be kind. It is also clear to the reader that both boys are afraid but they are too proud to admit it to one another. It is as though each boy has an image he must sustain in order to hold onto his rung on the social ladder. Neither boy gives the other an inch when it comes to showing fear. Even Chiko gets angry when he throws the crow into the river and then his catapult. It is as though he knows he has beaten the crow but there is no sense of joy for his efforts. Just as the crow has been killed. Something has also died in Chiko and the narrator. Who follows Chiko’s lead and throws his catapult into the river. Symbolically the discarding of the catapults might be important and it suggests that not only are both boys defeated but they also know they have gone too far. Perhaps they are hoping the river will wash away their ‘sin.’
There is other symbolism in the story which may be important. The crow itself not only represents evil to the boys but more importantly the crow is part of nature and the boys are pitting themselves against nature and inevitably lose out. Even though they have managed to kill the crow. The church too highlights everything that is good and Mungoshi using the killing of the crow and the fact that the boys skipped church may be using both as an allegory. Both boys know that they really should be in church. If they had of gone they would not have gotten so low in themselves. The crow was also harmless and causing no problems to others. If anything the crow is the victim and both boys are the perpetrators of a dissatisfying action. An action that leaves Chiko crying and the narrator realizing that he too has made a mistake.
The end of the story is also interesting as both boys have a moment of realisation. They know they have gone too far and that their game playing has had a serious side. They have brutally slaughtered the crow, who again is harmless, and are paying the price for their actions. It is also clear that the boys hunting may also be over after the incident with the crow. There has been no joy in the killing of the crow only a sense of sadness and regret. Symbolized again by the fact that both boys throw away their catapults. No longer finding their game to be fun. Nonetheless the lesson the boys needed to learn has been learnt. They know that the crow is harmless and not the stuff of witchcraft that they had previously thought. Perhaps something good will come from what has happened and the boys will be more careful in future. Though again they might not necessarily go hunting again. Having been beaten by their actions and how they treated the crow. If anything the boys may have grown up through their actions.