Analysis of Discarded Tins by Lakdasa Wikkaramasinha


Lakdasa Wickkremasinha is a Sri Lankan poet. The language style used by the poet is filled with local names and idiomatic phrases. In expressing his ideas, he uses Sinhala local idiom and even words closer to our native language, yet maintaining the serenity of expression, rhythm and rhyme. (However he has been deviated from his usual style in this poem.) 

The poem Discarded Tins was written in the year 1970 where the socio political background of Sri Lanka was under a huge turmoil. The society was like a volcano about to be erupted. Ann Ranasinghe in her poem ‘At What Dark Point’ reveals the surrounding of the country like:

I know

that anything is possible

any time. There is no safety

in poems or music or even in

philosophy. No safety

in houses or temples

of any faith. And no one knows

at what dark point the time will come again

blood and knives, terror and pain

of jackboots and the twisted strand

of rope.


Therefore, the poem Discarded Tins though seemed to be simple, is a profile of the society in 70s. Lakdasa Wickkremasinha reveals how people enter the world of violence when they are casted out of the society. They become powerful by means of anti-social activities and the support of affluent people and returns to the very society that they were casted out and unleash their bottled up anger upon the society that ill-treated them and discarded them like discarded tins. 



Title: Discarded means rejected after use. When the tins or cans are used, it becomes useless and thrown into the heaps of garbage. According to the poem these tins can create unhealthy environment becoming a place to breed mosquitoes. The poet may try to draw parallels with this incident to the society comparing discarded tins to a community living in places like slums who are not given the acceptance like the others in the society and the people who are rejected from the ordinary society are pushed into the slums making them anti-social characters.

Form: Two stanzas, irregular length of lines and free verse. Subtle internal rhymes. both stanzas start with a preposition void of connection to the real subject matter.

Tone: Critical, ironic and less emotional

Mood: suspenseful, emotionally disturbed, tensed

Themes: violence caused by social discrimination, violence backed up by corrupted affluent people,

Narration: third person narration, just like a news report by a journalist peeping into the society and disclosing even the smaller details.


Deep-end Analysis

Of the discarded, empty tin of milk in the refuse

in the rainy season breeding mosquitoes

of the discarded cigarette tin, and tobacco tin,

an numerous other tins, are made the last

returns of the community of the slums

to their fortunate urban brothers,

and their own rich brothers,

and their enemies who masquerade with their women.


parallelism: The poet keeps discarded things and people in the slums with the fortunate, rich people in the society side by side to compare and contrast the lives of them.

repetition: brother (show the connection which should have been, but the society has been divided)

anaphora: and their (to emphasize that both parties can be affected by the rage of people from slums.)


The poet in the first stanza compares the actual disposed tins with the people who are discarded from the society. in the first part of the stanza poet visualizes how the empty tins thrown into the garbage piles become a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Similarly, the number of discarded tins returns to the society which casted away by itself. Poet suggests that those tins are a threat to the society like the breeding places for mosquitoes.

These tins, at metaphorical level can be the people who were casted away from the society into the slums. Poet contrast their predicament using ‘fortunate urban brothers’ to show their misfortune and ‘own rich brothers’ to show their poverty. As well as poet shows the people who enjoy their life masquerading with their women as their enemies as those discarded people cannot enjoy those luxuries in their lives. The tins returning to the rich and fortunate society in the form of hatred seemingly a threat to the so called rich society, however, they were used and casted away by that society itself. Therefore, the poet points out that the society itself should be responsible for the outcomes of their own actions.   


Without having to pay ten rupees or fifteen or twenty or two

for them are the numerous discarded tins

taken into the backroom of this tenement and this hovel,

and this gaudy mansion of the businessman

with his five women with huge bellies

for them are he’d in these tins now sleek and silver,

wrapped in paper, the terrible explosions that must happen

And continually happen in the wrong places.


juxtaposition/ parallelism: ‘ten rupees or fifteen’, ‘tenement and hovel’ vs ‘gaudy mansion’, ‘his five women’ (poet keeps the lives of discarded people and the lives of wealthy businessmen side by side to compare and contrast the living conditions of both sets of people)

visual imagery: gaudy mansion, women with huge bellies

alliteration: sleek and silver

metaphor: huge bellies (corruption, over consumption, luxurious life)


The period of time when the poem was written had been an era of turmoil as we revealed earlier. In those periods there was a tendency among groups of underworld members to throw homemade bombs at their enemies. Those homemade bombs were made using empty cans, tins and bottles. The poet hints about that in this stanza as it seems. 

Poet critically reveals how the marginalized people in the society are cheaply used by corrupted wealthy people in order to achieve their personal gains. The people from slums as well as the tins are both used to create anti-social characters as well as explosives by wealthy businessmen. They lead a luxurious life consuming more than they required and, in their hands the discarded people and tins become destructive weapons that blast at wrong places. Poet uses the word ‘wrong places’ might suggest that the explosions occur in the places where ordinary people dwell, who have no connection to create the divisions in the society.

The poet Lakdasa Wickkremasinha through his poem urges to reveal another dark side of the society, which is applicable to the present day world too. He was usually used to write his poems using the words with local colorings but here he has changed his diction and choice of words carefully to generate the exact mood he wanted to deliver.

There may be counter arguments regarding this analysis, the events behind this poem were examined using historical events in Sri Lanka using Wikipedia and some extracts were taken from the Sunday Observer digital version. As there are not much on the internet about this poem, this post needs a bit upgrade as I think, kindly share your ideas about this analysis in the comment section. Share the analysis if you find it useful to others.

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