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The tone of an author roughly means the same thing as the mood. When examining the tone of a poet, it normally refers to the author's feelings towards the subject. In regards to poetry, on the other hand, the tone of the poem normally engages the reader's feelings (defining how the reader feels upon completing a reading) through the poet's choice of words (his or her style).
In Mbuyiseni Oswald Mtshali's poem "An Abandoned Bundle" the tone is set from the title.
When engaged readers think about abandonment, normally they become saddened. The imagery of the poem compounds this sadness.
The morning mist
and chimney smoke
of White City Jabavu
flowed thick yellow
as pus oozing
from a gigantic sore.
It smothered our little houses
like fish caught in a net.
draped in red bandanas of blood
for a squirming bundle.
The scene set for the reader is dismal. The use of the phrases "pus oozing from a gigantic sore" and "smothered our little house" paints a very vivid picture for the reader. The home of the speaker is less than ideal; instead, the mental picture created depicts horror and violence as the poem moves to the dogs fighting over the "squirming bundle."
Even with the speaker's attempt to save the child, hope for the baby is lost when the reader sees the following lines.
leaving a mutilated corpse-
an infant dumped on a rubbish heap-
The tone of the poem then changes. It is no longer helpless and dismal. The speaker's acknowledgement of the mother of the infant is sickening.
had melted into the rays of the rising sun,
her face glittering with innocence
her heart as pure as untrampled dew.
The scene of the oozing and smothered homes, the dogs attacking, and the mutilated body of the deceased baby is thrust against the scene of a mother with the sun shining on her innocent face.
By the end of the poem, the tone (or mood) while lightened dramatically, can fill the reader with hatred or anger. No longer are they worried about the homes choked by filth. Instead, the engaged reader is left furious at the mother abandoning her child, left to the dogs.
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