Describe the mood that Lisa Fugard evokes in her story “Night Calls.”

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In her story "Night Calls," Lisa Fugard evokes a mood of melancholy and wistfulness, both of which are tempered by hope and familial love. Description and setting are used throughout the story to convey to the reader the fraught emotional landscape that Marlene and her father must traverse in the...

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In her story "Night Calls," Lisa Fugard evokes a mood of melancholy and wistfulness, both of which are tempered by hope and familial love. Description and setting are used throughout the story to convey to the reader the fraught emotional landscape that Marlene and her father must traverse in the years following the tragic death of Marlene's mother in a car accident.

From the story's opening paragraph, which takes place about five years after their loss, Fugard sets the mood through Marlene's description of seeing her father as he picks her up from the train station on a break from boarding school:

I remember it all clearly, standing in the dust, watching him get out of the truck and walk toward me, noticing that there was no smile on his face but still feeling my body move toward him, my arms opening for an embrace, something rising in my throat.

Through the dust, no smile, arms opening, and an unnamed "something" rising in her throat, Fugard describes the haze of sadness and want which has become routine for father and daughter since both their lives were irrevocably changed through tragedy.

As the visit progresses, some of the most effective and heartbreaking examples of the pervasive melancholy take place in the weighty darkness of night:

I peered through the windows of the rooms we'd stopped using, the dining room with its yellow wood table, the living room where my mother's desk was still piled high with the field guides and books she'd used to identify unknown plants she'd come across. The outside light flickered on, and I found my father in the kitchen, heating up a tin of curry. We ate our dinner in silence, and then he read a book and I listened to the radio. I felt uncomfortable in the house and longed for the morning.

Then, again, two paragraphs later:

In bed, in the blackness, I listened to the night again. The jackal that had been barking the previous night had moved on, and it seemed quiet out there. It wasn't long before I heard the heron calling. I knew my father heard it as well, and I tried to picture him in his bed. I wondered if his heart beat like mine, an urgent knocking in my chest.

From the inescapable reminders of her mother to the silent dinner to the "urgent knocking" which Marlene imagines might be a point of connection for her father and her, Fugard deftly evokes the visceral experience of two people struggling to come to terms with their individual despair in the context of a parent-child relationship. Other places in the story where the mood is conveyed include how Marlene describes listening to her father's interaction with the heron before it disappears from its enclosure and the way in which Marlene's talent of mimicking birds functions as a means for connecting with people, first at boarding school and then at home with her father.

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This great story concerns one man's struggle to accept the death of his wife as viewed by his daughter. You will want to consider how the father as a character is described and in particular how the narrator's reminiscences of him at the beginning of the story differ from her description of him at the end, and the impact this has on the mood.

When the story begins, the narrator remembers her father's hands and how they appeared to her:

My father's hands were huge. Slablike. When he was idle, they seemed to hang off the ends of his arms like two chunks of meat. He sat on his hands during the months he courted my mother.

Note how the size of his hands is emphasised. They are compared to slabs and "two chunks of meat," somehow indicating the strength of her father. However, note how at the end of the story, his hands are described very differently:

My father stood up and looked across the water to where I was crouched. Again I made the sound, again and again. He took three more small steps toward my side of the river and his hands fluttered like giant, tawny moths in the moonlight.

Remembrances of his wife show that his strength has been sapped or taken away. Grief has made his once-strong hands "flutter" as if they were moths. Descriptions such as this help create the sombre, sad mood that dominates this story about grief and loss.

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