What is the tone of the poem "An Abandoned Bundle" by M. Mtshali?

Quick answer:

The tone of M. Mtshali's "An Abandoned Bundle" is initially dismal and helpless, marked by vivid, haunting imagery of squalor and violence. However, the tone shifts towards the end, becoming filled with anger or hatred towards the mother who abandoned her child. The poem's themes may vary for readers, but they often center on desperation and the harsh realities of life in South Africa.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

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.

Scavenging dogs
draped in red bandanas of blood
fought fiercely
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.

Its mother
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.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Discuss the theme of the poem "An Abandoned Bundle," by M. Mtshali.

The theme of a poem (or any literary text) refers to the central idea or message provided for the reader. Given that not all readers come to recognize the same message or central idea, themes of a literary piece can differ.

In regards to Mbuyiseni Oswald Mtshali's poem "An Abandoned Bundle," the theme can differ for each reader. The theme will differ based upon how the reader comes to define the message of the poem. Therefore, possible themes for the poem are as follows.

First, one could look at the poem as one which speaks to the desperation of people. Both the speaker and the woman seem to be desperate. The speaker throws a brick at a pack of dogs attacking a bundled infant. The mother, desperate to escape the burden of her child, abandons the child.

Second, the poem could be speaking to the realities of life in South Africa (given the nationality of the poet). The poem details the horrendous nature of the village:

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.

The suffering nature of the village is oppressive, like a net over a fish. While the speaker does not show a desire to escape like the mother, the oppressive nature of where they live is evident in both the descriptions of the village and the mother's exit from her life:

Its mother
had melted into the rays of the rising sun,
her face glittering with innocence
her heart as pure as untrampled dew.

In the end, the theme of the poem cannot be ultimately defined given all readers come to understand the poem in different ways.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Last Updated on