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An Abandoned Bundle - Poem Analysis

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claire barri

on 21 September 2016

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Transcript of An Abandoned Bundle - Poem Analysis


Poems can often be interpreted in more ways than one.

makes use of certain
figures of speech
to create meaning, evoke emotion and challenge the senses, and create mental images.

It is important to bear in mind that the figures of speech are not only found in
narrative prose
, and even
, may also employ these techniques.
Analysing a poem

> Theme
> Form
> Diction
> Tone
> Rhythm
> Rhyme
> Imagery
The theme is the message that the poet wants to convey in the poem.
Poems usually consist of lines. These can be grouped together to form stanzas.
Refers to the poet's use of words to create a certain mood or atmosphere. A poet can also repeat certain words for effect.
Tone reveals the poet's attitude or emotion = HOW something is said.
A regular pattern of sound in the poem. Think
iambic pentameter

There is a strong link between the rhythm and the mood/tone in a poem.
Rhyme in a poem depends on
and not on sight.
A poetic device that "conjures up word pictures" (Lutrin & Pincus 2004:99).
Devices that conjure up word pictures:

: Simile, Metaphor, Personification,
Sound devices
: Alliteration, Assonance, Onomatopoeia, Rhyme
: Paradox, Sarcasm, Oxymoron, Irony, Satire
Exaggeration and understatement
: Hyperbole, Euphemism
: Pun, Rhetorical questions.
Scavenging dogs
draped in red bandanas of blood
The dogs necks were covered in the baby's blood and/or each other's blood (they were fighting over the baby).

fought fiercely
The repetition of the ‘f’ sound emphasises the
roughness of the dogs and the manner in which they fought over the baby.

as pus oozing
The morning mist
and chimney smoke
of White City Jabavu
flowed thick yellow
from a gigantic sore.
The smog slowly moved like yellow liquid from an infected wound.

It smothered our little houses
like fish caught in a net.
The smog covering the area is compared to fish caught in a net.
There is no escaping the mist and smoke/pollution or a life of suffering in a township, just as there is no escaping for fish caught in a net.

Figures of Speech
Its mother
had melted into the rays of the rising sun,
Dogs searching for food fight for the wriggling baby. The dogs are stray dogs and have been in fights / diseased – they have bloodied necks.

Scavenging dogs
draped in red bandanas of blood

The houses were engulfed by smoke/ pollution.

It smothered our little houses

The morning mist

'Oh! Baby in the Manger
sleep well
Difficulty of escaping life in a township.

like fish caught in a net.

The mist and smoke covered the area, like an infected wound.

and chimney smoke
of White City Jabavu
1. Yellowish liquid produced by infection
2. Flowing or leaking slowly
3. Very big
4. Suffocated
5. searching for something to feed on
6. wriggle
7. Bright red colour
8 A hurried, agitated movement
9. Seriously injured body
10. Human excrement
11. Not stepped upon

1. Pus
2. Oozing
3. Gigantic
4. Smothered
5. Scavenging
6. Squirm
7. Scarlet
8. scurried
9. Mutilated
10. Dung
11. untrampled


her face glittering with innocence
her heart as pure as untrampled dew.

and scurried away,
leaving a mutilated corpse--

So what are your thoughts on the poem?
What is the poem about?
What is the theme of the poem?
of the poet in writing this poem would be
to highlight
the plight of people living in poverty and to describe daily life in
townships under Apartheid
Living conditions of people in Soweto during Apartheid.
Remember that the theme is the 'topic' that the author comments on throughout the poem.
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.

I threw a brick
they bared fangs
flicked velvet tounges of scarlet
and scurried away,
leaving a mutilated corpsean
infant dumped on a rubbish heap-
'Oh! Baby in the Manger

sleep well
on human dung.'
Its mother
had melted into the rays of the rising sun,
her face glittering with innocence
her heart as pure as untrampled dew.
Mbuyiseni Oswald Mtshali

South African poet.
Born January 17, 1940, near Vryheid (KZN).
Written in both isiZulu and English.
Wanted to study at WITS University, but was not allowed to, so he studied abroad instead (e.g. London University, University of IOWA and Columbia University).
Lived in the USA.
Now lives in Soweto.

connotations of revitalisation or freshness whilst mist is a product of nature
In contrast stands ‘chimney smoke’. ‘Smoke’ has connotations of suffocation, destruction and poison whilst chimneys are man-made structures and the fires that create the smoke are artificially created.
‘White’ is suggestive of purity and cleanliness, however the irony of this description is seen in the following lines.
flowed thick yellow
as pus oozing
The mist and smoke mingles to form a yellow substance that contaminates the air. ‘Yellow’ is suggestive of something septic.
This air pollution is compared to pus which again suggests a festering environment. ‘Oozing’ suggests a continual sluggish flow whilst the enjambment of this line suggests a complete envelopment in this “pus”.
The city is described as a sore which suggests the poor and diseased living conditions. The presence of pus shows us that the sore is old as they have turned septic. This reveals to us that the diseased nature of the city has been a longstanding problem.
In contrast to the ‘gigantic sore’ stands the little houses. This emphasises the smothering capabilities of the “pus”. The houses are also representational of the people who live in the city. This is dehumanising. That the houses are little also suggests poverty.

from a gigantic sore.
The people are again dehumanised by being compared to fish. The net is representational of the city’s filth. The line is also a reference to the fishing industry which involves the exploitation of the sea. This suggests the exploitation of the people.
Scavenging dogs indicate the poverty.
Bandanas are symbolic of a predatory nature and suggest gangsterism in the city as well as the violent nature of the dogs. ‘Blood’ also suggests violence and that it may be necessary for survival in the city. It also shows that the dogs have spilled the blood of what they are attacking.
fought fiercely
for a squirming bundle.
Alliteration emphasises savagery.
‘Squirming’ is another reference to fish (see line 8) which again points to dehumanising conditions. By referring to the baby as a bundle there is further suggestion of dehumanisation.
I threw a brick
they bared fangs
flicked velvet tongues of scarlet

That the man responds to violence by using more violence (throwing a brick) suggests an institutionalised violence in the city. This line and the next portray the dogs as snake-like.
Velvet is an expensive and luxurious material which stands in contrast with the vile circumstances. ‘Scarlet’ reveals to us the dog’s bloody mouths.
The dogs retreat, being compared with rodents (‘scurried’), this shows cowardice which contrasts with their vicious threat display in the previous two lines.
The baby is referred to as a corpse which dehumanises it and suggests the lack of importance its life has in the city.
an infant dumped on a rubbish heap--
The corpse is now identified as an infant. This is the revelation of the poem and perhaps the most important information in it and yet it is contrastingly presented as side information by being put in parenthesis. This also emphasises the lack of respect for life and innocence in the city. The baby’s lack of importance is also suggested with the harsh word ‘dumped’ and that the infant was discarded like trash; on a rubbish heap.
A parallel is drawn between the Christ child and the dead infant. Both suffered untimely, brutal deaths and both died innocent. The speaker is addressing the dead infant but it may also be a cry or prayer to God, asking how such things could be allowed to happen.
This line and the next are addressed to the dead infant and are full of bitterness.This line is a wish of peaceful eternal rest.
on human dung.’
Here is a contrast to the seemingly soft tone of the previous line. ‘Dung’ refers to animal faeces. That it is used to refer to human faeces dehumanises the people of the city. This time however it is done in bitterness with the purpose of labelling themas perpetrators rather than victims
The baby is again dehumanised by referring to the mother as ‘its mother’.
The mother has disappeared to start a new phase in her life- unhindered by the baby. This is suggested with the ‘rising sun’. In this line and the next two lines there is water imagery in the words ‘melted’, ‘glittering’ and ‘dew’. This suggests the mothers purity and the refreshment of her new life without her baby.
The mothers face is wet with tears which shows that she suffered some emotional trauma when abandoning her child. Whether this excuses her from blame is for you to decide.
A statement as to the blamelessness of the mother is made. Whether this is scathing irony or really true is up to you
The speaker in the poem describes a shocking scene — dogs fighting over a baby they have found abandoned on a township rubbish dump. The speaker responds by throwing a brick at them to try to scare them away.

The poet’s intention
The poet seems to be trying to shock and challenge the reader. He compares the abandoned child to the baby Jesus, and then suggests that the mother has done nothing wrong.
Free verse
short stanzas of different lengths

The various details and descriptions allow the reader to easily imagine the terrible scene. This builds up to an unexpected ending, where the poet seems to free the mother from any blame for what she has done
Figures of Speech
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