Men in Chains by Mbyiseni Oswald Mtshali

‘Men in Chains’ by Mbyiseni Oswald Mtshali

Read the poem on page 229 of Seasons Come to Pass several times and then answer the

following questions. You should also reflect on the four additional questions that appear on

page 230 of the anthology.

1. What is the poem about? You should be able to describe this in simple terms (that is,

what happens) and you should be able to explain if there are any broader themes that

the poet might be exploring or social commentaries that he may be advancing.

2. Identify the punctuation in line 5 and explain its purpose.

3. A simile is used in lines 6-9 to describe the men. Write a paragraph in which you explain

which two things are being compared. Your paragraph should focus on specific words

and phrases I the poem, and you should explain the effect of the simile and how it

contributes to the broader point being made in the poem.

4. What is significant about lines 10-11? You should take note of the quotation marks at the

beginning of line 10 and the end of line 11: What does this punctuation convey? What is

the effect of these two lines and how do they contribute to our understanding of the men?

How do they support the main idea being advanced in the poem?

5. Identify and explain the figure of speech in line 16. You should be able to name the

particular literary device and then explain what two things are being compared. What

does this figure of speech tell us about the speaker’s fears for what might happen to

these men? How does this comparison advance the main idea in poem?

6. Identify two instances in the poem where the natural environment is described in order to

imagine the feelings of the men in chains. You should be able to discuss each instance

separately and then link them to the main ideas in the poem.

7. While the speaker appears to be describing a particular event, there is very little specific

information about the spatial and temporal contexts, the identity of the speaker, or the

men. What is the effect of this? Remember that this poem formed part of a growing body

of anti-apartheid poetry. How does the lack of specificity support the point that the poet is

trying to make?

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