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Emotive writing

Excellent art is able to stir deep and colourful emotions in the human heart. In other words, meaningful art aims to persuade, inspire and move the sensibilities of the reader. In this piece, we explore the various emotive hues that art paints and evokes in the human heart. A pen is able, if handled with finesse, to paint pathos, cause anger, inspire, shock and capture the entire emotional world of the characters that the writer uses to convey the story. I will be using some compelling extracts to drive the point home. Let’s go.

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“She faced the world without words, this child who was born, once upon a birth. A girl without words, so unlike those who sang to their lovers the songs of the ticklings of the heart, the songs which told the birds and the wild animals that people and the life of the wild were the same, singing songs to stir the love chords of their lovers, to say, I have something which I will never know inside me.

It is beautiful because it makes me move and dance. It makes me want to touch the sky even if the sky is too far away. It makes me weave patterns of joy and sadness with the silky clouds. But it also makes me want to cry with the joy and sadness of the discovery.

At birth, in a sooty hut, she did not cry. She simply forgot what they said. She was born without a history of her own. Her story would have to be told by others whilst she sat there and did not even nod or listen. She would see their lips and hear her story that way. They whispered, just in case the ancestors had opened her ears. Since she was deaf and dumb, there was no need for ululations welcoming a child to this world, a silent child born of a cursed woman.”

What a heart-rending and emotive narrative! The author of the extract paints the painful account of a child born deaf and dumb. The narrative describes the negative effect of not having a voice and the effect it has on one’s ability to tell his or her story. The narrative above describes what a voice endows to humans – it allows them to express the inner desires and songs of their hearts.

The extract also help us as readers to emphathise with those who are differently – abled (disabled) and help us understand their plight, their wishes and the songs they have in their hearts, which songs they struggle to whisper to the bosoms of humanity for the beauty of all and sundry. The extract above is emotive and compelling because of the manner it paints pathos. Let’s try another extract.

“I got my things and left. The sun was coming up. I couldn’t think where to go. I wandered towards the beer hall but stopped at the bottle-store where I bought a beer. There were people scattered along the store’s wide veranda, drinking. I sat beneath the tall msasa tree whose branches scrape the corrugated iron roofs. I was trying not to think about where I was going. I didn’t feel bitter.

I was glad things had happened the way they had; I couldn’t have stayed on in that House of Hunger where every morsel of sanity was snatched from you the way some kinds of bird snatch food from the very mouths of babes. And the eyes of that House of Hunger lingered upon you as though some indefinable beast was about to pounce upon you. Of course there was the matter of the girl. But what else could I have done, when Peter flogged her like that day and night? Besides, my intervention had not been as disinterested as I would have liked. Yes, the sun came up so fast it hit you between the eyes before you knew it had risen above the mountains.

I took off my coat and folded it between my thighs. The way everything had happened no one could in future blame their soul-hunger on anybody else. Mine was already hot and dusty in the morning sun and I didn’t know what, if anything, I could do to appease it. But my head was clear; and when the black policemen paraded and saluted beneath the flag and the black clerk of the township sauntered casually towards the Lager trucks and a group of schoolchildren in khaki and green ran like hell towards the grey school as the bell rung I felt I was reviewing all the details of the foul turd which my life had been and was even at that moment. The policemen were dismissed. Their sergeant was a cocky six-footer, lean and hungry and sly like a chameleon stalking a fly. The House of Hunger had not as yet had much to worry about this particular chameleon. There had been unpleasantnesses though. The old man who died in that nasty train accident, he once got into trouble for begging and loitering. And then Peter got jailed for accepting a bribe from a police spy.”

The above extract paints a grim picture of desperation. Hunger in its various hues pervades the entire passage eliciting a feeling of despair and despondency. The characters in the story have an escapist mentality – they want to run away from the place where hunger is the order of the day – hunger for sanity, physical hunger and hunger for peace. A feeling of general malaise fills the air in the pulse of the extract.

The narrator is just running away from the place. He does not have a specific destination. All he wants to do is just leave the place. He is searching for just a morsel of sanity. We feel for the narrator because of the writer’s finesse in using the pen to write such an emotive narrative.

Vuso Mhlanga teaches at the University of Zimbabwe. For almost a decade and half he taught English language and Literature in English at high school. Send your comments and questions to:

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