Tone What is the attitude of the speaker? What is Tone? Tone is literally the attitude toward a subject in a poem. An attitude can be sarcastic, playful, melodramatic, serious, angry, sad, joyful, etc. Tone is used to control the emotional or moral climate in a piece of writing. Persona: Who is speaking? Understanding who the speaker is in a poem will help locate its tone. The speaker of a poem is called the Persona, a term that allows us to place some distance between the writer of the poem and the one who speaks in the poem. In many cases, the speaker is a fictional character used to tell a story or express an idea or emotion. In other cases, however, the speaker is or may include the author. Diction: Vocabulary or word choice, referred to in poetic language as Diction, contributes to a poem‟s overall attitude and tone. Diction can be measured in different levels, from low, to medium, to high. A poem with a high level of diction usually has more formal language and rhymes, attributing to a more serious tone. A poem with more casual or informal language and no rhyme tends to have a low level of diction, attributing to a less serious tone. Examples: 1) Paul Lawrence Dunbar‟s “We Wear the Mask” (pg. 721, Living Literature) -By using words like “we” and “us,” Dunbar creates a persona that seems to speak for and include all African-Americans. He uses words like “nay” and “thee,” making his language a bit more formal than informal. Also, his lines usually end in a rhyme, such as “lies” and “eyes,” or “guile” and “smile.” Because of his formal language and use of rhyme, we could say that his diction is at a medium to high level. By looking at the persona, diction, and the subject of the poem, we could say that his tone is sad, angry, desperate, or any other emotion that his words inspire in you, the reader. 2) Linda Pastan‟s “Marks” (pg. 725, Living Literature) -With phrases like “my husband,” “my daughter,” and “my son,” the reader might infer that the persona of this poem is the author herself. But...since there are many other people who are wives and mothers, the persona of this poem most likely relates to anyone who is a mother or wife, and may include the author herself. The poem does not rhyme, and because Pastan utilizes more informal language with words like “„til,” it is safe to say that this poem has a low level of diction. Based on persona, diction, and the humor that runs throughout the poem, “Marks‟” tone is sarcastic, witty, and at the end, revealing.
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