Refusing to Tone it Down

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So will my page be colored that I write? (26)

Sometimes perhaps you don't want to be a part of me.

Nor do I often want to be a part of you. (34-35)


In chapter 11 of Roberts, we're told that the author's tone often shows his/her attitude towards the reader.  The examples Roberts gives are basically if a writer mentions a certain event, he's clearly expecting that his reader will know about the occurrence.  However, the type of attitude displayed in this poem is really what I had in mind when Roberts mentioned tone in relation to an author's feelings towards his/her readers.

The blunt honesty and sharp sarcasm create a nice blend for this poem, because even though Hughes is adhereing to the assignment and being true, he still makes his point with a couple pointed remarks (such as those quoted above).  Hughes' tone betrays wry frustration with racial situations, and a fierce belief in the unity of Americans: Even if he "[doesn't] often want to be a part of [his instructor]," he states that they learn from each other. 



Dave said:

I think the fact that Hughes' words alone show his feelings without having to make outside references is one of the things that make him good. If you had to be told before reading the poem, that Hughes lived in the US in a time when blacks were discriminated against, thus some of his statements may be facetious, it would be a far less effective poem. Instead, the bluntness and word choice effectively convey his message.

I kind of disagree with Edwards on the idea that "tone" has anything to do with mentioning outside events. It seems to me that requiring some outside frame of reference is what a writer does when they are unable to convey their meaning through tone alone. There is very good reason that transcripts from the first season of Saturday Night Live won't ever be considered great literature....there'd be more foot-notes than dialogue. This isn't to say that outside references are a bad thing, but rather that they shouldn't be necessary to understand the work.

For example, Hughes mentions "Bessie, bop and bach." the footnotes explain who/what these are, but if the reader didn't have that or know ANY of them, they'd still know: okay, different musicians/styles of music...which is enough to still get the main idea from the poem. If the reader only knew Bach, the fact that Bessie and Bop are not similar to Bach, suggesting a wide range of tastes, is apparent simply through their unfamiliarity, thus part of the meaning is still conveyed. The main point here is that outside references can and should be used in a way in which they add to the piece, but the meaning is not absolutely dependent upon the reader's familiarity with them.

Kayla Lesko said:

I agree, Hughes use of tone was perfect.

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