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Speaker, Tone, and Voice - "My Papa's Waltz"

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Lindsay Green

on 10 January 2013

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Transcript of Speaker, Tone, and Voice - "My Papa's Waltz"

"My Papa's Waltz," by Theodore Roethke Speaker, Tone, and Voice The Speaker Now, let’s look at an example of a poem with an interesting tone to it... Many writers adopt a “persona” or write from a fictional character’s point of view. The speaker has an attitude about his/her subject; that’s called the tone. Tone Look at how all the details of the poem work together to produce the emotions of the speaker. Looking for Tone Read the following examples and try to put an emotion to the words being spoken. Practice with Tone This is called the speaker in the poem- the person who is actually “alive” in the poem. Professor Robert DiYanni explains,
“Tone is an abstraction we make from the details of a poem’s language: the use of meter and rhyme; the inclusion of certain kinds of details and exclusion of others; particular choices of words and sentence pattern, of imagery and figurative language” (479). Finding tone requires the use of inference- being able to draw a logical conclusion based on evidence. “I can’t believe you forgot my birthday” “Just wait until your father gets home” “When I was a kid, we didn’t have fancy video games and the internets. We had to walk five miles to school, uphill, in the snow, both ways” “I just won a million dollars” “Really” Listen to the audio of "My Papa's Waltz," by Theodore Roethke. Let’s start with a relatively simple question:
Who is the speaker?
What words reveal the characteristics of the speaker? Here, the question “What is the speaker’s attitude toward his father?” is deceptively simple. Let’s note how word choice contributes to the poem’s tone.
First, circle all words that have a positive meaning (words that suggest merriment, affection, adoration, etc.). Now, underline all words with a negative feel. After looking at the words you have underlined, how would you characterize the tone of this poem? Does it shift from one emotion to the next? Does it remain constant? Be sure that when you answer, you are using words that signal an emotion as your tone word. Reread the poem and listen to the rhyme scheme in it. How does the sound of the poem help to contribute to your understanding of the tone of the speaker? Finally, make a “thesis” that argues for a specific interpretation of tone. (You make a claim, then show how literary elements support the claim.) What is this poem about?
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