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Tone of Sherman Alexie's Learning to Read

By deneillewallin Nov 19, 2013 899 Words

Tone is a tool, frequently used in literature that helps a speaker connect the audience to an argument effectively. To fully display a tone within a written piece the speaker needs to use a mixture of literature styles such as diction, language, and syntax. In the essays “The Joy or Reading and Writing: Superman and Me” by Sherman Alexie, “Learning to Read” by Malcolm X, and “Learning to Read and Write” by Frederick Douglas, the authors use a plethora of writing styles to prove how effective their tone is.

In Sherman Alexie’s “The Joy of Reading and Writing: Superman and Me,” he uses many different characteristics of writing to portray his tone throughout the passage. The characteristic that was used the best was diction. The diction he chose to use was extremely conversational. His writing is as if he is talking directly through the writing, “Our house was filled with books. They were stacked in crazy piles in the bathroom, bedrooms, and living room” (Page 16). Sherman uses a word choice that distinctly connects the audience to the story. The language that is depicted in the essay follows along with his diction. He uses a very casual tone with his language choice, “I cannot recall a single time that a guest teacher visited the reservation. There must have been visiting teachers. Who were they? Where are they now? Do they exist?” (Page 18). His direct questioning makes it seem like a conversation is occurring between the speaker and the audience. This serious but optimistic tone is what keeps the readers’ attention. The last thing that helps his tone be extremely effective is the syntax he uses. The constant use of shorter sentences continuously keeps the audience attached, “I refused to fail. I was smart. I was arrogant. I was lucky” (Page 17). These sentences help his formal but hopeful tone. His diction, language, and syntax choices reflect on how effective his tone is. His tone used is effective and his choices in writing style help get his reading point across.

“Learning to Read” by Malcolm X is a piece that is informative and systematic. The tone within this essay wasn’t as effective as it could have been due to the writing style decisions. The diction he chose to use in this essay is exceedingly explanatory, “I became increasingly frustrated at not being able to express what I wanted to convey in letter that I wrote… In the street, I had been the most articulate hustler out there… But now, trying to write simple English, I not only wasn’t articulate, I wasn’t even functional” (Page 257). His continual explanations on different scenarios tends to drone on. This portrays his essay as being too serious, although the reader can develop a clear mental picture. The language in “Learning to Read” is very informative, but captures the audiences’ attention, “I will never forget how shocked I was when I began reading about slavery’s total horror…Ten guards and a warden couldn’t have torn me out of those books” (Page 262 and 263). The language describing Malcolm’s experience was done well. He wanted the audience to be able to see through the speakers eyes as he experienced what he had to do in order to read and write. The syntax used in the written piece is thoughtful but long, “I could spend the rest of my life reading, just satisfying my curiosity –because you can hardly mention anything I’m not curious about. I don’t think anybody ever got more out of going to prison than I did” (Page 266). The reflectiveness of his last paragraph shows how efficient his passionate and devoted tone is. The strategic use of diction, language, and syntax support his tone completely.

Frederick Douglas’ essay, “Learning to Read and Write” uses the perfect combination of diction, language, and syntax to support his intriguing and inspiring tone. The diction options he chose are very story-like in a sense that the reader can instantly create a mental picture while reading, “When I was sent of errands, I always took my book with me, and by going one part of my errand quickly, I found time to get a lesson before my return. I used also to carry bread with me, enough of which was always in the house, and to which I was always welcome; for I was much better off in this regard than many of the poor white children in our neighborhood. This bread I used to bestow upon the hungry little urchins, who, in return, would give me that more valuable bread of knowledge” (Page 130). The words given to read are to help the reader fully see a mental picture of what he had to do in order to learn to read. The language he used also went right along with his tone, “I had no regular teacher. My mistress, who had kindly commenced to instruct me, had, in compliance with the advice and direction of her husband, not only ceased to instruct, but had set her face against my being instructed by anyone else” (Page 129).The language within this essay is formal but it is easy for the reader to be able to understand the purpose of his story. The story-like diction and formal language help the audience easily become captured in the story and understand it. The syntax he included was very rhythmic, “The

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