• Voice Lesson #11

    The many men, so beautiful!

    And they all dead did lie:

    And a thousand thousand slimy things

    Lived on; and so did I.


    Within the shadow of the ship

    I watched their rich attire:

    Blue, glossy green, and velvet black,

    They coiled and swam; and every track

    Was a flash of golden fire.

    --Samuel Taylor Coleridge, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”


    1.These stanzas show the Mariner’s changing attitude toward the creatures of the sea. What is the Mariner’s attitude in the first stanza? Which image reveals this attitude?

    2.What is the mariner’s attitude in the second stanza? Analyze the imagery that reveals this change.

    3.Think of a cat or dog that you can describe easily. Write a description which reveals a positive attitude toward the animal. Then think of the same animal and write a description which reveals a negative attitude. Remember, the animals looks do not change; only your attitude changes.


    Voice Lesson #12

    She looked into the distance, and the old terror flamed up for an instant, then sank again. Edna heard her father’s voice and her sister Margaret’s. She heard the barking of an old dog that was chained to the sycamore tree. The spurs of the cavalry officer clanged as he walked across the porch. There was the hum of bees, and the musky odor of pinks filled the air.

    --Kate Chopin, The Awakening


    1.Although the narrator “looks into the distance,” the images are primarily auditory. What are the auditory images in the passage? What mood do these images create?

    2.The last sentence of this passage contains an olfactory image (the musky odor of pinks fill the air). What effect does the use of an olfactory image, after a series of auditory images, have on the reader?

    3.Write a paragraph in which you create a scene through auditory imagery. It can be calm and peaceful or loud and aggravating.


     Voice Lesson #13

    Mrs. Venable…and the sand all alive, all alive, as the hatched sea-turtles made their dash for the sea, while the birds hovered and swooped to attack and hovered and – swooped to attack! They were diving down on the hatched sea-turtles, turning them over to expose their soft undersides, tearing the undersides open and rending and eating their flesh.

    --Tennessee Williams, Suddenly Last Summer


    1.Williams uses the repetition of detail in three places in this passage. Identify the three places and determine whether the repetition enhances or detracts from the overall effect of the passage.

    2.What is Mrs. Venable’s attitude toward the scene she describes? Which specific details reveal this attitude?

    3.Write a detailed description of a sporting event. Emphasize some violent or extreme action by repeating at least two vivid details.


     Voice Lesson #14

    What a thrill—

    My thumb instead of an onion.

    The top quite gone

    Except for a sort of a hinge


    Of skin,

    A flap like a hat,

    Dead white.

    Then a red plush.

    --Sylvia Plath, “Cut: For Susan O’Neill Roe”


    1.What is the poet’s attitude toward the cut? What words, images and details create the tone?

    2.In the second stanza, Plath uses colors to intensify the tone. The flap of skin is dead white, the blood is a red plush. What attitude toward the cut and, by implication, toward life itself, does this reveal?

    3.Write a short description of an automobile accident. Create a tone of complete objectivity—as if you were from another planet and had absolutely no emotional reaction to the accident.


    Voice Lesson #15

    In the midst of poverty and want, Felix carried with pleasure to his sister the first little white flower that peeped out from beneath the snowy ground.

    --Mary Shelley, Frankenstein


    1.What do you understand bout Felix from the imagery of this sentence?

    2.How would the effect be different if Felix carried his sister a big bouquet of spring flowers?

    3.Write a sentence which expresses the joy of renewal through a visual image.









    Voice Lesson #6

    Whenever he was so fortunate as to have near him a hare that had been kept too long, or a meat pie made with rancid butter, he gorged himself with such violence that his veins swelled, and the moisture broke out on his forehead.

    --Thomas Babington Macaulay, “Samuel Johnson”


    1.What effect does the detail (the spoiled hare, the rancid butter, the swollen veins, the sweaty forehead) have on the reader?

    2.How would the meaning of the sentence be changed by ending it after himself?

    3.Write a sentence describing someone with disgusting eating habits. It must be one, correct sentence; and it must contain at least three vivid details.


     Voice Lesson #7

    An old man, Don Tomasito, the baker, played the tuba. When he blew into the huge mouthpiece, his face would turn purple and his thousand wrinkles would disappear as his skin filled out.

    --Alberto Alvaro Rios, “The Iguana Killer”

    1.The first sentence is a general statement. How does the second sentence enrich and intensify the first?

    2.Contrast the second sentence with the following:

    • When he blew the tuba, his face turned purple and his cheeks puffed out.

    Which sentence more effectively expresses an attitude toward Tomasito? What is the attitude and how is it communicated?

    3.Describe someone jumping over a puddle. Your first sentence should be general, stating the action simply. Your second sentence should clarify and intensify the action through detail.


     Voice Lesson #8

    CHARLEY (to WILLY): Why must everybody like you? Who liked J.P. Morgan? Was he impressive? In a Turkish bath he’d look like a butcher. But with his pockets on he was very well liked. Now listen, Willy, I know you don’t like me, and nobody can say I’m in love with you, but I’ll give you a job because – just for the hell of it, put it that way. Now what do you say?

    --Arthur Miller, Death of a Salesman

    1.Who was J.P. Morgan? What is a Turkish bath? What picture comes to mind when someone is said to look like a butcher? How do these details contribute to the point Charley is trying to make?

    2.How would the passage be different if Charley said J.P. Morgan would look like a baker in a Turkish bath?

    3.Think of someone famous and powerful. Use detail to create an unflattering but accurate description of the physical appearance of this famous person. Model your description on Miller’s description of J.P. Morgan.


     Voice Lesson #9

    To those who saw him often he seemed almost like two men: one the merry monarch of the hunt and banquet and procession, the friend of children, the patron of every kind of sport; the other the cold, acute observer of the audience chamber or the Council, watching vigilantly, weighing arguments, refusing except under the stress of great events to speak his own mind.

    --Winston Churchill, “King Henry VIII,” Churchill’s History of the English-Speaking Peoples

    1.Churchill draws attention to the contrasting sides of Henry VIII through detail. How is the impact of this sentence strengthened by the order of the details’ presentation?

    2.What is Churchill’s attitude toward Henry? What specific details reveal this attitude?

    3.Think of someone you know who has two strong sides to his/her personality. Using Churchill’s sentence as a model, write a sentence which captures—through detail—these two sides.


     Voice Lesson #10

    The truck lurched down the goat path, over the bridge, and swung south toward El Puerto. I watched carefully all that we left behind. We passed Rosie’s house and at the clothesline right at the edge of the cliff there was a young girl hanging out brightly colored garments. She was soon lost in the furrow of dust the truck raised.

    --Rudolfo Anaya, Bless Me, Ultima

    1.Identify the words that provide specific detail and contribute to the power of the passage.

    2.Contrast the third sentence with:

         We passed Rosie’s house and saw a girl hanging out the clothes.

         Explain the difference in impact.

    3.Rewrite the passage eliminating the specific detail. How does the elimination of detail change the meaning of the passage.






    Voice Lesson #1

    Art is the antidote that can call us back from the edge of numbness, restoring the ability to feel for another.

    --Barbara Kingsolver, High Tide in Tucson


    1. By using the word antidote, what does the author imply about the inability to feel for another?

    2. If we changed the word antidote to gift, what effect would it have on the meaning of the sentence?

    3. Write a sentence using a medical term to characterize art. Explain the effect the term has on the sentence.


    Voice Lesson #2

    As I watched, the sun broke weakly through, brightened the rich red of the fawns, and kindled their white spots.

    --E.B. White “Twins”


    1.What kind of flame does kindled imply? How does this verb suit the purpose of the sentence?

    2.Would the sentence be strengthened or weakened by changing “the sun broke weakly through” to “the sun burst through”? Explain the effect this change would have on the use of the verb “kindled.”

    3.Brainstorm a list of action verbs that demonstrate the effects of sunlight.


    Voice Lesson #3

    An aged man is but a paltry thing

    A tattered coat upon a stick…

    --W.B. Yeats, “Sailing to Byzantium”


    1.What picture is created by the use of the word “tattered”?

    2.By understanding the connotations of the word “tattered,” what do we understand about the persona’s attitude toward an aged man?

    3.List three adjectives that can be used to describe a pair of shoes. Each adjective should connote a different feeling about the shoes.


    Voice Lesson #4

    The man sighed hugely.

      -E. Annie Proulx, The Shipping News


    1.What does it mean to sigh hugely?

    2.How would the meaning of the sentence change if we rewrote it as: The man sighed loudly.

    3.Fill in the blank with an adverb: The man coughed _______________. Your adverb should make the cough express an attitude. For example, the cough could express contempt, desperation, or propriety. Do not state the attitude. Instead, let the adverb imply it.


    Voice Lesson #5

    A rowan* like a lipsticked girl.

    --Seamus Heaney, “Song”


    1.Other than the color, what comes to mind when you think of a lipsticked girl?

    2.How would it change the meaning and feeling of the line if, instead of lipsticked girl, the author wrote girl with lipstick on?

    3.Write a simile comparing a tree with a domesticated animal. In your simile, use a word that is normally used as a noun (like lipstick) as an adjective (like lipsticked).