• Voice Lesson #1

    It’s true. If you want to buy a spring suit, the choice selection occurs in February: a bathing suit, March: back-to-school clothes, July: a fur coat, August. Did I tell you about the week I gave in to a mad-Mitty desire to buy a bathing suit in August?

    The clerk, swathed in a long-sleeved woolen dress which made her look for the world like Teddy Snowcrop, was aghast. “Surely, you are putting me on,” she said. “A bathing suit! In August!”

    “That’s right,” I said firmly, “and I am not leaving this store until you show me one.”

    She shrugged helplessly. “But surely you are aware of the fact that we haven’t had a bathing suit in stock since the first of June. Our—no offense—White Elephant sale was June third and we unload—rather, disposed of all of our suits at that time.”

    --Erma Bombeck, At Wit’s End


    1.What is the attitude of the writer toward the subject matter?

    2.What diction and details does Bombeck use toe express this attitude? In other words, what diction and details create the tone of the passage?

    3.Write down two words that describe the tone of this passage.




    Voice Lesson #2

    But that is Cooper’s way; frequently he will explain and justify little things that do not need it and then make up for this by as frequently failing to explain important ones that do not need it. For instance he allowed that astute and cautious person, Deerslayer-Hawkeye, to throw his rifle heedlessly down and leave it lying on the ground where some hostile Indians would presently be sure to find it – a rifle prized by that person above all things else in this earth – and the reader gets no word of explanation of that strange act. There was a reason, but it wouldn’t bear exposure. Cooper meant to get a fine dramatic effect out of the finding of the rifle by the Indians, and he accomplished this at the happy time; but all the same, Hawkeye could have hidden the rifle in a quarter of a minute where the Indians could not have found it. Cooper couldn’t think of any way to explain why Hawkeye didn’t do that, so he just shirked the difficulty and did not explain it at all.

    --Mark Twain, “Cooper’s Prose Style”


    1.What is Twain’s tone in this passage? What is central to the tone of this passage: the attitude toward the spaeker, the subject, or the reader?

    2.How does Twain create the tone?

    3.Write a paragraph about a movie that you have recently seen. Create a critical, disparaging tone through your choice of details. Use Twain’s paragraph as a model.




    Voice Lesson #3

    It’s his first exposure to Third World passion. He thought only Americans had informed political opinion – other people staged coups out of spite and misery. It’s an unwelcome revelation to him that a reasonably educated and rational man like Ro would die for things that he, Brent, has never heard of and would rather laugh about. Ro was tortured in jail. Franny has taken off her earphones. Electrodes, canes, freezing tanks. He leaves nothing out. Something’s gotten into Ro.

    Dad looks sick. The meaning of Thanksgiving should not be so explicit.

    --Bharati Mukherjee, “Orbiting”


    1. What is the narrator’s attitude toward Brent (Dad)? Cite your evidence.
    2. How does the syntax in this passage help create the tone?
    3. Rewrite the last five sentences in the first paragraph, making the five short sentences into two longer sentences. How do the longer sentences affect the tone of the passage?



    Voice Lesson #4

    Microphone feedback kept blaring out the speaker’s words, but I got the outline. Withdrawal of our troops from Vietnam. Recognition of Cuba. Immediate communication of student loans. Until all of these demands were met, the speaker said he considered himself in a state of unconditional war with the United States government.

    I laughed out loud.

    --Tobias Wolff, “Civilian”

    1.What is the attitude of the narrator toward the political speaker in this passage? How do you know?

    2.How does the use of a short, direct sentence at the end of the passage (I laughed out loud) contribute to the tone?

    3.Substitute a new sentence for I laughed out loud. Your new sentence should express support for the political speaker.




    Voice Lesson #5

    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.