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Voice and Diction in Poetry

In poetry, a poet’s choice of words or otherwise known as diction influences the reader’s sense of the speaking voice and tone of a poem through the positive and negative meanings of the words used. In “Sexual Jealousy” by Carol Frost (2000), the poet’s diction makes the reader/s conclude that the speaker in the poem is a mere observer who is uninvolved and the tone is encouraging, sympathetic and condemning while in “Laws” (Frost 2000), the diction helps reader/s know that the speaker is involved and the tone is sad, doubtful, and hopeful.

The speaking voice of the poem “Sexual Jealousy” is that of a person who loves to look at and observe nature and animals because the poet uses the “queen mole” as an object and the jealousy of those around her as the subject of the poem. It is unlikely that any person would take notice of a “mole” which is a “burrowing” mammal (Microsoft Student DVD, 2007) except when he/she observes nature which includes animals. The speaker has an encouraging tone in telling the reader/s to “think of the queen mole” (Frost 138) that is – to observe and to form an opinion about her.

The poet describes her with the following characteristics: “unequivocal”, “exuding a scent to keep the other female’s neuter”, “bringing forth the colony’s only babies”, and “must suckle the young” (Frost 138). These characteristics communicate to the reader that the speaker has a positive attitude towards the queen mole. Thus, the tone of the poem is sympathetic to the “queen mole” because there are female moles which are referred to as “they” that “hate her and are jealous of her” (Frost 138). In addition to this, the poet mentions that “in their mutual dream, she is dead” and “they hope this and are ruthless in their waiting” (Frost 138).

The words used to describe “they” in the poem have negative meanings which convey a condemning tone of voice. The word “jealousy” itself has a negative connotation which “they” feel because of “the attention given her by her six bedmates” (Frost 138). In general, the tone of the poem is condemning the jealousy that “they” felt towards the “queen mole” when she is doing her responsibilities as part of the colony of moles. On the other hand, the speaker in the poem “Laws” is someone who is involved because he/she is related in some way to the “she” in the poem.

This is conveyed when the poet uses the word “us” in the twelfth line of the poem (Frost 139). The poet can also be considered religious because she mentions the name of a Bible character “Moses” (Frost 139). The subject that the poet talks about is the law that governs the condition or circumstance of the woman referred to as the “she” in the poem. The tone shifts from being sad, doubtful and hopeful. The words that the poet chose to use in the poem express these different tones. A sad or defeated tone can be felt from the words or phrases “doom”, “the victors close behind” (Frost 138), and “illness” (Frost 139).

The poet also expresses a doubtful or confused tone because of the words or sentences: “pretends”, “two roads […] in a wood”, “Which one leads farther away? ”, “swayed by breezes” (Frost 138), “guesses”, and “The tablets […] could not have been more blinding or more lawful” (Frost 139). However, the speaker of the poem also expresses a hopeful tone with regards to the “illness” or the condition of “she” by saying “its course can be made to bend” (Frost 138). All in all, the poem relates a hopeful tone that the woman’s condition can be changed.

In conclusion, the diction in the two poems “Sexual Jealousy” and “Laws” by Carol Frost contribute to the conveying of the voice and the tone of the poem which help readers arrive at an overall understanding and appreciation of the abovementioned poems.

Works Cited

Frost, Carol. “Laws. ” Contemporary American Poetry. Ed. A. Poulin, Jr. & Michael Waters. Houghton Mifflin: New York, 2006. 138-139. Frost, Carol. “Sexual Jealousy. ” Contemporary American Poetry. Ed. A. Poulin, Jr. & Michael Waters. Houghton Mifflin: New York, 2006. 138. “Mole (mammal). ” Microsoft® Student 2008 [DVD]. Redmond, WA: Microsoft Corporation, 2007.

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