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Hanging Fire Essay, Research Paper

Writers use diction and tone to express their work in the form of which they wish their reader to understand it. Tone is the author s attitude toward the reader or the people, places or events in a work as exposed by the author s style. Diction is a writer s choice of words, phrases, sentence structures, and figurative language, which combined with tone help to create meaning. In Audre Lorde s Hanging Fire, Lorde used informal diction with a serious tone to illustrate the frustrations of a fourteen-year-old.

Informal diction represents the plain language of everyday use, and often includes exaggerations, slang, and many simple, common words. Audre Lorde used this common technique to develop a close rapport with the reader through the use of ordinary language, which most people can understand and relate to. I am fourteen, (ll. 1) here Audre Lorde did not hesitate to use the first line to introduce the speaker and to construct a more personal, intimate relationship with the reader. The use of first person here suggests a direct monologue, which the speaker is describing her problems with reader. In this same quotation another question is revealed about whom exactly is the speaker. Since Audre Lorde was 44 years old when Hanging Fire was published, the reader may wonder if the speaker is the young Audre Lorde or if the speaker is just the use of a fourteen-year-old as the persona.

Along with the quick introduction to the speaker, Audre Lorde used very little punctuation in this poem to emphasize the variation of the worries of teenagers. The quick jump between subjects from the boy…(who) / still sucks his thumb / in secret (ll. 3-5) to knees (which) are / always ashy (ll. 6-7) suggests that the speaker is brainstorming about her concerns. The second and third stanza are similar to the first in the listing of concerns from dancing to room size to death to her mom to the math team to braces to clothing and then back to death and her mother. The way that this poem is constructed stresses that the girl has many worries and that she needs to express them.

Another message that Audre Lorde wanted to signify was that like all teenagers this fourteen-year old girl wants to grow up quickly. Audre Lorde used word choice to demonstrate this point. I am fourteen / and my skin has betrayed me (ll. 1-2), here the negative aspect is focused on her skin but Lorde uses and (ll. 2) to show that her skin as well as her age is a problem. The quote about the boy that she cannot live without (ll. 3) whom still sucks his thumb / in secret (ll. 4-5) shows that Lorde used still (ll. 4) to indicate that the speaker wishes that the boy would, along with herself, grow up. Because the speaker is trying so hard to hasten through adolescence she worries that she might not make it through her teen-age years. Lorde presents these thoughts of death once in each of the three stanzas: what if I die / before morning (ll. 8-9), suppose I die before graduation (ll. 16), and will I live long enough / to grow up (ll. 34-35). In the second stanza this young girl even thinks about the consequences of her death and the mourning that will take place: they will sing sad melodies (ll. 17).

Along with the informal diction, tone is used to create meaning in poetry. Audre Lorde used her diction to indicate the serious tone in Hanging Fire. Lorde used a serious tone to enforce that this poem was to be taken sincerely. My skin has betrayed me (ll. 2) indicates not that the skin appears displeasing but that it is displeasing. This also reveals that the tone is confident. This confident tone appears throughout the stanzas: I cannot live without (ll. 3) instead of I would rather not live without , I have nothing to wear (ll. 31) instead of I do not have much to wear , my room is too small (ll. 15) instead my room is a little small . The word choice here is very demanding. This confident, serious tone remains the same throughout out the poem, however, there is a shift in tone through each of the three stanzas.

The form of each stanza is that it starts with normal concerns and then moves to serious worries about death and then to an almost accusation towards her mother. I have nothing to wear tomorrow / will I live long enough (ll. 31-32), the normal and even petty concerns here contain the serious and confident tone but when the worries about death appear the tone shifts to a somewhat higher state of seriousness. The reader becomes more involved and concentrates more on the speaker. Each stanza ends such that the reader has a sense that the mother is not approachable. After the shock that the reader feels about death, the girl her indirectly blames her mother for her problems: and momma s in the bedroom / with the door closed (ll. 34-35). Now that there is someone to blame the reader feels more at ease.

In conclusion, the fourteen year old girl has a host of concerns. She worries about her skin, her boyfriend, an upcoming party, and the smallness of her room. Mainly she worries if she will successfully pass through adolescence. Audre Lorde had many issues that she wanted to bring up in this poem. The first was that of skin color: my skin has betrayed me (ll. 3). It is possible that Lorde was dealing with the race issue here but by no means is the poem focused around that. I should have been on the Math team / my marks were better than his (ll. 26-27). Lorde is most likely presenting a negative gender stereotype to make the reader question these issues further. Hanging Fire presents to the reader an adolescent perspective of abandonment and lack of supervision. Regardless of whether the parents are good parents or bad parents, the child will usually find some way to blame their parents for all their frustrations during this period in their lives.


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