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    Day-Long Day Essay (1374 words)

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    It examines the work with regard to its diction, syntax, denotation andconnotation, imagery, metaphor and simile, tone, rhyme and meter, allusion, andtheme. (8. 5 pages; 5 May 2000). Day-Long Day” I Introduction TinoVillanueva’s “Day-Long Day” is a remarkable work, for it captures in 34short lines the anger, frustration, and cruelty of the life of Mexican migrantworkers in Texas. The searing heat, the backbreaking and painful work of pickingcotton?all of it is here in vivid detail.

    II Diction “Diction” refers tothe choice of words an author uses that distinguishes his “voice” fromeveryone else’s. That is, if you pick up a book by Charles Dickens, youdon’t have to read very far before you know without looking who the authoris?he has a unique style. Much of that style depends on diction, which are thewords a writer chooses to use and the way he constructs sentences. InVillanueva’s case, he uses many Spanish phrases, so that we know he is aSpanish-speaker. He also uses sophisticated language and striking constructions,so that we know he is educated, even though he is a field hand: “Daydreamsborder on sun-fed hallucinations, eyes and hands automatically discriminateWhiteness of cotton from field of vision.

    ” His choice of the word”discriminate” rather than “choose”, as well as the phrase “field ofvision”, indicate a high degree of intelligence. Whether this is theintelligence of the poet or the field hand is immaterial at this point, forVillanueva has described the scene so vividly that we believe he is one with theother workers. The impact of the poem is not lessened if we find that he is not. III Syntax “Syntax” is the way in which words are arranged to formsentences. Construction is another good indication of intelligence, for it canbe used to enhance the meaning of words.

    In the lines above, Villanueva mighthave said “. . . hands and eyes automatically find the cotton in the glare of thesun.

    ” Instead, he says “. . . hand and eyes automatically discriminatewhiteness of cotton from field of vision. ” The words “discriminate” and”field of vision” are very sophisticated and again, indicate a high degreeof intelligence at work here. But they are also loaded with other meanings:”discriminate” not only means to choose, it also carries an ugly meaning, asin “discriminate against”.

    Likewise “field of vision” reinforces theimage of the workers in the field under the blazing sun. III Denotation andConnotation “Denotation” means the direct and explicit meaning of a word;”connotation” is an indirect reference, additional qualities suggested by aterm in addition to the primary meaning (i. e. , “politician” has differentconnotations from “statesman”.

    ) In “Day-Long Day”, Villanueva uses verylittle denotation, nor do his words carry different connotations. He worksmainly in metaphors, simile, imagery and symbols. IV Imagery Imagery is presentwhen a poet appeals to our five senses. Imagery also includes such things as thesensations of heat and pressure. In this work, the most powerful image, thedominant one, is the heat. It is mentioned over and over again, either directlyor indirectly, as: “sun-fed hallucinations”, “Un Hijo del Sol,” “sweatday-long dripping”, “sun blocks out the sky, suffocates the only breeze”,”summer-long rows of cotton”, “sweat-patched jeans”, “the blast ofdegrees”, “sweltering toward Saturday”, “the day-long day is sunstruck.

    “The entire poem is both a hymn to the sun and a curse at it. V Metaphor andSimile More definitions: a metaphor is a figure of speech which compares twoincompatible things without the use of a connective term; a simile comparesthings of different classes through the use of a connector such as “as”,”like” “seems” or others. “My love is like the red, red rose” is asimile; “the curtain of night” is a metaphor. I will admit that similes andmetaphors are tricky little devils to catch. In this work, the one that standsout most clearly for me is “third-generation timetable.

    ” This is a linkingof two entirely incompatible terms. “Third-generation” refers to a family,while a “timetable” is a schedule, most often used in connection withfinding out the times of trains. Here, I believe he is saying that the familyhad hoped to break out of the cycle of poverty and migrant working by having thegrandson (the third generation) go to school, but that plan (the”timetable”) is now upset, because the boss wants them to pick more cotton,even if it means sacrificing the boy’s education and the family’s dreams ofgetting him out of the fields. The lines that make this clear are: “‘From elamo desgraciado,’ a sentence: I wanna bale a day, and the boy here don’thafta go to school.

    ‘” “El amo desgraciado” means “the despicableboss”. Obviously the man doesn’t care what becomes of the child or thefamily, all he wants is to meet his quota?surpass it it possible?and if thatmeans the child has no future except as a field hand, the boss couldn’t careless. He is going to stand in the way of the boy’s education for the sake ofthe crop. VI Tone “Tone” in written literature is somewhat vague. Itgenerally means the way in which the poet hopes the reader will “hear” hiswords.

    Since he cannot speak aloud to us, he chooses words that will convey notonly his direct meaning, but how he feels about his subject. I said that thetone of this poem is angry, and I believe it is, because that is what I feelwhen I read it. Certainly the blazing sun, the pain in the hands and backs ofthe pickers, the hopelessness of the boy who won’t be going to school, allthese add up to a bleak and unpleasant situation. But there is an underlyingfeeling about it that indicates to me these people know they are being abused,and although they have been treated badly for three generations, I get a sensethat they are ready to rebel.

    Poetry is probably the most subjective of all thelanguage arts, so each reader will take something different away with them. Thisis what I felt was going on under the surface, possibly because of the use ofthe strong “despicable” to describe the boss. VII Rhyme and Meter”Meter” refers to the pattern of stressed and unstressed sounds in the poem;when the work is read aloud, the stresses combine to form patterns that repeat. In this work, however, there are no such stresses, or repeating patterns. It isa free verse poem.

    Likewise, it has no rhyme. Rhyme is the repetition of soundsthat are identical: “the fat cat sat on the mat”. Villanueva does not userhyme, perhaps because it has a distancing effect. When we read a poem thatrhymes, we often get caught up in the rhyme scheme and then become aware that weare reading poetry. Villanueva wants us to remain in the field with the migrantworkers, and so does not interpose the extra layer of distance between them andus. VIII Allusion An “allusion” is an “indirect reference” or “casualmention”; i.

    e. , the speaker alluded to the budget amendment in the course ofhis remarks. In “Day-Long Day”, there are no such casual mentions. Everything is immediate, direct, and sensational (as in we can feel thesensation of the heat, the pain, the disappointment, the resentment). The workis not casual in any sense. IX Theme The main theme of the poem is thehopelessness of the migrants’ condition.

    They work as they do because that isall they know. This is the third generation to work in the fields in thesweltering Texas summer, and their hope for a better life?or at least for abetter life for the boy?is dashed by the “despicable” boss who wouldrather have the child working in the fields than going to school. The workersdream daydreams that are not far removed from heat-induced hallucinations, andtheir only relief is a drink of water from an old jug. They spend their lives inan endless cycle of misery and poverty: “row-trapped, zigzagging throughsummer-long rows of cotton” This work is all they know, and they arefiguratively trapped by their ignorance as they are literally trapped by theclosely-spaced rows of cotton plants. X Conclusion This is a wonderful poem. Thetitle itself is intriguing, as it can be read in many different ways: it’s along day, to be sure, but is it only a day long? Or is this the life that theseworkers will lead forever? Villanueva tells us that they will never escape, andin so doing, reveals a powerful voice in the literary world.

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