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: Tino VillanuevaS DayLong Day Essay Research Paper

: Tino VillanuevaS DayLong Day Essay Research Paper
: 08:53:16 10 2010
: 2 : 12 : 2 : 5 :    

Tino Villanueva?S ?Day-Long Day? Essay, Research Paper

Jesus Castro

Eng 1102J

Dr. Prinsky

5 May 2000

Day-Long Day

Title: Day-Long Day

Abstract: This paper is a critical analysis of Tino Villanuevas poem, Day-Long Day. It examines the work with regard to its diction, syntax, denotation and connotation, imagery, metaphor and simile, tone, rhyme and meter, allusion, and theme. (8.5 pages; 5 May 2000).

Day-Long Day

I Introduction

Tino Villanuevas Day-Long Day is a remarkable work, for it captures in 34 short lines the anger, frustration, and cruelty of the life of Mexican migrant workers in Texas. The searing heat, the backbreaking and painful work of picking cottonall of it is here in vivid detail.

II Diction

Diction refers to the choice of words an author uses that distinguishes his voice from everyone elses. That is, if you pick up a book by Charles Dickens, you dont have to read very far before you know without looking who the author ishe has a unique style.

Much of that style depends on diction, which are the words a writer chooses to use and the way he constructs sentences. In Villanuevas case, he uses many Spanish phrases, so that we know he is a Spanish-speaker.

He also uses sophisticated language and striking constructions, so that we know he is educated, even though he is a field hand:

Daydreams border on sun-fed hallucinations,

eyes and hands automatically discriminate

Whiteness of cotton from field of vision.

His choice of the word discriminate rather than choose, as well as the phrase field of vision, indicate a high degree of intelligence. Whether this is the intelligence of the poet or the field hand is immaterial at this point, for Villanueva has described the scene so vividly that we believe he is one with the other 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 form sentences. Construction is another good indication of intelligence, for it can be used to enhance the meaning of words. In the lines above, Villanueva might have said hands and eyes automatically find the cotton in the glare of the sun. Instead, he says hand and eyes automatically discriminate whiteness of cotton from field of vision. The words discriminate and field of vision are very sophisticated and again, indicate a high degree of intelligence at work here. But they are also loaded with other meanings: discriminate not only means to choose, it also carries an ugly meaning, as in discriminate against. Likewise field of vision reinforces the image of the workers in the field under the blazing sun.

III Denotation and Connotation

Denotation means the direct and explicit meaning of a word; connotation is an indirect reference, additional qualities suggested by a term in addition to the primary meaning (i.e., politician has different connotations from statesman.)

In Day-Long Day, Villanueva uses very little denotation, nor do his words carry different connotations. He works mainly in metaphors, simile, imagery and symbols.

IV Imagery

Imagery is present when a poet appeals to our five senses. Imagery also includes such things as the sensations of heat and pressure.

In this work, the most powerful image, the dominant one, is the heat. It is mentioned over and over again, either directly or indirectly, as: sun-fed hallucinations, Un Hijo del Sol, sweat day-long dripping, sun blocks out the sky, suffocates the only breeze, summer-long rows of cotton, sweat-patched jeans, the blast of degrees, 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 and Simile

More definitions: a metaphor is a figure of speech which compares two incompatible things without the use of a connective term; a simile compares things 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 a simile; the curtain of night is a metaphor.

I will admit that similes and metaphors are tricky little devils to catch. In this work, the one that stands out most clearly for me is third-generation timetable. This is a linking of two entirely incompatible terms. Third-generation refers to a family, while a timetable is a schedule, most often used in connection with finding out the times of trains.

Here, I believe he is saying that the family had hoped to break out of the cycle of poverty and migrant working by having the grandson (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 boys education and the familys dreams of getting him out of the fields. The lines that make this clear are:

From el amo desgraciado, a sentence:

I wanna bale a day, and the boy here

dont hafta go to school.

El amo desgraciado means the despicable boss. Obviously the man doesnt care what becomes of the child or the family, all he wants is to meet his quotasurpass it it possibleand if that means the child has no future except as a field hand, the boss couldnt care less. He is going to stand in the way of the boys education for the sake of the crop.

VI Tone

Tone in written literature is somewhat vague. It generally means the way in which the poet hopes the reader will hear his words. Since he cannot speak aloud to us, he chooses words that will convey not only his direct meaning, but how he feels about his subject. I said that the tone of this poem is angry, and I believe it is, because that is what I feel when I read it. Certainly the blazing sun, the pain in the hands and backs of the pickers, the hopelessness of the boy who wont be going to school, all these add up to a bleak and unpleasant situation. But there is an underlying feeling 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 sense that they are ready to rebel.

Poetry is probably the most subjective of all the language arts, so each reader will take something different away with them. This is what I felt was going on under the surface, possibly because of the use of the 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 is a free verse poem.

Likewise, it has no rhyme. Rhyme is the repetition of sounds that are identical: the fat cat sat on the mat. Villanueva does not use rhyme, perhaps because it has a distancing effect. When we read a poem that rhymes, we often get caught up in the rhyme scheme and then become aware that we are reading poetry. Villanueva wants us to remain in the field with the migrant workers, and so does not interpose the extra layer of distance between them and us.

VIII Allusion

An allusion is an indirect reference or casual mention; i.e., the speaker alluded to the budget amendment in the course of his remarks. In Day-Long Day, there are no such casual mentions. Everything is immediate, direct, and sensational (as in we can feel the sensation of the heat, the pain, the disappointment, the resentment). The work is not casual in any sense.

IX Theme

The main theme of the poem is the hopelessness of the migrants condition. They work as they do because that is all they know. This is the third generation to work in the fields in the sweltering Texas summer, and their hope for a better lifeor at least for a better life for the boyis dashed by the despicable boss who would rather have the child working in the fields than going to school.

The workers dream daydreams that are not far removed from heat-induced hallucinations, and their only relief is a drink of water from an old jug. They spend their lives in an endless cycle of misery and poverty:


zigzagging through summer-long rows

of cotton

This work is all they know, and they are figuratively trapped by their ignorance as they are literally trapped by the closely-spaced rows of cotton plants.

X Conclusion

This is a wonderful poem. The title itself is intriguing, as it can be read in many different ways: its a long day, to be sure, but is it only a day long? Or is this the life that these workers will lead forever? Villanueva tells us that they will never escape, and in so doing, reveals a powerful voice in the literary world.

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