Analysis of Totally by Taylor Mali

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People of the current generation have adjusted their speech in order to avoid criticism for whatever opinions they may express. Of course, we all have opinions, but do we want to be told that we’re wrong? No, and society has changed because of our weakness and inability to accept being wrong. Instead of declaring our thoughts with absolute belief, we add an interrogative tone to allow things we say to be changed without it having an affect on how smart or cool we seem to be. In “Totally,” Taylor Mali uses figurative language, diction, and syntax to convey that society has lost its voice of conviction.

Figurative language, which includes tone, metaphor, irony, etc., plays a huge role in the translation of the text. It allows us to decipher a deeper meaning behind the literal meaning of words, whether or not they are in a phrase. The tone of the poem is authoritative, yet jokingly interrogative. Though he uses punctuation and diction to display an interrogative point of view, he states things in a way that shows us, very clearly, that he firmly believes in them as well. In the first few lines of his first stanza and second stanza, Mali uses pronouns you and you’re to show his point of view is that of an adult, who notices and has an opinion on communication patterns. It’s how he addresses society. He informs us of the, “tragically cool interrogative tone,” and how it makes us sound like we don’t know what we’re talking about. Then, around the middle of both stanzas, he switches to the point of view of a teenager, including himself in the crowd of insecure speakers by utilizing the pronouns I’m, I’ve, I, my, me, and our. In his third and fourth stanza, he includes himself in the group entirely, which shows us that every trend rub...

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... is shown moreover through these pauses. We also see that he places question marks at the end of sentences, which is another way he is showing us the uncertainty in the voice of society. Through his punctuation and word placement, we clearly see the voice of society in his poem, but in a way that tells us not to conform to it.

The tone of the poem let’s one read it in a way that allows them to sense the message behind Mali’s words. Adding to tone, anastrophe puts in pauses and gives a more dramatic feel, emphasizing the words, chosen for diction, that are said. One can notice that descriptive words (which are part of diction), imagery, and metaphors are used to draw the attention and hold the focus of the reader. In “Totally,” Taylor Mali uses all these poetic devices to draw the reader in and expand their awareness of the inarticulate situation of our society.
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