Gwendolyn Brook’s “Ballad of Pearl May Lee” came from her book called Street in Bronzeville. This book exemplifies Brook’s “dual place in American literature” (Smith, 2). It is associated with Modernist poetry, as well as the Harlem Renaissance. This book is known for its theme of victimizing the poor, black woman. “Ballad of Pearl May Lee” is a poem that uses tone to represent the complex mood of the ballad. While tone and mood are often used interchangeably, there are differences even though they often work together in a poem. A poem’s mood refers to the atmosphere or state of mind that the poem takes on. This is often conveyed through the tone, which is the style or manner of expression through writing. In this poem, Brooks uses tone to enhance the mood. This paper will shed light on the idea that the mood of the poem is affected by the tone in several ways in order to make the mood inconsistent. Some of the ways that tone does this is by several episodic shifts in the scene of the poem, the repetition of stanzas at the end of the poem, the use of diction, and the change in the speaker’s stance throughout the poem. These poetic techniques enhance the speaker’s current feeling of self-pity and revengeful satisfaction by her mixed emotions associated with this reflection.
To begin, the episodic shifts in scenes in this ballad enhance the speaker’s emotional confusion. Almost every stanza has its own time and place in the speaker’s memory, which sparks different emotions with each. For example, the first stanza is her memory of herself at her house and it has a mocking, carefree mood. She says, “I cut my lungs with laughter,” meaning that...
... middle of paper ...
... was meant to serve as insight as to how Brooks used the tone to create a mood that was inconsistent with an overlying theme of self-pity. She has a way with words, and I feel that this ballad is very representative of her skill as a writer.
Mootry, Maria K. “ ‘Chocolate Mabbie’ and ‘Pearl May Lee’: Gwendolyn Brooks and
the Ballad Tradition. Vale – Rutgers Univerisity Libraries.
Smith, Gary. “Gwendolyn Brook’s ‘A Street in Bronzeville’, the Harlem Renaissance and
the Mythologies of Black Women. Vale – Rutgers University Libraries.
Sollors, Werner. An Anthology of Interracial Literature. “Ballad of Pearl May Lee.”
New York University Press. 2004. p. 577-580.
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