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Alisha Kifer
Mrs. Carter
AP Language
8 March 2014
The Devices of Woman Work
Woman Work
I've got the children to tend
The clothes to mend
The floor to mop
The food to shop
Then the chicken to fry 5
The baby to dry
I got company to feed
The garden to weed
I've got shirts to press
The tots to dress 10
The can to be cut
I gotta clean up this hut
Then see about the sick
And the cotton to pick.

Shine on me, sunshine 15
Rain on me, rain
Fall softly, dewdrops
And cool my brow again.

Storm, blow me from here
With your fiercest wind 20
Let me float across the sky
'Til I can rest again.

Fall gently, snowflakes
Cover me with white
Cold icy kisses and 25
Let me rest tonight.

Sun, rain, curving sky
Mountain, oceans, leaf and stone
Star shine, moon glow
You're all that I can call my own. 30
Maya Angelou

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In Maya Angelous poem Woman Work, the female speaker dramatizes her mundane
daily household chores by creating a sincere relationship with nature in which she uses to find
relief from her routine. Angelou incorporates different diction, syntactical structures, and
musical devices such as anaphora and masculine end rhyme in order to create and influence the
tones of the poem.
The first 14 lines of Woman Work, except lines 11 and 14 contain the dull, traditional
female daily chores, such as having clothes to mend and chicken to fry (2, 5). The monotony
of her daily chores creates a monotone voice for the speaker. Lines 11 and 14 contain tasks such
as cutting cane and having cotton to pick, but these tasks are not as dull or traditional as the
previously mentioned chores. These lines characterize the mother as being courageous and
dedicated to her family through doing tough chores. Another effect of these repetitive lines is to
create a sense of overwhelming repetitiveness that the mother feels daily.
While the first 14 lines of this poem are monotonous chores, after a dramatic tone shift,
lines 15 through 30 are more fluid and rhythmic. The female speaker is pleading with the sun,
rain, dew, and snow to fall upon her in order for her to escape her busy life. Her tone changes
from wishing to desperate for nature to become her oasis from dreariness. In the final stanza, it is
a summation of nature and the positive influence it has upon the speakers life. The weary
speakers final line states that Youre all that I can call my own, meaning that the only relief
she gets during her day is while being outside. These lines create a necessary relationship
between the speaker and nature, which is the basis of most of the thematic meaning of the whole
The tones of Woman Work are influenced by musical devices such as anaphoras and
assonance. Lines 1, 7, 9, and 12 contain the repetition of the phrase Ive got or I got at the
Comment [AK1]: Word choice- dreary because
I used monotone or monotonous too often
Comment [AK2]: Word choice- boring replace
Comment [AK3]: I would add rhythmic, yet
monotonous chores to make sure that the reader
knows that the first 14 lines are rhythmic as well.
Comment [AK4]: Her tone becomes desperate
for nature. . . because the reader can deduce that the
initial tone is wishing.
Comment [AK5]: I would eliminate In and it
Comment [AK6]: I would add this phrase
because it describes what she is getting relief from:
Outside, away from her tasks
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beginning of the sentence, which exemplifies the speakers verbose tone. She also often repeats
the at the beginning of lines 1 through 14, thus adding to the verbose tone. At the end of every
line from 1 through 14, the words contain either assonance or consonance, which creates a sense
of continuity, but not fluidity. The lack of obvious musical devices in lines 15 through 30 is
significant to the tone also. Ironically, without these musical devices, the tone actually becomes
more fluid and euphonious to the ear.
In addition to anaphoras, assonance, and consonance, the speaker also creates a musical
effect by using rhymes. Lines 1 through 14 contain masculine end rhyme. For example, the
speaker rhymes tend with mend and mop with shop (1-4). This masculine end rhyme
creates a sense of continuity within that stanza, which allows for the repetitive and dreary tone to
be strengthened. Lines 15 through 30 do not contain any rhyming, so they are unrhymed free
verse. Despite the lack of a concrete rhyme scheme in the last four stanzas, they are still fluid and
rhythmic. The different rhyme scheme structure between the first 14 lines and the last 15 lines
illustrates the dissonance between her dreary reality and her wanted refuge.
The varied use of diction and syntax also aids in the creation of the various tones. In the
first 14 lines, the speaker uses a long run-on sentence and elementary diction. The use of such
elements reinforces the speakers monotonous tone because there is no use of high level
vocabulary. Also, since lines 1 through 14 are just one run-on sentence, this allows for the stanza
to have a fluid, consistent tone. Lines 15 through 30 contain more complex syntactical structures
and meaningful diction. For example, every stanza is one sentence with four lines, which helps
connect those ideas in order to create the tone for each section. As the stanzas progress, the
diction in each stanza helps influence the changing tone from wishful to desperate. For example,
Comment [AK7]: Different word choice-maybe
change to talkative or monotonous
Comment [AK8]: Different word choice- change
to a word such as talkative or repetitive
Comment [AK9]: I would probably delete this
whole part because it is not supported.
Comment [AK10]: Reword- which strengthens
the repetitive and dreary tone
Comment [AK11]: Musical should replace
fluid and rhythmic because I have used that phrase
a lot.
Comment [AK12]: Word choice- desired
Comment [AK13]: Word choice- simple, not
Comment [AK14]: Eliminate this word because
it is incorrect
Comment [AK15]: I could add a sentence about
how the structure of lines 1-14 is symbolic of her
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stanza four contains very cold, negative diction such as cold and icy, thus creating the tone
for the corresponding stanza.
Overall, the tone of Woman Work by Maya Angelou is established through the
incorporation of varied diction and syntax, along with musical devices. From the beginning of
the poem to the end, the speaker transitions from her monotonous reality to her desired oasis
within nature through these elements.
Comment [AK16]: What kind of tone?- the
cold tone
Comment [AK17]: Add another sentence about
the overall effect of those devices