In "A Worn Path" and "Thank You M'am," tone is the attitude implied in the writing toward the subject of a literary work and toward the reader.
What are some details from the two stories that demonstrate how the tone is similar?
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Tone in a narrative can be detected through word choice and the depictions and imagery employed in the narrative as well as any musicality. In both "A Worn Path" and "Thank You, M'am," there is an objective tone that is subtlety sympathetic which prevails throughout the two stories. Moreover, in Hughes's and Welty's stories both, there is the cadence of the blues song, the regular rhythm of survival. In the Blues, there is a simple, repetitive, poetic-musical structure. This structure is exemplified in "Thank You, M'am" as the large woman questions the boy who has attempted to steal her purse:
“If I turn you loose, will you run?” asked the woman.
“Yes’m,” said the boy.
“Then I won’t turn you loose,” said the woman. She did not release him.
“I’m very sorry, lady, I’m sorry,” whispered the boy.
“Um-hum! And your face is dirty. I got a great mind to wash your face for you. Ain’t you got nobody home to tell you to wash your face?”
“No’m,” said the boy.
In "A Worn Path," there is a similar structure with a drop in pitch:
"Where do you live, Granny?"
"Away back yonder, sir, behind the ridge."
"On your way home?"
"No sir, I going to town."
"Why, that's too far...."
"I bound to go to town, mister," said Phoenix. "The time come around."
Thus, a certain melancholy exists in these stories as the old woman makes her passage because she feels she must, but holds little hope in her heart; likewise, the stout woman perceives a rather hopeless situation for the wayward boy. They both do what they can for the boys because they think, "What else can I do?" Neither women posses much in terms of materialism.
Further, the poignancy of the situations in both stories is conveyed through the use of colloquial voice. At the end of "A Worn Path," the old woman declares,
"I going to the store and buy my child a little windmill they sells, made out of paper. He going to find it hard to believe there such a thing in the world."
And, in "Thank You, M'am," before closing the door upon him, Mrs. Luella Jones tells the boy,
“And next time, do not make the mistake of latching onto my pocketbook nor nobody else’s—because shoes got by devilish ways will burn your feet. I got to get my rest now. But I wish you would behave yourself, son, from here on in.”
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