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Writers create and develop tone through the use of diction. When considering written expression, diction refers to a writer’s word choice. Tone itself refers to the writer’s attitude toward his subject. Accomplished poets such as Lord Byron carefully consider every single word they write: Is it appropriate for the context? Does it communicate the intended idea better than every other possible word? Will the intended audience understand the word in the way it is intended?
Diction is so important to a poet that we can actually answer this question by only looking at a single word. In Byron’s “She Walks in Beauty,” the tone is evident immediately. Look at the verb Byron decides to use in his title: “walks. ” He could have made other word choices, such as “lives” or “exists.” But the word “walks” carries a different shade of meaning. As a more active verb, it implies that she is more than just physically beautiful: she actually acts in a way that demonstrates beauty. The things she does, says, believes, values, and loves are all a part of that beauty.
Byron then goes on to use a series of words that accentuate the subject's beauty: cloudless, starry, mellowed, tender, grace, softly, serenely, sweet, dear, pure, soft, calm, eloquent, smiles, glow, goodness, peace, heart, love, innocent.
In describing the beauty of the subject, Byron uses the contrasting images of darkness and light. This contradiction helps to mute the tone of the poem. Instead of being overly awed by the beauty, the tone is one of quiet reverence.
"All thats best of dark and bright" demonstrates this contradiction. It is continued in the juxtaposition of "one shade the more, one ray the less". The raven tresses of her hair and the soft light of her face is just one more example of Byron's use of parallels.
The love and admiration of the poet is more sincere with the use of reverence and not awe. Should the description of the women be exaggerated in the positive, the audience would begin to doubt its depth. Byron tempers his tone to make it more believable.
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