How would you identify the tone of "How To Eat A Guava," up until the point when Santiago describes having her last guava?

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literaturenerd's profile pic

literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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As part of Esmeralda Santiago's When I Was Puerto Rican, she describes eating a guava in "How To Eat a Guava." The tone of the piece is very specific, driven by her use of figurative language and imagery.

Santiago uses words such as prickly, bumpy, and firm. While these words do not specifically denote the tone, Santiago's "experience" with the fruit does. She relishes the fruit and thinks about her childhood fondly. Her description of eating the fruit borders sensual (given the adjectives used when describing what happens when one bites into the fruit's flesh).

Outside of that, Santiago sets a tone of which shows utter pleasure. She fondly recalls eating the fruit with such excitement that it (the excitement) can spill into the active reader's lap. Thee tone is one which depicts excitement, remembrance, and sensuality.

herappleness's profile pic

M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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The tone in this particular stamp of When I was Puerto Rican is as realistic as it is nostalgic. It describes the author's wish to still claim a piece of her culture, while also accepting that she has already become both indoctrinated and acclimatized to the new culture in New York. 

The experience of eating the guava is, according to her own words, bittersweet. It involves grimacing, eye-watering, and feeling the taste buds give the best of themselves as the fruit is equally bittersweet. However, the gorgeous fragrance, the juicy inside, and the after-taste experience makes it all worthwhile. 

It was similarly bittersweet for the author to blend equally into two cultures, while washing away most of her primary one. The entire moment is summarized in the excerpt:

Today, I stand before a stack of dark green guavas, each perfectly round and hard, each $1.59. The one in my hand is tempting. It smells faintly of late summer afternoons and hopscotch under the mango tree. But this is autumn in New York, and I’m no longer a child.

As the previous response accurately states, the language and tone used can also be considered "sensual". This is because the descriptors used to define this otherwise inanimate object aim to also personify the fruit with sensual undertones that elicit the reader's imagination, making the guava appear appetizing and luscious.

A green guava is sour and hard. You bite into it at its widest point, because it’s easier to grasp with your teeth. You hear the skin, meat, and seeds crunching inside your head, while the inside of your mouth explodes in little spurts of sour.

All this makes the reading much more exciting and entices curiosity over this exotic, tropical fruit which is described as if it were the apple of the garden of Eden: inviting, enticing, and enigmatic.


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