Look at the language of the poem "Child" by Sylvia Plath. How would you describe its tone and mood in the first nine lines?

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litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Tone is the author’s attitude toward the subject, and mood is the reader’s emotional reaction to the piece.  The tone of the first nine lines is hopeful, but then it turns dark in the last stanza.

The first two stanzas of this poem are hopeful.  The speaker’s tone is excited and enthusiastic.  She pictures a happy childhood.

Your clear eye is the one absolutely beautiful thing.

I want to fill it with color and ducks (lines 1-2)

The speaker sees childhood as a positive thing, and wants to make the child happy.  The child’s clear eye “is the one absolutely beautiful thing” (line 1).  This implies that other areas of the speaker’s life are not so positive.  The mood is therefore slightly sad, because the reader gets the impression that the speaker will not be successful.  This is reinforced by the last stanza.

Not this troublous
Wringing of hands, this dark
Ceiling without a star. (lines 10-12)

Even without reading these lines, the reader begins to get this feeling from the word “one” in the first line, which lends a mood of hopelessness.

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