What is an example of tone found in 'Tis, by Frank McCourt?

Expert Answers info

Lori Steinbach eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2010

write4,539 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Social Sciences, and History

Frank McCourt's first autobiographical book, Angela's Ashes, ended as the nineteen-year-old McCourt arrives in America on a freighter from Ireland; 'Tis is the follow-up book and begins as McCourt starts his new life in America. One of the hallmarks of McCourt's work is his tone.

In this book, McCourt is an immigrant who has obviously (physically) suffered from the effects of malnutrition. He has always envisioned America as being the Promised Land which would provide his salvation, but the reality is something quite different. The tone of the novel, especially at the beginning, is one of bitterness and cynicism for everyone who is better off than he is--which is nearly everyone. He is particularly scornful of university students, something he, ironically, desperately wishes he could be. In one rant, he says,

[Y]ou, the privileged, the chosen, the pampered, with nothing to do but go to school, hang out, do a little studying, go to college, get into a money-making racket, grow into your fat forties, still whining, still complaining, when there are millions around the world who'd offer fingers and toes to be in your seats, nicely clothed, well fed, with the world by the balls.” 

Note the language (diction) as well as the piling-on of details which help him express the depth of his derision. In this quote, he injects some wry humor into his scathing condemnation of the same group:

They can afford to smile because they all have teeth so dazzling if they dropped them in the snow they'd be lost forever.

Finally, he interjects his political and social leanings into his contempt for Ivy League students, in particular, still using details to make his point: 

The boys from Staten Island would fill more body bags than Stuyvesant could ever imagine. Mechanics and plumbers had to fight while college students shook indignant fists, fornicated in the fields of Woodstock and sat in.

It is hard to miss McCourt's scornful and accusatory tone toward the very people he so wishes to be. His effective use of diction, humor, and details all create this impression. 

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Ask a Question