Literature Questions and Answers

Start Your Free Trial

What is the theme, tone, mood, and diction in the poem "Letter From a Contract Worker"?

The theme of the poem "Letter From a Contract Worker" is the expression of love, which the speaker achieves eloquently within the poem but cannot do in a letter since he cannot write and his beloved cannot read. The diction creates a tone of intense passion, and the mood is one of similarly passionate longing turning to despair.

Expert Answers info

Colin Cavendish-Jones, Ph.D. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

briefcaseCollege Professor, Lawyer

bookM.A. from Oxford University

bookPh.D. from St. Andrews University


calendarEducator since 2019

write2,724 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

The theme of this poem is the expression of love. The contract worker eloquently expresses his desire for his beloved and expresses the pain of separation. Only at the in the final stanza does he reveal that this letter, in which he wanted to tell her everything she means to him, will remain forever unwritten, since she cannot read and he cannot write. Until this point, the reader may have imagined a less practical inhibition, such as diffidence or unrequited love, but the concluding stanza adds a new dimension to the theme rather than altering it.

The tone and diction of the poem are intensely passionate. The diction creates the tone, with striking similes which compare the addressee to the intense redness of henna and blackness of mud, as well as to oranges and honey. Wild beasts and plants later in the poem create the same elemental vividness. The speaker uses strong, emotive language, referring to

the madness
of our passion
and the bitterness
of our separation...

He talks of "sharp...

(The entire section contains 2 answers and 540 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now


check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Sarah Zometa eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2018

write572 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Social Sciences, and History

check Approved by eNotes Editorial


lavander1 | Student

The poem “Letter From a Contract Worker” by Antonio Jacinto presents a fairly straightforward subject matter, which we can use to determine the underlying theme(s). A poem's subject is often described as the topic or simply put, what the poem is about. In this case, we have an obvious love poem, written by a man forced to leave his lover in order to find work, most likely as an itinerant worker. This is evidenced by lines 45-48, where Jacinto's character describes his workplace among the orchards and exotic beasts, where he appears to be far from home, expressed metaphorically in line 50 as "the wind should lose it on the way," referring to his "letter."

So now that we have our subject matter, we can explore the themes in a more in-depth way. On the surface, the poem is about a man yearning to be reunited with his love. If we look closer, we can see that the primary theme behind that idea is the pain of separation. Clearly, the man is miserable and worried about his lady forgetting their precious time together. He worries that she will go on about her life an forget him, while he aches for her daily as he toils. He worries that his work will overshadow his personal life, but that he has no choice in the matter. He also worries that others in her life will persuade her to move on without him. The other notable theme is the cruelty of fate, and how it plays a part in their separation.

Tone and mood are often used together where the author's purpose is to create an emotional experience for the reader. Jacinto expresses several moods: sorrow, passion, frustration, heartbreak, and pessimistic. Overall, the man writing the letter does not seem very hopeful that he will be reunited with his love. The tone of a poem refers to the author's feelings about the subject matter. In this poem, the author seems to portray a sense of pity for the man who finds himself in this difficult situation. He does not give a neat and tidy resolution to the problem, so it appears that the author feels this is a common predicament that men such as this find themselves in.

The diction of this poem leans towards conversational, yet is not something we would necessarily find in a typical love letter. The words in the poem are very visual and convey sensory experiences through rhythm. An example of this is found in the fifth stanza, in the following lines:

"from song to song
lament to lament
gabble to gabble"