What is the tone in the Dana Gioia poem "Money"?

Expert Answers info

M.P. Ossa eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2008

write5,649 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Social Sciences, and Business

"Money" is a poem by New Formalist and well-renowned "Renaissance Man", businessman and poet Michael Dana Gioia. It was published first in 1991 under the Poet's Prize-winning collectionThe Gods of Winter.

The tone of the poem "Money" is ironic, sarcastic, and pejorative. This is because the main idea is to adulterate the general importance of money, and to place it under a different perspective: money is still alluded to as it stands on its high social pedestal, but the poet "manhandles", and mangles it by using colloquial, simple, and unintelligent language. This is a way to "cheapen" the value of  money.

Chock it up, fork it over,
shell it out. Watch it
burn holes through pockets

While the poet maintains that money does matter, the tone of the poet's voice also maintains that money only becomes important when it is needed. On its own, money is nothing.

Money. You don't know where it's been,
but you put it where your mouth is.
And it talks.

Goia also gives it a sense of morbidity when he describes the actual activity of money in a way that almost resembles the reproduction of something unnatural

Money breeds money.
Gathering interest, compounding daily.
Always in circulation

Overall, the main thing is that Gioia does treat money as a cheap thing that has no value of its own. For this reason, we encounter words that are petulant, insulting and sarcastic such as "the long green cash","stash", "rhino", "jack", and "just plain dough". It is basically a way to laugh at the sad reality: money is an enabler and our inner demons are quite attracted to it. That is a combination that cheapens and sometimes ruins our human reality. Money, on its own, is nothing.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial
jsjstmt eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2018

write781 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Law and Politics

On the surface, the poem "Money" by Dana Gioia is lighthearted in tone. It is basically an assortment of clichés and common sayings about money strung together in a poetic structure. However, the quote from Wallace Stevens, "Money is a kind of poetry," at the beginning of the poem suggests there is a more complex undertone, and this is indeed the case.

Perhaps a clue to the undertone of "Money" can be found in Gioia's famous essay "Can Poetry Matter?" that first appeared in The Atlantic magazine in May 1991. He speaks of the role of language in a free society: "Poetry is the art of using words charged with their utmost meaning." In the final paragraph of the essay he says:

It is time to experiment, time to leave the well-ordered but stuffy classroom, time to restore a vulgar vitality to poetry and unleash the energy now trapped in the subculture.

Although the poem "Money" seems almost flippant on the surface, its undertone is profound. Gioia uses commonly-used expressions about money to illustrate its ubiquity and importance to our culture. Despite being ostensibly just pieces of paper or metal, money in fact has the power to change, make, and break lives due to the symbolism it has attained in the collective human mind.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial
favoritethings eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2016

write6,380 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Arts

Tone describes the author's attitude toward the subject of the text. Gioia seems to take a judgmental, critical tone toward the incredible weight and importance our culture gives to money. Money's significance is confirmed by the sheer number of ways we have invented, linguistically, to refer to it, the number of expressions we have created to describe our acquisition or our loss of it, and the speaker mentions a great many of these. We also sometimes talk about money as if it were alive, as the speaker says that "money breeds money." It seems to accrue more and more power, some of our expressions even seemingly attaching it to life and death, like "hold[ing] heads above water." Without money, then, we drown. Ultimately, we "put it where [our] mouth is. / And it talks." We have actually given it power over ourselves, allowed it to take the place of our own voices, and now it, too, has acquired the ability to talk. It runs the world and us, and Gioia clearly disapproves of our valuation of money.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Unlock This Answer Now