And of Clay Are We Created

by Isabel Allende

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Student Question

In "And of Clay We Are Created," what diction choices create a clear tone?

Quick answer:

The diction in the story helps to create a tone of despair and tragedy. Allende’s word choice immediately sets the tone for the short story. In this paragraph, Allende uses words that describe “vast,” “sob,” “roar,” and “cataclysm.” Words such as these appeal to the reader’s senses of sight, sound, smell, and touch. The vocabulary creates imagery by bringing the reader directly into the text; they can smell death and hear the crying children.

Expert Answers

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Isabel Allende’s word choice, or diction, in the first paragraph of “And of Clay We Are Created” immediately sets the tone of despair and destruction for the short story.

In that vast cemetery where the odor of death was already attracting vultures from far away, and where the weeping of orphans and wails of the injured filled the air, the little girl obstinately clinging to life became the symbol of the tragedy.

Words that contribute to the tone of despair and tragedy create imagery by appealing to the reader’s senses. Allende describes the setting of the story as a “vast cemetery,” alluding to sadness, death, and a final resting place. The reader can smell death, hear the crying children, and see the little girl, partially buried alive, but clinging to life.

Later Allende writes, “First a subterranean sob rocked he cotton fields.” Again, using the word “sob,” she personifies the inner workings of the volcano until, with its eruption, “a prolonged roar announced the end of the world.” This diction supports the tone of misery, death, and destruction. In her final description of the aftermath of the volcanic eruption, she uses the word “cataclysm” to once again emphasize the destruction associated with the natural disaster. This tone is pervasive throughout the story. Just when the reader feels there may be hope, disaster strikes again in a different form.

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