Describe the choice of diction in Walker's poem "Women".

Quick answer:

Walker's choice of diction in "Women" is overall simplistic, which highlights the strengths and innate understandings of the women in her mother's generation.

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Overall, Walker uses simple diction to underscore the strength of women in her mother's generation. Note that most of the words in this poem are monosyllabic, and Walker employs unpretentious verbs: ironed, starched, led, knew. These simple verbs reflect the simple lives these women led. They worked hard, focused on the tasks in front of them; their educations were the lessons of life and of service.

The only color which appears in the poem is white, used to describe the shirts these women ironed yet also a reminder of who these women worked to serve. She also interrupts the natural word order to highlight the strengths of these women:

Husky of voice—stout of


Instead of describing the women as having "husky voices" and "stout strides," Walker intentionally slows down the pacing of these phrases, even employing caesura within the line itself, to draw attention to these adjectives which reinforce the tenacity these women demonstrated.

Also notice that the words used to describe the quest of these women to ensure the education of their children mimic the language of warriors. As "generals" they "led / Armies" in their focused mission, which is compared to "mined / Fields." The diction here is a reminder that these women faced danger in this mission yet remained resolute, dedicating themselves to educating their children.

In the end of the poem, Walker repeats the base verb "know" three times, slightly altering its form: knew, know, knowing. This repetition reinforces the ultimate themes reflecting the importance of education. Though these mothers could not attain the necessary education themselves, they remained steadfast in their understanding that knowledge was the key to liberation, and they fearlessly sought it for their children.

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