Day-Long Day Essay

It examines the work with regard to its diction, syntax, denotation and
connotation, imagery, metaphor and simile, tone, rhyme and meter, allusion, and
theme. (8.5 pages; 5 May 2000). Day-Long Day” I Introduction Tino
Villanueva’s “Day-Long Day” is a remarkable work, for it captures in 34
short lines the anger, frustration, and cruelty of the life of Mexican migrant
workers in Texas. The searing heat, the backbreaking and painful work of picking
cotton?all of it is here in vivid detail. II Diction “Diction” refers to
the choice of words an author uses that distinguishes his “voice” from
everyone else’s. That is, if you pick up a book by Charles Dickens, you
don’t have to read very far before you know without looking who the author
is?he has a unique style. Much of that style depends on diction, which are the
words a writer chooses to use and the way he constructs sentences. In
Villanueva’s case, he uses many Spanish phrases, so that we know he is a
Spanish-speaker. He also uses sophisticated language and striking constructions,
so that we know he is educated, even though he is a field hand: “Daydreams
border on sun-fed hallucinations, eyes and hands automatically discriminate
Whiteness of cotton from field of vision.” His choice of the word”discriminate” rather than “choose”, as well as the phrase “field of
vision”, indicate a high degree of intelligence. Whether this is the
intelligence of the poet or the field hand is immaterial at this point, for
Villanueva has described the scene so vividly that we believe he is one with the
other workers. The impact of the poem is not lessened if we find that he is not.

III Syntax “Syntax” is the way in which words are arranged to form
sentences. Construction is another good indication of intelligence, for it can
be used to enhance the meaning of words. In the lines above, Villanueva might
have said “…hands and eyes automatically find the cotton in the glare of the
sun.” Instead, he says “…hand and eyes automatically discriminate
whiteness of cotton from field of vision.” The words “discriminate” and”field of vision” are very sophisticated and again, indicate a high degree
of intelligence at work here. But they are also loaded with other meanings:
“discriminate” not only means to choose, it also carries an ugly meaning, as
in “discriminate against”. Likewise “field of vision” reinforces the
image of the workers in the field under the blazing sun. III Denotation and
Connotation “Denotation” means the direct and explicit meaning of a word;
“connotation” is an indirect reference, additional qualities suggested by a
term in addition to the primary meaning (i.e., “politician” has different
connotations from “statesman”.) In “Day-Long Day”, Villanueva uses very
little denotation, nor do his words carry different connotations. He works
mainly in metaphors, simile, imagery and symbols. IV Imagery Imagery is present
when a poet appeals to our five senses. Imagery also includes such things as the
sensations of heat and pressure. In this work, the most powerful image, the
dominant one, is the heat. It is mentioned over and over again, either directly
or indirectly, as: “sun-fed hallucinations”, “Un Hijo del Sol,” “sweat
day-long dripping”, “sun blocks out the sky, suffocates the only breeze”,
“summer-long rows of cotton”, “sweat-patched jeans”, “the blast of
degrees”, “sweltering toward Saturday”, “the day-long day is sunstruck.”
The entire poem is both a hymn to the sun and a curse at it. V Metaphor and
Simile More definitions: a metaphor is a figure of speech which compares two
incompatible things without the use of a connective term; a simile compares
things of different classes through the use of a connector such as “as”,
“like” “seems” or others. “My love is like the red, red rose” is a
simile; “the curtain of night” is a metaphor. I will admit that similes and
metaphors are tricky little devils to catch. In this work, the one that stands
out most clearly for me is “third-generation timetable.” This is a linking
of two entirely incompatible terms. “Third-generation” refers to a family,
while a “timetable” is a schedule, most often used in connection with
finding out the times of trains. Here, I believe he is saying that the family
had hoped to break out of the cycle of poverty and migrant working by having the
grandson (the third generation) go to school, but that plan (the”timetable”) is now upset, because the boss wants them to pick more cotton,
even if it means sacrificing the boy’s education and the family’s dreams of
getting him out of the fields. The lines that make this clear are: “‘From el
amo desgraciado,’ a sentence: I wanna bale a day, and the boy here don’t
hafta go to school.'” “El amo desgraciado” means “the despicable
boss”. Obviously the man doesn’t care what becomes of the child or the
family, all he wants is to meet his quota?surpass it it possible?and if that
means the child has no future except as a field hand, the boss couldn’t care
less. He is going to stand in the way of the boy’s education for the sake of
the crop. VI Tone “Tone” in written literature is somewhat vague. It
generally means the way in which the poet hopes the reader will “hear” his
words. Since he cannot speak aloud to us, he chooses words that will convey not
only his direct meaning, but how he feels about his subject. I said that the
tone of this poem is angry, and I believe it is, because that is what I feel
when I read it. Certainly the blazing sun, the pain in the hands and backs of
the pickers, the hopelessness of the boy who won’t be going to school, all
these add up to a bleak and unpleasant situation. But there is an underlying
feeling about it that indicates to me these people know they are being abused,
and although they have been treated badly for three generations, I get a sense
that they are ready to rebel. Poetry is probably the most subjective of all the
language arts, so each reader will take something different away with them. This
is what I felt was going on under the surface, possibly because of the use of
the strong “despicable” to describe the boss. VII Rhyme and Meter
“Meter” refers to the pattern of stressed and unstressed sounds in the poem;
when the work is read aloud, the stresses combine to form patterns that repeat.

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In this work, however, there are no such stresses, or repeating patterns. It is
a free verse poem. Likewise, it has no rhyme. Rhyme is the repetition of sounds
that are identical: “the fat cat sat on the mat”. Villanueva does not use
rhyme, perhaps because it has a distancing effect. When we read a poem that
rhymes, we often get caught up in the rhyme scheme and then become aware that we
are reading poetry. Villanueva wants us to remain in the field with the migrant
workers, and so does not interpose the extra layer of distance between them and
us. VIII Allusion An “allusion” is an “indirect reference” or “casual
mention”; i.e., the speaker alluded to the budget amendment in the course of
his remarks. In “Day-Long Day”, there are no such casual mentions.

Everything is immediate, direct, and sensational (as in we can feel the
sensation of the heat, the pain, the disappointment, the resentment). The work
is not casual in any sense. IX Theme The main theme of the poem is the
hopelessness of the migrants’ condition. They work as they do because that is
all they know. This is the third generation to work in the fields in the
sweltering Texas summer, and their hope for a better life?or at least for a
better life for the boy?is dashed by the “despicable” boss who would
rather have the child working in the fields than going to school. The workers
dream daydreams that are not far removed from heat-induced hallucinations, and
their only relief is a drink of water from an old jug. They spend their lives in
an endless cycle of misery and poverty: “row-trapped, zigzagging through
summer-long rows of cotton” This work is all they know, and they are
figuratively trapped by their ignorance as they are literally trapped by the
closely-spaced rows of cotton plants. X Conclusion This is a wonderful poem. The
title itself is intriguing, as it can be read in many different ways: it’s a
long day, to be sure, but is it only a day long? Or is this the life that these
workers will lead forever? Villanueva tells us that they will never escape, and
in so doing, reveals a powerful voice in the literary world.


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