Language And Tone In Elizabeth Alexander's 'Nineteen'

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“Nineteen”, by Elizabeth Alexander uses language and tone to form a multi-sensory poem about remembering her youth and desire to connect to her past Vietnam vet lover. These aspects of language and tone are embedded in the outer form of the poem, as the author forms an imaginative recreation of her young adult life, which directly impacts the reader to allow for an enjoyable simple read. The elements of language and tone formation ensure the translation of Alexander’s emotions or feelings of her youth for the audience to relate and understand. In the first place, the language within “Nineteen” is casual and not really poetic. This free-flowing language usage is seen through the three stanzas, as modern and allow ease in terms of reading for…show more content…
Alexander uses a multitude of tones ranging from boredom, concealment, justification, unrest, impurity, wisdom, to a striking realization. Each of these tones elicits a specific response in correspondence to Alexander’s youth. The opening tone of boredom is viewed when, “That Summer in Culpepper, all there was to eat was white: cauliflower, flounder, white sauce, white ice-cream” (lines 1-2). Alexander’s tone of boredom from the uneventful activity is clear, by using the visual sense of the color white, as there is not any type of variety or favor to life regardless of the season of summer being present. This contradiction of a colorful eventful season of summer to the white boring foods being consumed issues an immediate hook for the reader to engage with and it is critical to being the attention to the start of the poem. On the other hand, the last stanza provides something different and striking. “A sudden storm came on hard that night; he bolted up inside of the van” (lines 22-23) This provides the rare realization of closeness that had been shown from her lover who was primarily withdrawn having Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from the Vietnam War. Also, the last stanza is what allows Alexander to positively reflect on the desired intimacy from her lover and recreate her
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