Use of Tone, Irony and Humor in The Hammon and the Beans
Ernest Hemingway once explained, "A writer's problem does not change. He himself changes and the world he lives in changes but his problem remains the same. It is always how to write truly and having found what is true, to project it in such a way that it becomes a part of the experience of the person who reads it." The attitude and "projection" with which the author creates a story is the tone. A difficult aspect of writing to master, tone is one that transitions a piece of writing from satisfactory to exemplary. In The Hammon and the Beans, Americo Paredes incorporates tone in a manner that allows the reader to understand the two-sided situation because the characters are living happy yet troublesome lives. Through including contradictory statements, irony, and comedy in the story, Paredes displays his ability to utilize tone in order to construct a complex work with pure grace.
Opposition is an important undertone present in The Hammon and the Beans. Throughout the entire story, Paredes integrates contradictory statements which are used for two purposes. The first usage of these argumentative ideas is to clearly depict the setting of the story for the reader. In the first paragraph, the grandfather's house is described as, "... a big frame house painted a dirty yellow," that was in, "... a quiet neighborhood at least, too far from the center of town for automobiles and too near for musical, night-roaming drunks (p. 274)." In these two descriptions of the setting, there are contradictions because a big house is usually positive, while dirtiness is negative (although yellow itself is not normally considered dirty). Also, the expressions "too near" and "too far" present two varying views which allow the reader to envision the setting in two different manners. The second purpose for the inclusion of contradictory statements is to enlighten the reader about the narrator's emotions versus those of other characters. The impression the reader obtains of how the narrator views the house and setting is predominantly positive, while the opinion his mother has of the house is severely negative. "My mother hated it, especially because of the pigeons that cooed all day about the eaves. They had fleas, she said (p.274)." The tone of opposition created by presenting both positive and negative aspects of the ideas in the story, enables the reader to gain a clear image of the setting, and to examine both sides of the story.
Similar to the way in which two sides are presented to form opposition in the story, two groups of characters create irony. It is ironic that the soldiers who inhabit Jonesville-on-the Grande take little or no notice of the other residents, while the...