Take a story's temperature by studying its tone. Is it hopeful? Cynical? Snarky? Playful?
The tone of The Joys of Motherhood is sympathetic to the main character, Nnu Ego, demonstrating how a young woman who desires nothing more than to be a good wife and mother, is undercut by modern society. We see how Nnu Ego wants the best for her children, but her selflessness is ultimately her undoing. Her family takes advantage of her, and her husband blames her when things go wrong. We are able to resist feeling sorry for Nnu Ego for two reasons. First ,although the tone is sympathetic, Nnu Ego herself never sinks into self-pity. Second, although Nnu Ego herself realizes that she has lived a life of slavery, she has her revenge after her death.