Tuesday, November 3, 2009

How To Write an Essay or Paper - Tone

Moving on with our literary tools for analysis - let's take a look at tone.


The relevant dictionary definition for tone is: The sound of a person's voice, expressing a feeling or mood; (or) the general character of something.

Now, obviously, when talking about literature, the tone isn't a literal, audible sound (unless read aloud). But the concept is the same. The tone of the piece expresses the mood of it and the meaning behind it. The tone of something can put quite a different spin on its meaning. For example, look at the sentence:

She's lame.

Said (or read) with a serious or sad tone, this would mean that the person in question is disabled or injured. With a sarcastic, snide, or mean tone, it would be an insult.

So, when analyzing a piece of literature, see if you can determine the tone of the story or a particular scene. Is it:
  • serious?
  • saracastic or tongue-in-cheek?
  • sad?
  • excited or happy?
  • toneless? (a simple narration of facts with no clue as to the meaning behind the words)
Then analyze what the tone does for the piece:
  • Does it lighten the mood?
  • Make the scene more serious?
  • Create drama or tension?
  • Create a sense of mystery or danger?
  • Does the tone affect or influence the reader?
  • Or maybe purposely, by lack of tone, not influence the reader in any way?
  • Would a different tone have worked better?
  • Why or why not?
 Go through the piece in question and see what the tone does - try reading lines in different tones and see how it works. What does it do? How does it work? And be sure to back up your statements with outside sources :)