Definition: Tone is the verbal stance the author assumes toward the reader and his subject as reflected in his “voice.” It is the quality of language and voice used to convey the speaker’s Attitude toward the subject or audience and is perceived through the various methods and diction used to convey the events of the work. In oral conversation the “tone of voice” may be determined by listening to the words themselves, their inflection, modulation, denotation, and connotation, pitch, stress, or other sound regulators. However, since words on a page are flat, other methods of discernment must be employed.
Mood is the overall atmosphere created by the speaker, the setting the events, or narrator.
Attitude is the feeling the speaker holds toward the characters, events, or situation he is relating to the audience.
With few exceptions and for most practical purposes TONE = ATTITUDE
Problem: The terms “tone” and “attitude” may become indistinct.
Problem: Students often equate the speaker with the author.
Problem: To misinterpret tone is to misinterpret meaning.
Process: Understanding tone requires making inferences during and after a close reading of a work. The students must distinguish the techniques used to establish “tone,” “mood,” and “attitude.”
Results: Understanding and analyzing the difference between “tone,” “mood,” and “attitude” and perceiving tonal shifts.
Objective: Students should be able to show in verbal and written discussions their understanding of the techniques used by the author to establish attitude and achieve a certain tone.
Analyzing how Tone Contributes to Meaning and Attitude in Literature – In order to answer these questions, a student will need to examine the speaker’s diction: circling words is a good strategy
How does the author feel toward his subject?
How does the author feel about the characters?
How does the author feel about the events presented?
How does the author feel about his audience (readers)?
Can or does the author have different feelings for his subject and / or his audience?
Does the narrator feel the same as the author?
All of these “feelings” determine the TONE and the ATTITUDE of the work.
Strategies for determining MOOD:
The mood of a piece is generally the overall atmosphere created by the diction, setting, characters, and events and is an important aspect of its style and might be described as:
Joyful 2. Humorous 3. Ironic 4. Satiric (Horation) 5. Sarcastic 6. Sentimental 7. Melancholy
8. Satiric (Juvenalian) 9. Optimistic 10. Pessimistic 11. Superior 12. Insecure 13. Distant 14. Intimate
Associated Descriptive Vocabulary by Category
Speaker: humble, shallow, bold, insipid, haughty, imperious, proud, audacious, confident, insecure, credulous, innocent, naïve, triumphant, vivacious, insolent, sincere, inane, vain, gullible, foolish
Ironic words: playful, witty, humorous, sarcastic, sardonic, caustic, acerbic, flippant, cynical, mocking, biting, smirking, sneering, derisive, icy
Reverent: awed, veneration, amazed, impressed
Love: affectionate, cherish, fond, admiring, tender, sentimental, romantic, adoring, narcissistic, passionate, lustful, rapturous, ecstatic, infatuated, enamored, compassionate
Joyful: glad, exalted, zealous, merry, gleeful, delightful, cheerful, gay, sanguine, mirthful, enjoy, relish, bliss
Calm: serene, tranquil, placid, content
Sad: somber, solemn, melancholy, sorrowful, lamenting, despair, despondent, regretful, dismal, funereal, saturnine, dark, gloomy, dejected, grave, grief, morose, sullen, bleak, forlorn, disconsolate, distressed, agonized, anguished, depressed, barren, empty, pitiful
Angry: vehement, enraged, outraged, irritated, indignant, vexed, incensed, petulant, irascible, riled, bitter, acrimonious, irate, fury, wrathful, rancorous, consternation, hostile, choleric, frustrated, exasperated, aggravated, futile, umbrage, gall, bristle
Hate: vengeful, detest, abhor, animosity, malice, pique, rancor, aversion, loath, despise, scorn, contempt, disdain, jealous, repugnant, repulsed, resent, spiteful, disgusted
Fear: timid, apprehensive, anxious, terrified, horrified, agitated, sinister, alarmed, startled, uneasy, qualms, angst, trepidation, intimidated, spooked, dread, phobia, appalled
One of the most frequently examined concepts on both the AP Language and the Literature exams is that
of the attitude of the speaker. It is at once obscure, abstract, and elusive for most high school students. Yet,
with a systematic approach, it can be determined. Often it requires that the student examine the smallest unit
of composition – the written word – for denotation and connotation, register, and other aspects of emotional
perspective. The attitude of a speaker can run the gamut from objective and journalistic to emotional and
biased. The attitude is reflected in both his tone of voice and the mood of the story. It is the feelings the
author holds towards his subject: the people in his narrative, the events, the setting, or even the theme. It
might be the feeling he holds for the reader. At times the attitude might be serious or humorous, detached or
involved, ironic or straightforward.
In the famous short story “A Rose for Emily” if one examines the word choice of the author, his figures of
speech, syntax, and diction, the speaker’s attitude becomes evident. Told from the perspective of first-
person (plural) peripheral observer, the attitude of the speaker is ambivalent. Miss Emily is spoken of as
being “dear, inescapable, impervious, tranquil, and perverse.” Since she is a member of one of the “old”
families in a tradition-bound culture with an aristocratic hierarchy, her townsmen of a lower social caste such
as the narrator hold her in awe and respect. Because of her firmness of character, courage, and
independence, she arouses admiration and respect in others; yet, since her actions are extremely strong,
suggestive even of insanity, she is also regarded with a sympathetic condescension. Thus, she is both “looked
up to” and” looked down upon.” Additionally there is a tinge of jealousy on the part of the narrator. After
her father’s death, “A few of the ladies had the temerity to call, but were not received, and the only sign of
life about the place was the Negro man – a young man then – going in and out with a market basket. Just as
if a man – any man – could keep a kitchen properly., the ladies said, so they were not surprised when the
smell developed. It was another link between the gross, teeming world and the high and might Griersons.”
And later he remarks of Miss Emily, “That was when people had begun to feel sorry for her . . . So when she
got to be thirty and was still single, we were not pleased exactly, but vindicated; even with insanity in the
family she wouldn’t have turned down all of her chances if they had really materialized.
Finally, “ . . . It got about that the house was all that was left to her; and in a way, people were glad. At
last they could pity Miss Emily. Being left alone, and a pauper, she had become humanized. Now she too
would know the old thrill and the old despair of a penny more or less.”
When Miss Emily dies, the townspeople enter her house, and in a bed in a room “decked and furnished as for a bridal” they find what remains of Homer. The narrator, one of the curious townsfolk interested in the affairs, comments, “The body had apparently once lain in the attitude of an embrace, but now the long sleep that outlasts love, that conquers even the grimace of love, had cuckolded him.” The subject of the sentence is most immediately and most concretely Homer’s decayed body and Emily’s death. The attitude of the speaker toward this subject is revealed, in part by the figure of speech he has created to describe this con-clusion to the “love’ affair. Using metonymy, a figure of speech in which something associated with the sub-ject is used in its place, the narrator does not name death directly but euphemistically calls it a “long sleep.”
the long sleep that outlasts love Death
the long sleep that conquers even the grimace of love Death
This indirect method of expression separates the speaker from his subject and suggests, perhaps, control and emotional detachment. The word “cuckolded’ endows inanimate death with the very animate action of running off with Emily – and thus, it is implied, leaving Homer, the “husband” of the adulteress. This “long sleep” (death), then, is a lover who has stolen Emily from Homer. Homer is dead; unmarried; did not while he was alive want to marry Emily; wanted, in fact, to leave her. And yet the speaker likens the lifeless Homer to a man whose wife has run off with a lover. The attempted jilter, Homer, is jilted.
The distance the narrator establishes between himself and his subject allows for this bit of sophisticated irony. The tone suggests that these comments may be as much the author’s, William Faulkner’s, as the narrator’s.
1. Abstract Theoretical, without reference to specifics
2. Absurd: Contrary to logic, but sometimes artistically viable
3. Affected: Assuming a false manner or attitude to impress others
4. Ambiguous: Having two or more possible meanings
5. Analytical: Inclined to examine things by studying their contents or parts.
6. Anecdotal: Involving short narratives of interesting events
7. Angry: Resentful, enraged
8. Archaic: In the style of an earlier period
9. Austere: Stern, strict, frugal, unadorned
10. Banal: Pointless and uninteresting
11. Baroque: Elaborate, grotesque, and ornamental
12. Bizarre: Unusually strange or odd
13. Bland: Undisturbing, unemotional, and uninteresting
14. Bombastic: Pretentious and pompous
15. Breezy: Quick-paced, but sometimes superficial
16. Childish: Immature (when applied to adults or to writing): Expressing contempt
17. Cinematic: Having the qualities of a motion picture
18. Classical: Formal, enduring, and standard, adhering to certain traditional methods
19. Colloquial: Characteristic or ordinary and informal conversation
20. Comic: Humorous, funny, light (there are many levels of comedy)
21. Concise: Using very few words to express a great deal
22. Confessional: Characterized by personal admissions of faults
23. Contemptuous Feeling superior, disdainful
24. Convincing: Persuasive, believable, plausible
25. Convoluted: Very complicated or involved (as in the case of sentences with many
qualifiers, phrases, and clauses)
26. Crepuscular: Having to do with twilight or shadowy areas (as in the darker and more hidden
parts of human experience)
27. Cynical: A tendency to believe that all human behavior is selfish and opportunistic
28. Decadent: Marked by decay in morals, values, and artistic standards
29. Depressing: Sad, gloomy (without any redeeming qualities of true tragedy)
30. Detached: Disinterested, unbiased, emotionally disconnected
31 .Discursive: Moving pointlessly from one subject to another; rambling
32. Dreamlike: Having the characteristics of a dream
33. Earthy: Realistic, rustic, coarse, unrefined, instinctive animalize
34. Effeminate: Soft, delicate, unmanly
35. Elegiac: Expressing sorrow or lamentation (elegy is a mournful poem)
36. Emotional: Much given to strong feelings
37. Epistolary: Involving letters
38. Erudite: Learned, scholarly
39. Eulogistic: Involving formal praise in speech or writing, usually in honor of the dead
40. Evocative: Having the ability to call forth memories or other responses
41. Expressionistic: Stressing the subjective and symbolic in art and literature
42. Facetious: Amusing, but light, unserious, frivolous
43. Farcical: Humorous in a light way, comedy with high exaggeration
44. Fatalistic: Believing that everything that happens is destined and, therefore, out of the hands of the individual
45. Flamboyant: Conspicuously bold or colorful
46. Fluid: Flowing smoothly.
47. Iconoclastic: Inclined to attack cherished beliefs and traditions
48. Impressionistic: Inclined to use subjective impressions rather than objective reality
49. Ironic: Characterized by unexpected turn of events, often the opposite of the intended.
50. Irreverent: Showing disrespect for things that are usually respected or revered.
51. Journalistic: Characterized by the kind of language used in journalism
52. Lyrical: Intense, spontaneous, musical
53. Metaphorical: Having the characteristics of melodrama in which emotions and plot are
exaggerated and characterization is shallow
54. Mournful: Feeling or expressing grief. (Certain literary forms are devoted to the
expression of grief, such as elegies.)
55. Mundane: Ordinary or common, as in everyday matters
56. Naturalistic: Tending to present things in art and literature as they appear in nature or
57. Nostalgic: Inclined to long for or dwell on things of the past; sentimental
58. Objective: Uninfluenced by personal feelings. Making judgments based on facts
59. Ominous: Indicating or threatening evil or danger as dark clouds indicate that storm is
60. Parody: A satirical imitation of something serious, such as a comic takeoff of Romeo
and Juliet. The parody must have enough elements of the original for it to be
61. Persuasive: Able to get a person to do something or to agree with one by an appeal to reason or other convincing devices.
62. Philosophical: Interested in the study of basic truths of existence and reality.
63. Pious: Having or displaying a reverence for God and religion. Sometimes used
pejoratively, when the display is excessive and overly righteous.
64. Poetical: Having the qualities of poetry, such as pleasing rhythms or images.
65. Pompous: Displaying one’s importance in an exaggerated way. Sometimes this quality
is found in comic characters.
66. Primitive: Simple and crude. (Primitivism in the arts tries to make use of a sophisticated
way of what seems simple and crude.)
67. Prurient: Preoccupied with lewd and lustful thoughts.
68. Psychological: Having to do with the human mind and human behavior.
69. Puritanical: Strict or severe in matters of morality.
70. Realistic: Inclined to represent things as they really are.
71. Rhythmic: Characterized by certain patterns, beats, or accents (dancing music, poetry.)
72. Romantic: Having feelings or thoughts of love, but when associated with nineteenth
century literature or any such literature it suggests a style that emphasizes
freedom of form, imagination, and emotion.
73. Sardonic: Mocking, taunting, bitter, scornful, sarcastic
74. Satirical: Using sarcasm and irony, often humorously to expose human folly.
75. Sensuous: Taking pleasure in things that appeal to the senses. (Sensual suggests a strong
preoccupation with such things, especially sexual pleasures.)
76. Stark: Plain, harsh, completely (as in “stark raving mad’). Simple or bare, when
applied to style, sometimes even bleak or grim.
77. Subjective: Relying on one’s own inner impressions, a opposed to being objective.
78. Trite: Stale, worn out, as in trite expressions.
79. Urbane: Sophisticated, socially polished
80. Victorian: Prudish, stuffy, and puritanical (qualities during with Queen Victoria’s reign.)
81. Whimsical: Inclined to be playful, humorous, or fanciful
82. Wordy: Using more words than necessary to way what you have to say.
Sample Lesson Plans for Introducing the Concept of Tone and Attitude
To discern the difference in tone and attitude, students might read Chapter 27 of The
Adventure of Huckleberry Finn, Stevenson’s eulogy for Eleanor Roosevelt, Shaw’s account of his mother’s cremation (p. 37 of A Guide for AP EVT), and / or Cisneros’s “Three Wise Guys.”
Student groups may act out situations that illustrate different attitudes and tones. An example is the following dialogue which different pairs of students might read using different tones to reveal various attitudes.
A: You’re late!
B: I know. I couldn’t help it.
A: I understand.
I knew you would.
A: I have something for you.
B: Really? What?
Teacher may read an opening of a short story or a novel. Students listen and write down the word that they believe establishes the mood, tone, and / or atmosphere of the work.
Students may write two original pieces of prose concerning the same event in which they demonstrate different diction, tone, and attitude.
Students may take a popular work of literature and rewrite a small section of it to show a different attitude or tone. For example, rewrite a passage from The Catcher in the Rye with Holden as an enthusiastic student at Pency Prep.
Read some of the past Advanced Placement passages, which ask students to discern tone and or attitude and make an outline for writing the essay. Some good examples are Anne Bradstreet’s “The Author To Her Book” or John Donne’s “The Broken Heart”
Use short stories as a means of determining attitude and tone.
Read newspaper editorials to interpret attitude and tone.
Have students write two original paragraphs about in incident (an auto accident, cheating on a test) demonstrating a particular tone and attitude (disgusted, sarcastic, amazed, etc.)
Student can create two visuals (an ad, a video, a drawing) of the same thing but each will reveal a differing attitude toward the subject.
Diction: Word Choice or Diction Is Critical in Discerning Mood, Tone, and Attitude
Words may have negative, positive, or neutral effects
During the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year, when the
clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens, I had been passing alone, on horseback, through
a singularly dreary tract of country. At length I found myself, as the shades of evening drew
on, within view of the melancholy House of Usher . . .I reined my horse to the precipitous
brink of a black and lurid tarn that lay in the unruffled luster by the dwelling. . . [with]
vacant and eye-like windows.
Passage from Edgar A. Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher”
Circle the words that establish the mood and reveal the narrator’s attitude about the House of Usher. What word or words would you use to describe the tone of the passage?
Perhaps because bats are nocturnal in habit, a wealth of thoroughly unreliable legend has grown up about them, and men have made of the harmless, even beneficial little beasts a means of expressing their unreasoned fears. Bats were the standard of paraphernalia for witches; the female half of humanity stood in terror that bats would become entangled in their hair. Phrases crept into the language expressing man’s revulsion or ignorance -“bats in the belfry,” “batty,” “blind as a bat.” Franklin Folsom, “Life in Caves”
Read the passage and underline the words that reveal the attitude of the speaker towards bats. Then underline the words that reveal his feelings about humans. What inferences can you draw about the tone of the work as a whole?
2. We refused to get out of bed when the bugle blew in the morning, we fought against scrubbing our teeth in public to music, we sneered when the flag was ceremoniously lowered at sunset, we avoided doing a good deed a day, we complained loudly about the food . . . and we bought some chalk and wrote all over the Recreation Cabin, “We hate Camp Hi Wah.”
Passage from Ruth McKenny’s “A Loud Sneer For Our Feathered Friends.”
Read the passage and circle the verbs. What do they reveal about the attitude of the campers? How does the sentence structure contribute to the tone of the work?
3. Almost no feature of the interior design of our current cars provides safeguards against injury in the event of collision. Doors that fly open on impact, inadequately secured seats, the sharp-edged rearview mirror, pointed knobs on instrument panel doors, flying glass, the overhead structure-all illustrate the lethal potential of poor design. A sudden deceleration turns a collapsed steering wheel or a sharp-edged dashboard into a bone-and-chest crushing agent. Penetration of the shatterproof windshield can chisel one’s head into fractions. A flying seat cushion can cause a fatal injury .The apparently harmless glove-compartment door has been known to unlatch under impact and guillotine a child. Roof-supporting structure had deteriorated to a point where it provides scarcely more protection to the occupants, in common rollover accidents, than an open convertible.
Ralph Nader, “The Safe Car You Can’t Buy”
Read the passage carefully and circle the words that signify danger or potential harm. What do these words reveal about the attitude of the speaker? What do the verbs reveal about both the attitude and the tone?
In the annals of medical science, no virus has given doctors as much trouble as the Scholastic Adolescum, otherwise known as school sickness. The Scholastic Adolescum has been known to attack children of all ages and on every economic and social level. The symptoms are always the same. The child wakes up in the morning and says he has a “pain in the stomach,” a “headache,” a “sore throat,” or he “just doesn’t feel well.” In rare cases he might also have a “slight” fever. What has puzzled scientists for years is that the virus only attacks on weekdays and never on weekends or during the summer vacations. It lasts only 24 hours, and while it has no serious side-effects; it keep returning during the school year and even builds up in intensity just before test time. From Art Buchwald, Son of the Great Society
At what point in the passage did you realize it was a humorous piece? What words contribute to the humor? What is the attitude of the speaker? Close your eyes and visualize the speaker. What is the tone? Is the speaker angry? What is his mood?
It has been called the House of God. It has been called the High One. The Cold One. The White One. On close acquaintance by climbers, it has been called a variety of names rather less printable. But to the world at large it is Kilimanjaro, the apex of Africa and one of the great mountains on earth. Passage from James Ramsey Ullman’s Kilimanjaro.
Read the passage and circle the words you believe indicate the tone of the work and the attitude of the speaker. Are they one and the same? Why or why not? How does the sentence structure help to establish the tone?
6. Q: I am remodeling my house and would like to know where I can find information on Jane Seymour’s home. I understand it is very beautiful. Can you help? Annie L. Rogers, Austin, Texas
A: Jane Seymour, 45, has had even more homes than husbands, so it’s hard to tell which one you have in mind. Her first two marriages – to director Michael Attenborough and businessman Geoffrey Planer – ended in divorce. During her third marriage, to business manager David Flynn, the actress split her time between a sprawling California estate in Montecito and St. Catherine’s Court, the 34-room English manor house near Bath that was featured in her 1986 book Guide to Romantic Living From an article in “Parade Magazine” in January, 1997.
How does the author answer Ms. Rogers’ question? What is his attitude? How can you tell? What is his tone? What is the overall mood of the work? What specific words indicate the tone
The bowerbird is another creature that spends so much time courting the female that he never gets any work done. If all the male bowerbirds became nervous wrecks within the next ten or fifteen years, it would no surprise me. The female bowerbird insists that a playground be built for her with a specially constructed bower at the entrance. This bower is much more elaborate than an ordinary nest and is harder to build; it costs a lot more, too. The female will not come to the playground until the male has filled it up with a great many gifts: silvery leaves, red leaves, rose petals, shells, beads, berries, bones, dice, buttons, cigar bands, Christmas seals, and the Lord knows what else. When the female finally condescends to visit the playground, she is in a coy and silly mood and has to be chased in and out of the bower and up and down the playground before she will quit giggling and stand still long enough to shake hands. The male bird is, of course, pretty well done in before the chase starts, because he has worn himself out hunting for eyeglass lenses and begonia blossoms. I imagine that many a bowerbird, after chasing a female for two or three hours, says the hell with it and goes home to bed. Next day, of course, he telephones someone else and the same trying ritual is gone through again. A male bowerbird is as exhausted as a nightclub habitue is before he is out of his twenties. From “Courtship Through the Ages” by James Thurber
What words and phrases make you smile? What method does the author use to establish his tone? What is the general attitude of the speaker towards the male bowerbird? The female? Towards courting? What tone is prevalent throughout most of the piece?
8. Richard Jewell may not have had anything to do with the pipe bombing in Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park. That’s the way it looks anyway. But he sure is fat. There’s no doubt about it. He’s fat, fat, fat. How fat is he? That depends on when and where you read or hear about him. Nobody mentioned Jewell’s weight until he ceased being a hero and became a suspect. The guiltier he appeared to be, the fatter he became in stories and commentaries. At first he was “hefty” in some accounts, “husky” or “chunky” in others. Then he got fatter. He was “’pudgy” or “roly poly” or “beefy.”
On radio talk shows he ballooned like crazy. He was “blubbery,” a blubberguts.” He was “Porky” or Humpty Dumpty” or “the Pillsbury Dough Boy.” Sometimes he was just a “slob.” Or a “poor slob,” because Jewell is not only fat, he’s not smart enough –allegedly – to be a real police officer. So he’s a security guard, which, if you can believe what you read in the papers and heard on the radio – not always a smart idea, by the way – is a job for losers. A job for a “fat loser,” in Jewell’s case
“Unabubba.” That’s what some commentators called him because they couldn’t come right out and say: This guy is white trash, a redneck, a cracker. Explicit racial and class slurs are not tolerated in the mainstream, or even in the semi mainstream, or even in the semi-mainstream media. But they can say that Jewell is a “pudgy nobody” because who cares if you make fun of a fat person? It’s one prejudice that goes largely unquestioned. Nobody cares except fat people, and they almost never complain because that only leads to further mockery. Besides, many of them share the prejudice. They hate themselves for being fat. Americans have a curious relationship with fat. The latest Department of Agriculture study revealed at least a third of all adults in the United States are overweight. We’re fat and getting fetter. Our eating habits are depraved; our lifestyle is sedentary. We spend billions annually on diets and exercise programs and then don’t stick to them. We turn to diet drugs. We resort to liposuction. We look to magazines for advice and find articles that warn of eating disorder alongside details of the latest semi-starvation diet, or “eating plan.”
We hate fat. We fear fat. Fat people remind us of what we are, or what we could become if
we’re not careful. So we distance ourselves by making fun of them. Glance through just about any of the weekly supermarket tabloids to see a fun house reflection distorted, but only slightly of how Americans feel about fat. In these magazines fat is forever the threatening to ruin the lives of the famous. Liz and Oprah and Wynnona fight their endless battles of the bulge. Marlon Brando, at 350 plus pounds is “the Blobfather.” Doctors order 350 plus pound Rosemary Clooney, “Diet or
die!” Some tabloid fat stories are more absurd than others, which is saying a lot. Camilla Parker Bowles has “flabby arms” and a “thick waistline.” John Travolta “guzzles eight meals a day and piles on the pounds. And “Baywatch” star Yasmine Bleeth looks more like a blimp than a babe, “having gained 10 pounds and, judging from the photos, gone from a size 4 to a size 6. Some blimp! But fat bashing isn’t just the province of the supermarket tabloids, as we’ve seen in the “Unabubba” story. The mainstream media does a fine job of it too. So never mind that the authorities can’t find any hard evidence linking Jewell to the bombing: He’s fat. What more do they need to know? Get out the cuffs. From an editorial in The Austin American Statesman
Read the article carefully. Circle highly charged word and those, which reveal the general attitude of the public towards “fat people!” What is that attitude? What is the tone of the author? How is his attitude different from that of the general populace? Give specific details.
9. DEAR MISS MANNERS:
Q. What are the proper presents to give bridesmaids and my fiancé’s ushers? Is something so untraditional as a good book – different books for each, of course, according to their tastes – all right instead of things like bracelets and cuff links they may never use?
A: GENTLE READER:
Are you trying to give these people something they might enjoy, or are you trying to do the proper thing by them? Books, at best, are only read, but useless monogrammed silver objects that cannot be returned serve to remind one of the occasion of their presentation every time one sees them tarnishing away, unused. Cuff links and bracelets are all right, since everyone has too many of them, but silver golf tees or toothpaste tube sqeezers are ideal. From Judith Martin, Miss Manner’s Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior.
What is the prevailing tone of the above passage? What words specifically indicate the tone? Visualize the person writing the answer. What is his attitude toward both the person who wrote the letter and the issue of gifts?
10. What a thrill –
My thumb instead of an onion,
The top quite gone
Except for a sort of a hinge
A flap like a hat,
Then a red plush
--Sylvia Plath, “Cut: For Susan O’Neill Roe”
Read the poem carefully. What is the speaker’s attitude toward the event? What is the tone of the work in general? What imagery and language reveal the tone and attitude?
On the 1996 AP Literature and Composition Exam the second question was this: Read carefully the following poem by the colonial American poet, Anne Bradstreet. Then write a well-organized essay in which you discuss how the poem’s controlling metaphor expresses the complex attitude of the speaker.
“The Author to Her Book”
Thou ill-formed offspring of my feeble brain,
Who after birth did’st by my side remain,
Til snatched from thence by friends, less wise than true,
Who thee abroad exposed to public view;
Made thee in rags, halting, to the press to trudge, (5)
Where errors were not lessened, all may judge,
At thy return my blushing was not small,
My rambling brat (in print) should mother call.
I cast thee by as one unfit for light,
Thy visage was so irksome in my sight; (10)
Yet being mine own, at length affection would
Thy blemishes amend, if so I could.
I washed thy face, but more defects I saw,
And rubbing off a spot, still made a flaw,
I stretched thy joints to make thee even feet, (15)
Yet still thou run’st more hobbling thanis meet;
In better dress to trim three was my mind,
But nought save homespun cloth in the house I find.
In this array, ‘mongst vulgars may’st thou roam;
In critics hands beware thou dost not come; (20)
And take thy way where yet thou are not known,
If for thy Father asked, say thou hads’t none;
And for thy Mother, she alas is poor,
Which caused her thus to send thee out of door.
A Guide for Advanced Placement English Vertical Teams – pages 39-48.
Corbett, Edward P. J., and Conners, Robert J. Style and Statement. New York: Oxford, 1999.
Dean, Nancy. Voice Lessons Classroom Activities to Teach Diction, Detail, Imagery, Syntax, and
Tone. Gainesville, FL: Maupin House, 2000.
Keogh, Conal Patrick. Comprehensive Analysis Style Book of Self-Timed Exercises. New York:
Hancock, Edward L. Techniques for Understanding Literature. Belmont, California: Wadsworth,