Tone: the methods by which writers and speakers reveal attitudes and feelings Attitude: writer’s or speaker’s view of something Tone: how the writer or speaker communicates that attitude Tone in writing is similar to tone of voice in that it can convey feelings beyond what is spoken.
Determine the writer’s attitude toward the material / subject matter See the diagram for possible attitudes Topic Or Material UndecidedSympathetic Disdainful Neutral Admiring Condemning
Discover the writer’s attitude toward readers Author must take the reader’s transaction with the text into account during the writing process Authors may ▪ Expect readers to have certain information or understand certain allusions ▪ Assume that readers agree with his/her interpretation of or feelings about an event ▪ Anticipate readers’ interests, curiosity, etc.
Determine other dominant attitudes Look for attitudes beyond the general authorial tone A text may include many internal and dramatically rendered expressions of attitude. ▪ Characters’ actions and interactions ▪ Characters’ stated or implied feelings about events, situations, and/or other characters
“She must have felt in the corner of her eye me and over my shoulder Stokesie in the second slot watching, but she didn’t tip. Not this queen.” What is Sammie’s attitude toward “Queenie”? “The sheep pushing their carts down the aisle... were pretty hilarious. You could see them, when Queenie’s white shoulders dawned on them, kind of jerk, or hop, or hiccup...” What is Sammie’s attitude toward the customers in the A & P?
Humor is a major aspect of tone. Since humor is personal, idiosyncratic, and unpredictable, it can be difficult to anticipate and analyze. There are some common elements of humor that can be dissected and discussed in literary analysis.
Laughter requires an object or “butt” of the joke. Laughter may be classified as Homicidal: general laughter against something or someone Fratricidal: (shared) laughter against someone close Suicidal: laughter against oneself
Incongruity occurs when something happens that is contrary to our normal expectations. Inappropriate or incongruous behaviors are funny because they are unexpected / out of the ordinary. An absent-minded professor lights his pipe with a $100 bill. Malapropisms: inadvertent verbal errors “You're just a pigment of my affiliation.” "The ironing is delicious.“ - Bart Simpson, after finding Lisa in detention
Laughter depends on insulation from danger or pain. Therefore, we may laugh at physical abuse that Does not harm us Does not [seriously] harm the participant A sense of good will toward a character generates sympathy and involves us in that character’s emotions / happiness (romantic comedy).
Spontaneity prompts laughter by catching us off-guard. Laugher may depend on Seeing something new or unique Experiencing something familiar in a new light Gaining flashes of insight
Irony is created when there is a disconnect between what is perceived or expected and what actually is. In using irony, writers compliment the reader by assuming that the reader is intelligent and skilled enough to determine the real meaning of ambiguous statements or situations.
In verbal irony, the author/speaker says one thing, but actually means something else. Verbal irony may be outrageous or subtle. Tone of voice, facial expressions, gestures, or other physical manifestations may signal verbal irony. “Oh, I couldn’t agree more,” she said dryly, rolling her eyes heavenward.
Understatement: the expression does not fully describe the importance of a situation Understatement depends upon implication; the reader must be sensitive to the message that is implied. Ex. As the marathon runner finished her fourth mile, she waved to the reporters and shouted, “I’m just out for a little jog!”
Overstatement (hyperbole): the words used are obviously and inappropriately excessive Depends upon the reader/listener understanding that the true meaning is less than what is said Ex. “Oh,no,” John groaned as he looked at his planner. “It’s going to take, like, a million hours to finish all of this homework.”
Double entendre: verbal irony that plays upon ambiguity (can be taken more than one way) Closely related to the pun (play on words) in that it exploits the multiple meanings of words in order to generate humor May involve denotative, connotative, or slang meanings of words Often used in jokes about sex or sexuality
Also known as “irony of situation” Refers to the disconnect between what is hoped for or expected and what actually happens Often reflects a pessimistic outlook with its emphasis on how little control humans have over things that happen May be used to fool or mislead the reader (the infamous “twist”)
A special kind of situational irony that emphasizes the pessimistic and fatalistic side of life Based upon the belief that the universe is indifferent to individuals “Even if things temporarily go well, people’s lives end badly” Ex. The lyrics to Alanis Morissette’s song “Ironic” An old man turned 98. He won the lottery and died the next day. It’s a death-row pardon two minutes too late. It’s like 10,000 spoons when all you need is a knife.
Dramatic irony occurs when a character has no information about a situation or misjudges it, but readers (and often other characters) see everything completely and correctly. Ex. 1: The partygoer carelessly wanders into the basement of the house when the audience knows that the axe murder is down there waiting. Ex. 2: Othello places his trust in Iago, but the audience knows that Iago is plotting to ruin his life.
Getting Started Questions for Discovering Ideas Strategies for Organizing Ideas
Begin with a careful reading, noting those elements of the work that convey attitudes. Consider whether the work genuinely creates the attitudes it is designed to evoke. Look for discrepancies between appearance and reality. Investigate the relationship between such discrepancies and the attitude(s) conveyed in the work.
How strongly do you respond to the story? What attitudes can you identify and characterize? What elements in the story elicit your concern, indignation, fearfulness, anguish, amusement, or sense of affirmation? What causes you to sympathize or not sympathize with the characters, situations, or ideas? What makes the circumstances in the work admirable or understandable (or deplorable)?
What does the dialogue suggest about the author’s attitude toward the characters? How does it influence your attitudes? What qualities of diction permit and encourage your responses? To what degree, if any, does the story supersede any previous ideas you might have had about the same or similar subject matter? What do you think created the changes in your attitude? What role does the narrator/speaker play in your attitudes toward the story material?
In an amusing or comic story, what elements of plot, character, and diction are particularly comic? How strongly do you respond to humor-producing situations? Why? What ironies do you find in the story? How is the irony connected to philosophies of marriage, family, society, politics, religion, or morality? To what extent are the characters controlled by fate or other forces, such as social or racial discrimination, limitations of intelligence, economic and political inequality, or limited opportunity?
Do any words seem unusual or noteworthy, such as words in dialect, polysyllabic words, or foreign words or phrases that the author assumes you know? Are there any especially connotative or emotive words? What do these words suggest about the author’s apparent assumptions about the readers?
Goal: show how the author establishes the dominant moods of the story; possibilities include Use or misuse of language Expose of a pretentious or unreliable speaker Use of exact and specific descriptions Isolation of a major character Failure of plans
Is any person or group directly addressed by the speaker? What attitude is expressed? What is the basic situation in the story? Do you find irony? If so, what kind? What concept or attitude does the irony show? How is the situation controlled to shape your responses? What is the nature of the speaker/narrator? How is the narrator’s character manipulated to show apparent authorial attitudes and to elicit reader responses? Does the story promote respect, admiration, dislike, or other feelings about character or situation? How?
Analyze and relate descriptions and/or diction to attitude Description: To what degree do descriptions of natural scenery and conditions convey an attitude that compliments or opposes the circumstances of the characters? Are there any systematic references to colors, sounds, or noises that collectively reflect an attitude?
Diction Do connotative meanings of words control response in any way? To what degree does the diction require readers to have a large or technical vocabulary? Do speech patterns or use of dialect evoke attitudes about speakers or their condition of life? Is the level of diction standard or substandard? Is the language filled with slang? What is the effect of such a level? Are there any particularly unusual or noteworthy expressions? If so, what attitudes do these show? Does the author use verbal irony? To what effect?
Is the story funny? How funny, how intense? How is the humor achieved? Does the humor develop out of incongruous situations or language or both? What is the underlying basis of the humor? Are the objects of laughter still respected or loved, even though they are cause for amusement?
Are there any ideas advocated, defended mildly, or attacked? How does the author clarify his/her attitude toward the ideas—directly, by statement, or indirectly, through understatement, overstatement, or a character’s speeches? In what ways does the story assume a common ground of assent between author and reader? Common ground of assent = beliefs or assumptions held by both author and reader Is it easy to give assent to these ideas or is any concession needed by the reader to approach the story?
Each story has unique properties that contribute to the tone, for example Characters Recurring words or phrases Aspects of setting Parallel or recurring actions Colors, objects, or other elements with symbolic meaning
In your conclusion First, summarize your main points Then, go on to redefinitions, explanations, or afterthoughts, together with ideas reinforcing earlier points Might also mention other major aspects of story’s tone not developed in the body