Voice Lessons – Tone Understanding voice in literature and using it in your own writing Adapted from Nancy Dean’s Voice Lessons
What is Tone? • Tone is the expression of attitude. • It is the writer’s (or narrator’s) implied attitude toward his subject and audience. • The writer creates tone by selection (diction) and arrangement (syntax) of words, and by the purposeful use of details and images. • Tone sets the emotion growing out of the material and is the hallmark of the writer’s personality.
What is Tone? • Tone is as varied as human experience. Identifying and analyzing tone requires careful reading and attention to all of the writer’s choices. • Sounds overwhelming? One trick that may help you figure out the tone of the story that you're reading is to imagine a key scene from the story as a movie. What sort of music would be playing in the background? Do you imagine something dark and moody, light and peppy, somber and thoughtful? Music is a tool often used in movies to emphasize tone.
Tone in Their Eyes • In Their Eyes were Watching God, Hurston’s tone is one of deep appreciation and celebration of African-American folk culture. • Her attitude toward Janie is compassionate and affirming; in fact, she shows sympathy toward most of her characters, even those that seem antagonistic. Hurston does this by providing context to help the reader understand the characters motivations. • Practice: What music do you hear in the hurricane scene? What about Janie’s return to Eatonville?
Tone in Brave New World • Huxley’s tone is extremely critical of the World State. The descriptions of the caste system, the children’s “erotic play,” and the pill-popping, promiscuous, vapid adults, serve as a warning of society’s fate if we continue down our current consumerist, government-controlled path. • Practice: His attitude toward the reservation is decidedly different. How would you describe Huxley’s tone toward the reservation?
Tone in Going After Cacciato • Practice: What music do you hear when Stink kills the water buffalo? What is O’Brien’s tone in this scene? • How does that differ from the tone on the Song Tra Bon? What music (if any) do you hear there?
Thinking About Tone • As we read Hamlet, think about the music that might play as a soundtrack to each scene to see if that helps you to identify tone. • What type of music might play while Ophelia and Laertes converse about Hamlet’s love before Laertes departs for France? What tone does it set?