Tone in Poetry.ppt

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Steps to analyzing tone

First, you must identify the subject. What is the author talking about?


What is tone?

 Tone is the attitude the speaker has to the


Elements of Tone

 Diction

 Imagery

 Details

 Language


Just Remember DIDLS D




 Diction is word choice

Pay attention to connotative as well as denotative meanings of words.



Imagery tells you a lot about tone.

What is the focus? Note the images used in



Notice the details that are included, as well as the details that are excluded.

Is the focus on action/inaction? Emotion? What is omitted?



Is the language formal? Informal? Mostly

technical jargon? Is it unique to a specific area or group?


Sentence Structure

This is especially important in noticing shifts in tone. Look at things like length of sentences (longer

sentences linger, shorter sentences hurry us along). What effect does punctuation have on the tone?


Tone Vocabulary

Key words to use when explaining tone:

angry, sharp, upset, hollow, joyful, allusive, sweet, bitter, dreamy, restrained, dramatic, sad, urgent, poignant, detached, confused, childish, mocking, objective, vibrant, frivolous, audacious, somber, provocative, sentimental, fanciful, complimentary, condescending, sympathetic, contemptuous,


Why look at tone?

Looking at tone should accompany a search for thematic meaning.


Tone and Irony

 Use of irony shows respect for the reader – you have to rely

on reader insight for them to get it

 Irony also makes a point by emphasizing a discrepancy or an

opposite; it shows two ways of seeing a situation

 Irony comes from a Latin word that means “feigned ignorance”

 Major kinds of irony:


Verbal Irony

Verbal irony depends on the interplay of words; one thing is meant but another is said. Eg.: “Nice shot buddy” when somebody misses a basket.

Types of verbal irony:

a. Understatement

b. Hyperbole (or overstatement)

c. Double entendre (has a double meaning)

d. Sarcasm (this is the most common type of verbal irony)

 Eg. The following poem by Siegfried Sassoon provides an example of verbal


The General


Situational Irony

 AKA irony of situation

 This is the discrepancy of the ideal and the


 Eg. Coleridge’s poem “Rime of the Ancient

Mariner.” He’s in the middle of an ocean and says,


Dramatic Irony

 Also a type of situational irony

 This is when a character doesn’t know something but the reader/audience


 Like in Oedipus – we know the truth but he doesn’t

 It is not just used in drama – can be used in fiction and poetry

 Eg. Randall Jarrall’s “Protocols” is about the Holocaust; A child killed in the

Holocaust by going to the gas chambers (disguised as showers) says,


Cosmic Irony

 This is a type of situational irony  AKA Irony of Fate

 Emphasizes pessimistic/fatalistic side of life

 It says the universe is indifferent to people; basically they will always be subject to accident, misfortune, misery

 Usually a writer uses “God, destiny or fate to dash the hopes and expectations of a character or of humankind in general”

A Man Said to the Universe

A man said to the universe: "Sir I exist!"

"However," replied the universe, "The fact has not created in me A sense of obligation."



 Satire is used to expose human follies and vices.  It is often an insult; often uses humor and irony  Eg. “Epigram, Engraved on the Collar of a Dog

which I Gave to His Royal Highness” --Pope I am his Highness’ dog at Kew;

Pray tell me sir, whose dog are you?

Line one satirizes royalty based on birth; line two


Strategies for organizing ideas

when writing about tone

 When you write, you need to address how the

author establishes the mood of the story.

 Look at the audience, the situation, and the

characters. How can these elements express an attitude? What attitude does the speaker


Strategies for organizing ideas

when writing about tone, cont’d

 Look at descriptions and dicton. You need to

connect attitude to the language and description.

 Humor. How is humor achieved and what


Strategies for organizing ideas

when writing about tone, cont’d

 Ideas. What ideas are defended or attacked?

How are the author’s attitude clarified? Look

for common ground – what does the poem say that most people would agree on? Then how does the poet treat that situation?

 Unique characteristics. Is there a specific





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