Higher Close Reading
Questions on:
• Tone
• Mood
• Atmosphere
• Tone is concerned with voice.
• Mood is concerned with emotion.
• Atmosphere is concerned with the senses.
Learning Objectives for Questions on Tone
To identify differing tones through an analysis of purpose
What is Tone?
Tone is not so much about what is said but the way it is said.
It is about the attitude of the writer to the subject he or she is writing about.
You can change the tone just by changing a word or phrase.
Compare:
“You seem to spend a lot of time chatting to your friends.”
and
“You seem to waste a lot of time gabbing to your cronies.”
The first is sympathetic, the second unsympathetic
The tone of a piece of writing can be changed by:
• a word
• a phrase
• use of inverted commas
• use of brackets
What is Tone?
The most simplistic definition of tone is “the voice the author is using
through the narrative of the writing.”
The PURPOSE of the writing is key to the TONE that the author is attempting to
achieve.
Discursive writing may use emotive language, humour or sarcasm to put a
point across strongly. Other discursive pieces may just present the facts in
an objective, formal fashion.
In magazines the author may try to be the reader’s best friend and will
utilise colloquial language (chatty, friendly, slang).
Tone
Start by considering the overall tone of the passage. Is it being:
• serious,
• sarcastic or
• light-hearted?
You must have evidence to back up what you say, so look out in
particular for word choice in passages.
Compare these two examples of an introduction to a passage:
Passage 1 is taken from film critic Leslie Halliwell’s ‘The Dead That Walk’,
his lively history of horror film.
Passage 1 is taken from film critic Leslie Halliwell’s ‘The Dead That Walk’,
his insightful history of horror film.
What difference do the highlighted words make?
The word ‘lively’ implies a less serious tone than the word ‘insightful’.
If you were reading the passage aloud, what tone of voice would you use?
Think about whether the writer is being…
• Formal or informal?
• Serious or light-hearted?
• Critical or supportive?
These aren’t all useable tones but they can help to point you in the
right direction.
A – Z of Tones…
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
Affectionate
Aggressive
Angry
Apologetic
Bossy
Chatty
Cheerful
Demanding
Defensive
Dreamy
Dull
Excited
Fond
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
Grumpy
Humorous
Ironic
Jealous
Kind
Loving
Mocking
Nostalgic
Offensive
Old-fashioned
Polite
Pompous
Regretful
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
Sorrowful
Sarcastic
Snobby
Strict
Thoughtful
Tongue-in-cheek
Unctious
Vicious
Wistful
eXasperated
Youthful
Zealous
Irony or Sarcasm?
• Irony:
“A mockingly humorous use of words in which the
intended meaning is the opposite of what is
actually said.”
• Sarcasm: “Using harsh, bitter words intended to hurt or insult,
especially in an exaggerated or ironical way.”
Identifying Tone
You should look for particular words or phrases that help to identify the tone.
Match the phrases with the tone created by the words in blue:
Contemptuous
Resigned
“I’m sorry,” she spat.
“I’m sorry,” she sneered
“I’m sorry,” she sighed.
“I’m sorry,” she sobbed.
Devastated
Angry
Formula for Tone questions
• Identify the tone
• Give evidence (quote the words/phrase that ‘contain’ the tone
• Comment on its effect
Look at the following question
on tone - Question 3(b) in the
2005 paper.
Explain how the writer creates a slightly humorous tone in lines 34 – 43.
Use of inverted
commas may
indicate tone
Italics to
indicate tone
Survivors of essentially random impact
catastrophes – cosmic accidents – were
those creatures who just happened to be
“lucky” enough to find themselves alive
after the dust settled. It doesn’t matter
how well a creature may have been able
to survive in a particular environment
before the event – being thumped on the
head by a large object from space during
the event is not conducive to a long and
happy existence.
irony
2A
Word
choice
indicates
tone
Use of
informal
language to
indicate tone
Write your own answer
to this question
SQA Marking Instructions for this question
Marks will depend on the quality of explanation. A single point well explained and suitably
supported by reference could score 2 marks. A more basic comment will score 1 mark.
Reference alone or mere identification of a feature: 0.
1 use of “lucky”
2 use of “dust settled”
not usual scientific terminology, suggests a more
flippant approach
literal/metaphorical ambiguity could be seen as
humorous
marks
would
unscientific terminology creates a humorous picture
How many
your answer get?
3 “being thumped (on the head)”
4 “thumped” and “conducive” (or any
similar combination)
5 “not conductive to a long and happy
existence”
6 use of italics/inverted commas to
suggest method of vocal delivery
juxtaposition of colloquial and formal gives rise to
humour
ironic, understated, deliberately clichéd, contrast with
“thumped”
creates comic effect and emphasis
Look at the following answers.
How many marks would each candidate get?
1) The writer creates a slightly humorous tone in being thumped on the head by a large
object from space. The writer’s choice of words in “thumped” has connotations of
cartoons in which one character is unlucky enough to be hit with a large object. The image
evoked from this word is one of humour which brings about this humorous tone.
1 mark - The candidate makes reference to cartoons but does not really explain how the
humour is created. A ‘strong’ one mark but not quite sufficient for full marks.
2) The language the writer uses is humorous as he uses phrases such as ‘who just happened
to be “lucky”… alive after the dust settled.’ This creates the image of creature’s heads
peering out while dust settles. This is a rather humorous image. At the end of the
paragraph when the writer says ‘thumped on the head by a large object… not conducive
to a long and happy existence. This also is rather humorous and as if he is reaching out to
the skeptics and asking them how you would survive that.
0 marks - A two part answer which makes reference but fails to explain the humour in either
case – the first comment is mere assertion and the second struggles to make sense.
The following answer would get full marks:
• “being thumped over the head” - “thumped” – hit hard, informal, playful
The informal language detailing a playful violence contrasts with the power and
severity of the impact which is humorous.
• “is not conducive to a long and happy existence”
This is humorous, and ironic, in that it would be impossible to live after such a
force – and this suggests the impact of a comet is merely counter productive.
• The contrast of the informality of “thumped” with the formal “conducive” is
also humorous.
Now have a go at the following question on tone
1) ‘This was marginally inconvenient…boxing gold.’ What tone is adopted by the writer in
this sentence? Go on to explain the effect of the tone in this context. (2)
The truth was that he (Ali) was dead scared of flying. Two months earlier, on his way to the
U.S. boxing trials, he had been violently buffeted during a turbulent flight across to
California. It was the first time he had ever travelled by air, and he swore he would never
fly again. This was marginally inconvenient when he was one of the hottest hopes America
had for Olympic boxing gold.
Mark your answer
Marking instructions:
Ironic, tongue-in-cheek, sarcastic, dry, humorous...(1)
Acceptable explanation of effectiveness / ineffectiveness (1) Such explanations include:
i) effective as it points up the humour / farcical nature of the situation
ii) effective as it points up how human the young "hero" actually was
iii) effective as it points up how much emotion America had invested in him
iv) Ineffective / effective as it belittles a potentially serious situation
The above list is not exhaustive. Candidates will offer other explanations whose acceptability
will have to be judged by the marker.
Marking instructions:
Ironic, tongue-in-cheek, sarcastic, dry, humorous...(1)
Acceptable explanation of effectiveness / ineffectiveness (1) Such explanations include:
i) effective as it points up the humour / farcical nature of the situation
ii) effective as it points up how human the young "hero" actually was
iii) effective as it points up how much emotion America had invested in him
iv) Ineffective / effective as it belittles a potentially serious situation
The above list is not exhaustive. Candidates will offer other explanations whose acceptability
will have to be judged by the marker.
This is a serious angry tone . The
content is effective at creating this
manygoes
marks
the following answers get?
tone becauseHow
the author
on would
to
O marks
say Cassius was so popular
worldwide he needed to go back on a
plane and it took a long while to
persuade him to do so.
Marking instructions:
Ironic, tongue-in-cheek, sarcastic, dry, humorous...(1)
Acceptable explanation of effectiveness / ineffectiveness (1) Such explanations include:
i) effective as it points up the humour / farcical nature of the situation
ii) effective as it points up how human the young "hero" actually was
iii) effective as it points up how much emotion America had invested in him
iv) Ineffective / effective as it belittles a potentially serious situation
The above list is not exhaustive. Candidates will offer other explanations whose acceptability
will have to be judged by the marker.
The tone is humorous and it is
effective as it stresses the
"inconvenience" of having this fear.
The humour is in "marginally" as this
is a huge understatement and it
emphasises how disruptive this fear
would be to his career.
2 marks
2) Show how the writer uses tone to demonstrate her strength of feeling in these lines. (2)
Yet Ireland has managed to attract its young entrepreneurs back to help drive a
burgeoning economy. We must try to do likewise. We need immigrants. We cannot grow
the necessary skills fast enough to fill the gap sites. We need people with energy and
commitment and motivation, three characteristics commonly found among those whose
circumstances prompt them to make huge sacrifices to find a new life.
• Stress on ‘must’, ‘need’ ‘cannot’ and ‘need’.
These words demand action.
• Tone could be: demanding; persuasive; pleading.
• Repetition of ‘we’:
Underlines the fact that they must help themselves/each other .
• Repetition of ‘and’:
Emphasises importance of qualities that are needed.
3) Show how the language of these lines contributes toward a complex portrait of the Scots.
You should consider tone. (2)
And we are certainly not mean: we may sometimes be cautious, for we have long
memories of poverty; but we are just as often generous to a fault. We are not
hypocritical, at least not very. We love nothing better than logical argument, so much so
that, in Edinburgh at least, we are sometimes accused of even making love on a
metaphysical level, which may account for the relatively static population.
• Structure of lines.
Juxtaposes the contradictions of the Scottish character.
• Word choice of “certainly not mean”
Suggests writer is offended at the very idea.
Uses euphemism of “cautious” instead, though both words have the same
basic meaning.
• Comment: “making love…population.”
Now poking fun at characteristic of own nation.
• Tone could be: defensive, tongue-in-cheek, self-deprecating.
4) In the final paragraph the writer makes clear that he disapproves of too much government
intervention. Show how the writer’s tone demonstrates his strength of feeling. (2)
It might; but it would also constitute too great an intrusion on liberty for the gain in
equity and efficiency it might (or might not) represent. Society has a legitimate interest in
fat, because fat and thin people both pay for it. But it also has a legitimate interest in not
having the government stick its nose too far into their private sphere. If people want to
eat their way to grossness and an early grave, let them.
• contemptuous
informality/vulgarity of “stick its nose … grossness … early grave”
• elevated, rather hectoring
“constitute … intrusion on liberty … private sphere”
5) Show how the writer’s use of language creates a self-mocking tone. (2)
One faction has cried constantly that the countryside is in mortal danger from greedy developers
whose only motive is profit; another has kept on roaring that farmers are killing every wild thing
in sight and threatening the very soil on which we stand through overuse of machinery and
chemicals; still another has been continually heard ululating over a decline in the bird population,
or the loss of hedgerows, or the disappearance of marshland, or the appearance of coniferous
forest.
cried constantly
mortal danger
roaring
threatening the very soil on which we stand
continually heard ululating
Mood
• Here, you’re looking for an emotional feeling in the passage (fear, sorrow, joy,
etc.)
• As with tone, you will need evidence from the text to help you prove your point.
• You should be looking to use any of the techniques you have studied.
• You must:
• Identify an appropriate mood
• Give evidence from the text to support your choice
• Comment on how the mood is created.
6) Identify the mood of these lines. By referring to both imagery and sentence structure, show
how the writer creates this mood. (4)
Sometimes, later in the evening, one of them will appear downstairs, a pyjamaed stocky
ghost lurking on the fringes of our adult evening (scenes from ER or from war-zones are
hastily turned off the TV), and say that they are scared. Scared of monsters, scared of
wars, scared of you going away, scared of thunder, scared of a rustle outside the bedroom
door, scared of don’t know what, just scared. And if we say, but there’s nothing to worry
about, you’re safe, there’s nothing there, then they reply that they know that; it’s inside
their heads and they can’t make it go away. It’s as if the images that flicker against their
eyelids night after night are locked into their skulls when they sleep and go on burning
there.
Atmosphere
• With atmosphere questions, you tend to be looking for some involvement of the
five senses in the passage.
• Therefore, your answer could be that the atmosphere is ‘smelly’ or ‘bright’ or
‘noisy’, as these are all linked to the senses.
• As always, you need to identify the atmosphere, give evidence and comment on
it.
• As with tone, you will mostly be looking at word choice here.
7) What is the atmosphere created in these lines? Show how the writer creates this
atmosphere. (4)
Below Westminster, the river belongs to melodrama. At Dockside, just beneath Tower
Bridge on the south bank, one can wander among empty warehouses that still smell of
cinnamon, where tramps’ fires smoulder on the upper floors and the homeless sleep out
the day on acrid sacks. It used to be called St. Saviour’s Dock and was rechristened
‘Savoury* Dock’ because of the stench of ‘Folly Ditch’, the open sewer that flowed into it.
It is a shadowy forbidding place; its hard to look into the inert, scummy water of the dock
inlet without expecting to see a body there.
*from the word savour meaning ‘odour’