Tone (5 examples in poetry)

It is a literary figure of speech or a medium through which the author’s feelings towards the subject matter are expressed. Here the readers will find tone, 5 examples of tone in literature and poetry.


Originated from the old French word ‘ton’. Firstly, used as a noun in 14th century while as a verb in 1674.


It is a literary figure of speech or a medium through which the author’s feelings towards the subject matter are expressed. The tone in a story indicates an overall feeling of the writing. It can be ironic, satiric, humorous, desperate, threatening, formal, informal, sentimental, pessimistic and optimistic. In other words, the tone is a reflection of writer’s mood.

All literary work including documents has a tone and it is sometime difficult to extract or find tone from the work. Tone in a story or literary work can be understood through the poetic devices.

How to create tone by Writer:

Writers create tone by using grammatical arrangement of the sentences and literary elements like imagery, simile, metaphor etc. Earlier the writers used tone for music purpose only but now its use in literature is formal. In Poetry and fiction, author through use of this device represents his feelings towards the subject matter, situation, or the intended audience.

The ‘tone’ of a work may change through the piece according to the narrator’s viewpoint towards that particular subject. Official or technical documents tend to employ a formal tone throughout the piece.

Examples of Tone:

In News: i) Thirty passengers died due to collapse of buses.
ii) Reckless driving ended a boy’s life.
iii) Flood water flowed many vehicles in a city area.
iv) Hundred’s of people died due to unhygienic food.

In Politics: i) Prime Minster debate (formal tone)
ii) The T.V. show (comedic and sarcastic tone)

Factors to be consider in using Tone:

While using tone, writer should be careful about his audience. He has to consider his audience either he is writing to friends or some stranger. Writer also take into consideration about how you want your audience to think about your piece of writing. Would you like to get them serious? Or want to get them upset?

Examples in Literature:

“A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” by Hemingway

It was very late and everyone had left
the café except an old man who sat in
the shadow, the leaves of the tree made,
against the electric light.

In the day time, the street was dusty,
but at night the dew settle the dust and the old man like to sit
late because he was deaf and now at night
it was quiet and he felt the difference.”

Here the writer created a calm tone in the lines of stanza. The sketch of late night has been prepared comparing it to an old man who is sitting peacefully.

The Tell Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe

His eye was like’ the eye of a vulture,
the eye of one of those terrible bird’s,
that watch and wait while an animal
dies, and then fall’ upon the dead’
body, and pull it to pieces to eat it.

Here in the lines of short story, ‘Poe’ has created the horrible tone by comparing the eye of an old man with the eye of a vulture.

Black Woman by Georgia Douglas Johnson

Don’t knock’ at my door, little child
I can’t let you in
You know’ not what a world this is,
of cruelty and sin.
Wait in the still eternity,
until I come to you,
the world is cruel, cruel, child
I cannot let you in.

Do not knock’ at my heart, little one
I can’t bear’ the pain,
of turning deaf ear to your call,
time and time again,
you d’nt know the monster men,
inhabiting the earth
be still be still, my precious child
I must not give you birth.

Here the fear tone has been described the writer in her poem. She stresses her fear for her unborn child.

A Tale of Two Cities by (Charles Dickens)

There was a steaming mist in all the hollows, and it had roamed in its forlornness up the hill, like an evil spirit, seeking rest and finding none. A clammy and intensely cold mist, it made its slow way through the air in ripples that visibly followed and overspread one another, as the waves of an unwholesome sea might do. It was dense enough to shut out everything from the list of the coach-lamps but these its own workings and a few yards of road and the reek of the laboring horses steamed into it, as if they had made it all.

Here the ‘Dickens’ in these lines created mysterious, gloomy and reticent tone.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by (Mark Twain)

It was a mighty nice family, and a mighty nice house, too. I had not seen no house out in the country before that was so nice and had so much style. It did not have an iron latch string but a brass knob to turn, the same as houses in a town. There was no bed in the parlor, not a sign of a bed but heaps of parlors in towns had beds in them.

There was a big fireplace that was bricked on the bottom, and the bricks were kept clean and red by pouring water on them and scrubbing them with another brick; sometimes they washed them over with red water-paint that they call Spanish brown, same as they do in town. There was a clock on the middle of the mantel piece, with a picture of a town painted on the bottom half of the glass front, and a round place in the middle of it for the sun, and you could see the pendulum swing behind it. It was beautiful to hear that clock tick.

Here in the above lines the poet has created the admiring tone while talking about the house and things present there.

Difference between Tone and Mood

‘Mood’ is considered the reader’s feelings towards the subject in matter. What the reader thinks and perceive about the work after reading it is called mood.

Tone’ is the writer’s feeling about the work. What the writer thinks and perceive about the material and the way of his presentation before the reader is called tone.

Further Reading

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