How to Identify the Mood in a Work
Literary work has the power to evoke emotions and feelings in its readers and audience members, wether it is read aloud or to oneself. These emotions and feelings help establish a certain atmosphere or mood as one reads, which can intensify the impact the work has on a reader.. The writer of the work can create the mood using a number of elements such as, but not limited to, setting, tone, choice of words and theme. To define the mood, the reader should analyze how these different elements interact and what feeling they evoke.
How Does Setting Contribute to Mood?
The setting of a work establishes its location in time and space, creating context in which the action of the work takes place. In other words, setting situates the story or, if there is no story, the essence of the piece. Oftentimes, the setting can determine the social climate the characters or work exists within, and even what dialogue may take place. Acknowledging the affect a setting has on a work can create a strong mood for the reader.
What are examples of setting and mood?
- Edgar Allen Poe, “The Raven" - The lines “Deep into the darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, / Doubting” situates the poem in a deep darkness, establishing its setting. The setting, in turn, contributes to the overall mood of melancholy.
- Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland - Carroll establishes a whimsical, curious and joyful mood multiple times in his work. For example, Alice remarks, "It was much pleasanter at home," thought poor Alice, "when one wasn't always growing larger and smaller, and being ordered about by mice and rabbits. I almost wish I hadn't gone down that rabbit-hole—and yet—and yet—it's rather curious, you know, this sort of life!". This use of descriptive dialogue and description of her setting and its inhabitants helps establish the mood.
- "The Notebook" - In this movie, a famous scene exists between the main characters Noah and Allie. It comes at a turning point in their tumultuous relationship, when they meet each other in the pouring rain and kiss. This scene is famous for its intense affect on viewers, which is exaggerated by the setting and weather choice.
How Does Tone Contribute to Mood?
The tone of the work is closely related to mood but tends to be associated with voice. Voice is associated with the writer’s attitude toward the world and how their thoughts may influence their writing. The tone of the poem relays the writer’s attitude toward his subject or audience, and helps contribute to the overall mood and impact of the work as a whole. The writers voice can shine through in sentence structure, word choice and writing style, which all contributes to the tone as well. Tone has much to do with the detailed choices a writer makes in their work, but connects with voice as well. They are not to be confused, but their relation to one another is important to note.
What is example of tone and mood?
In the poem “Daddy,” Sylvia Plath’s tone oscillates from childlike love and adoration to detachment and fear. This variation creates the atmosphere or mood of uncertainty.
How are Theme and Mood Connected?
The theme relays the overall meaning of the work. The theme is not always explicit but comes from interpreting a combination of literary devices, including, but not limited to, voice, characterization, setting, diction, meter and rhyme. Identifying the work's theme may come before or after identifying its mood. In some cases, the driving force of a poem may be its theme, while in other cases, it may be its mood or atmosphere.
What is an example of theme and mood?
The theme of Tanya Shirley’s poem “The Distance Between Us” is absence, and this theme evokes the mood of longing.
How to Identify the Mood
In interacting with one another, these broader elements of setting, tone and theme evoke specific feelings in the reader and create a particular kind of mood or atmosphere. Each of these elements is affected and influenced by a number of other literary elements such as:
- figurative language,
- length of poetic lines or sentences and
- punctuation, which also interact with one another.
In identifying the piece's mood, the reader should consider all of these elements and interactions. Examples of moods in literature are:
- love or atmospheres of peace,
- serenity or chaos.
However, when we begin thinking about the mood of a film or piece of visual work, the viewer must pay attention to other elements. Dialogue and word choice can still impact the mood of the work, but these elements also help:
- camera movement and placement
- use of color
- internal monologues
- point of view
In the same way you have to adjust what you look for in movies to determine mood, you must adjust your eye when viewing art to determine mood as well. Below are some words used to describe features of art that may help identify the mood:
- In color: vivid, subtle, blended, broken, dull, flat, intense, rich, stimulating
- In composition, consider: landscape, layout, format, the flow, if it's spacious, confined, empty, chaotic, cluttered, simple
- In lighting: natural colors, blue/gray/black tones, if the lighting is dim or vibrant, warm red/yellow/orange tones
Mood vs Atmosphere
Mood and atmosphere are closely connected, but different fundamentally. Mood concerns the passage as a whole with all literary devices taken into account. Mood is a reflection on the entire work and how it impacts the reader in its entirety. While atmosphere is more centrally focused on the setting and time in which the story occurs.
Kate Prudchenko has been a writer and editor for five years, publishing peer-reviewed articles, essays, and book chapters in a variety of publications including Immersive Environments: Future Trends in Education and Contemporary Literary Review India. She has a BA and MS in Mathematics, MA in English/Writing, and is completing a PhD in Education.