Using the writings of Dickens, what is the difference between the tone of a passage or characterization of a character in a passage?I am a little confused on the difference when a teacher ask you...

Using the writings of Dickens, what is the difference between the tone of a passage or characterization of a character in a passage?

I am a little confused on the difference when a teacher ask you to characterize a character in a passage and when the tone is asked for a passage. I thought character is how a person is acting or feeling in the current passage and tone was how the author (Dickens) feels about the situation in the passage.

Asked on by sassy96

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accessteacher's profile pic

accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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It can always be difficult to prevent becoming confused by the huge variety of new terms that we use in the study of literature. From what you have written beneath your question, however, it seems you already have a good understanding of these two terms. You are completely right in that when we use the word "tone," we use it to refer to the attitude a writer takes towards a subject, a character, or the audience. This is normally conveyed through the writer's choice of words and the details that he or she stresses. We can normally describe the tone in one or two simple adjectives, such as affectionate or disgusted.

When we talk about character or characterisation, this is of course linked in with tone, as the characterisation of a given person is the process of revealing the personality and traits of a given character. Of course, one way that an author can do this is through the tone they adopt as they introduce and describe the character. For example, if we consider Sydney Carton in A Tale of Two Cities for one minute, even though he is described variously as a "wastrel" and as somebody who has wasted his talents in debauchery, it is clear that Dickens describes him with absolute sympathy and empathy through the choice of words that he uses and how he describes various scenes that show Carton in a sympathetic light. The tone is therefore key in terms of how character is developed.

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wannam | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

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Tone and characterization are quite different. Tone is the way the author feels about the entire subject or the audience. An author's tone might be partially portrayed by the way he speaks of the characters, but characterization is a different literary technique than tone. Characterization is "the process of conveying information about a character." The author might express their opinion about this character, but we must know the character itself before we can understand those opinions. The author might use narration or the thoughts, actions, and speech to characterize someone. The author might also use other characters in his/her work to help characterize someone. If you are asked to characterize a character, the teacher is referring to one specific element of the story. What is that particular character like? If you are asked for the tone of a passage, the teacher is asking how the author feels about the topic overall. A character can play an important role in setting the tone. The author's attitude towards his/her characters can give you a clue in deciphering their feelings about the subject as a whole.
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