The tone of a piece of writing presents the author's attitude about the subject matter. Tone can shift slightly or greatly throughout a work as the author develops ideas and navigates imagery. In “Bat” by D. H. Lawrence, the speaker begins with a peaceful tone as he watches the sun set over Italy. The brown hills glow in the gloom, and the light dances across a stream.
Then, however, the speaker notices something flying, and his tone shifts to curious and engaged. He wants to know what these things are. They look like “swallows with spools of dark thread sewing the shadows together.” He watches with interest as they dip and swoop and loop.
But then the speaker realizes what these creatures are. They are bats! The speaker is now disgusted. He dislikes bats, and they make his scalp creep. He compares them to “disgusting old rags” and “bits of umbrella.” The Chinese may consider the bat a “symbol of happiness,” but the speaker certainly does not.
The mood of a piece of writing is the attitude it evokes in the reader. As we read this poem, we are deeply engaged with the poet's imagery, which inspires reflection. We look at common occurrences and things through a fresh lens, seeing them in new and creative ways. Most of us have probably never thought of the sunset surprising the world or of bats as sewing with dark threads or as black gloves. Lawrence provides us with another way to view the world, and we are invited into a mood of thoughtful interest.