What is the tone of "The Tyger"?
Tone is the author's attitude toward the subject of the work that comes through in the word choice, syntax, and structure of the piece. Tone is not always consistent within a given literary work. The tone of William Blake's "The Tyger" moves from awe, to fear, to irreverent accusation, to resigned curiosity.
In the first eleven lines of the poem, readers can sense the awe that the speaker of the poem holds for the tiger as a work of creation. The questions the speaker asks seem to imply that the Creator of the tiger is powerful and mysterious. But beginning in line 12, the tone becomes more ominous. With words like "dread" (repeated three times) and "deadly terrors," the image of the Creator becomes not-just awe-inspiring, but fear-inducing.
The fifth stanza moves into a tone bordering on the sacrilegious. It seems to question whether such a Creator could indeed be good. The idea that the stars "water'd heaven with their tears" suggests that creating the tiger was a bad idea. The next two questions: "Did he smile his work to see? Did he who made the lamb make thee?" become accusatory, even irreverent in that they question the Creator's motivation, implying it was not kindness and may differ from what people have traditionally believed.
The last stanza simply repeats the first, but now it takes on a different tone based on what has come before. Presumably, the questions cannot be answered since the round of inquiry begins anew. The heavy emotion of the previous questions seems to have subsided, and now the tone becomes curious yet resigned. Whatever the answer to these questions, the tiger exists.
The morphing tone of "The Tyger" is part of what makes it such an intriguing and captivating poem.
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