Guide to Literary Terms

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Tone

Tone is the author's attitude toward a subject or audience. Word choice, imagery, and style all contribute to an author's tone, but specific plot events do not. An author's use of a specific tone can help readers interpret the text's meaning. Tone tells readers how they should feel while reading a piece, thereby influencing a work's mood. It should be noted, though, that tone creates the mood for a piece, but is not the same as mood.

  • “Trout, incidentally, had written a book about a money tree. It had twenty-dollar bills for leaves. Its flowers were government bonds. Its fruit was diamonds. It attracted human beings who killed each other around the roots and made very good fertilizer.”

Kurt Vonnegut creates a detached tone throughout Slaughterhouse-Five, as shown in this excerpt.