Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 7

MIDDLE SCHOOL ENGLISH INSTRUCTION: Unit 2, Lesson 3 1

Focus of the lesson: theme, tone, and mood

1. THEME

What does it all mean? What message are we supposed to get from a short
story? And how are we supposed to get the message? Theme brings all of the
elements of the short story together.

Theme (Source - http://www.learner.org/exhibits/literature/read/theme1.html)

What exactly is this elusive thing called theme?

The theme of a fable is its moral. The theme of a parable is its teaching. The theme
of a piece of fiction is its view about life and how people behave.

In fiction, the theme is not intended to teach or preach. In fact, it is not presented
directly at all. You extract it from the characters, action, and setting that make up
the story. In other words, you must figure out the theme yourself.

The writer's task is to communicate on a common ground with the reader. Although
the particulars of your experience may be different from the details of the story, the
general underlying truths behind the story may be just the connection that both
you and the writer are seeking.

Finding the Theme

Here are some ways to uncover the theme in a story:

 Check out the title. Sometimes it tells you a lot about the theme.
 Notice repeating patterns and symbols. Sometimes these lead you to the
theme.
 What allusions1 are made throughout the story?
 What are the details and particulars in the story? What greater meaning may
they have?
 Remember that theme, plot, and structure are inseparable, all helping to
inform and reflect back on each other. Also, be aware that a theme we
determine from a story never completely explains the story. It is simply one
of the elements that make up the whole.

1
allusion = a brief reference to a person, event, place, or phrase. The writer
assumes that the reader will recognize the reference. For instance, most of us
would know the difference between a mechanic's being as reliable as George
Washington or as reliable as Benedict Arnold. Allusions that are commonplace
for readers in one era may require footnotes for readers in a later time.
(Source - http://academic.brooklyn.cuny.edu/english/melani/lit_term.html )
MIDDLE SCHOOL ENGLISH INSTRUCTION: Unit 2, Lesson 3 2

ACTIVITY 2-3-1

Connect to the following link and complete Activity #2 under “THEME:


What Does It All Mean?”

Elements of the Short Story Online Activities

2. TONE

The tone of a literary work is the writer’s attitude toward his or her audience
and/or subject. The tone can often be described by a single adjective such as
formal or informal, serious or playful, bitter or grateful. Factors that contribute to
the tone are word choice, sentence structure, and (in poetry) line length, rhyme,
rhythm, and repetition.

Questions that Help the Reader Analyze Tone

1. What is the subject of the selection?


2. What word(s) would you use to sum up the attitude toward his/her subject
that the author communicates in this selection?
3. What words and/or images does the author use in the selection to
communicate his/her attitude?
4. Is there any other aspect of the selection that contributes to the tone?
MIDDLE SCHOOL ENGLISH INSTRUCTION: Unit 2, Lesson 3 3

ACTIVITY 2-3-2
ACTIVITY ON TONE
DIRECTIONS: Read the three poems that appear on pp. 3-5. Then
write one paragraph to describe the tone in each. Remember to use
the questions that help with analysis of tone.

(1) True Love

True love. Is it normal


is it serious, is it practical?
What does the world get from two people
who exist in a world of their own?

Placed on the same pedestal for no good reason, 5


drawn randomly from millions but convinced
it had to happen this way - in reward for what?
For nothing.
The light descends from nowhere.
Why on these two and not on others? 10
Doesn't this outrage justice? Yes it does.
Doesn't it disrupt our painstakingly erected principles,
and cast the moral from the peak? Yes on both accounts.

Look at the happy couple.


Couldn't they at least try to hide it, 15
fake a little depression for their friends' sake?
Listen to them laughing – it’s an insult.
The language they use - deceptively clear.
And their little celebrations, rituals,
the elaborate mutual routines - 20
it's obviously a plot behind the human race's back!

It's hard even to guess how far things might go


if people start to follow their example.
What could religion and poetry count on?
What would be remembered? What renounced? 25
Who'd want to stay within bounds?

True love. Is it really necessary?


Tact and common sense tell us to pass over it in silence,
like a scandal in Life's highest circles.
Perfectly good children are born without its help. 30
It couldn't populate the planet in a million years,
it comes along so rarely.

Let the people who never find true love


keep saying that there's no such thing.
--Wislawa Szymborska
MIDDLE SCHOOL ENGLISH INSTRUCTION: Unit 2, Lesson 3 4

(2) Love Is Not All

Love is not all: it is not meat nor drink


Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain;
Nor yet a floating spar1 to men that sink
And rise and sink and rise and sink again;
Love can not fill the thickened lung with breath, 5
Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone;
Yet many a man is making friends with death
Even as I speak, for lack of love alone.
It well may be that in a difficult hour,
Pinned down by pain and moaning for release, 10
Or nagged by want2 past resolution's3 power,
I might be driven to sell your love for peace,
Or trade the memory of this night for food.
It well may be. I do not think I would.
--Edna St. Vincent Millay

1
spar = a wooden or metal pole used on a ship
2
want = desperate need
3
resolution = the will to accomplish something
MIDDLE SCHOOL ENGLISH INSTRUCTION: Unit 2, Lesson 3 5

(3) Oh, Oh, You Will Be Sorry

Oh, oh, you will be sorry for that word!


Give me back my book and take my kiss instead.
Was it my enemy or my friend I heard,
"What a big book for such a little head!"
Come, I will show you now my newest hat, 5
And you may watch me purse1 my mouth and prink2!
Oh, I shall love you still, and all of that.
I never again shall tell you what I think.
I shall be sweet and crafty, soft and sly;
You will not catch me reading any more: 10
I shall be called a wife to pattern by;
And some day when you knock and push the door,
Some sane day, not too bright and not too stormy,
I shall be gone, and you may whistle for me.
--Edna St. Vincent Millay

1
purse = pucker
2
prink = to primp; to wear makeup and clothes that are showy
MIDDLE SCHOOL ENGLISH INSTRUCTION: Unit 2, Lesson 3 6

3. MOOD

Mood, or atmosphere, is the feeling evoked in the reader by a literary work or


passage. The mood is often suggested by details describing the setting or
characters. Often the mood can be described in a single word, such as lighthearted,
frightening, or sorrowful.

ACTIVITY 2-3-3

ACTIVITY ON MOOD

DIRECTIONS: Below are two poems by Robert Frost. Compare/contrast the


mood (emotional impact on the reader) created by the two poems. Be sure
to include examples of words and images in the poem that create a
particular mood in the reader.

(1) Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.


His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer 5
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake. 10
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep, 15
And miles to go before I sleep.
--Robert Frost
MIDDLE SCHOOL ENGLISH INSTRUCTION: Unit 2, Lesson 3 7

(2) Desert Places

Snow falling and night falling fast, oh, fast


In a field I looked into going past,
And the ground almost covered smooth in snow,
But a few weeds and stubble showing last.

The woods around it have it--it is theirs. 5


All animals are smothered in their lairs.
I am too absent-spirited to count;
The loneliness includes me unawares.

And lonely as it is that loneliness 10


Will be more lonely ere it will be less--
A blanker whiteness of benighted snow
With no expression, nothing to express.

They cannot scare me with their empty spaces


Between stars--on stars where no human race is.
I have it in me so much nearer home 15
To scare myself with my own desert places.
--Robert Frost

Centres d'intérêt liés