SAT II Literature : Tone, Style, and Mood: Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Prose

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for SAT II Literature

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Example Questions

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Example Question #37 : Genre, Style, Tone, Mood, And Other Literary Features

It is a melancholy object to those who walk through this great town or travel in the country, when they see the streets, the roads, and cabin doors, crowded with beggars of the female sex, followed by three, four, or six children, all in rags and importuning every passenger for an alms . . .

. . . I shall now therefore humbly propose my own thoughts, which I hope will not be liable to the least objection.

I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed is at a year old a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricassee or a ragout.

                                                                                                                                                                                                         (1729)

This passage's tone is best described as ___________.

Possible Answers:

pompous 

satirical 

solemn 

zealous 

foreboding 

Correct answer:

satirical 

Explanation:

"Satirical" best describes this passage's tone. The first paragraph suggests that povery is an issue, and the following paragraphs suggest the way to fix the problem is to eat children. Satire attempts to cause a social change or examine/criticize human actions or bad characteristics and ridicule it through irony and humor. 

(Passage adapted from "A Modest Proposal" by Jonathan Swift)

Example Question #38 : Genre, Style, Tone, Mood, And Other Literary Features

Dear Sir, 

You are pleased to call again, and with some earnestness, for my thoughts on the late proceedings in France. I will not give you reason to imagine, that I think my sentiments of such value as to wish myself to be solicited about them. They are of too little consequence to be very anxiously either communicated or withheld. It was from attention to you, and to you only, that I hesitated at the time, when you first desired to receive them. In the first letter I had the honour to write you, and which at length I send, I wrote neither for nor from any description of men; nor shall I in this. My errors, if any, are my own. My reputation alone is to answer for them. 

You see, Sir, by the long letter I have transmitted to you, that, though I do most heartily wish that France may be animated by a spirit of rational liberty, and that I think you bound, in all honest policy, to provide a permanent body, in which that spirit may reside, and an effectual organ, by which it may act, it is my misfortune to entertain great doubts concerning several material points in your late transactions.

(1790)

In the first three sentences of the first paragraph ("You are pleased to call again....either communicated or withheld.), the tone is primarily one of __________________.

Possible Answers:

anger

deliberate humility

annoyance

apology

disdain

Correct answer:

deliberate humility

Explanation:

In the first three sentences of this passage, the speaker shows no signs of anger, disdain, or annoyance. Neither is he offering an apology for anything. He is, however, assuring his addressee that he does not think overly highly of himself or his opinions, which is more than anything else a display of humility.

Passage adapted from Edmund Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790).  

Example Question #39 : Genre, Style, Tone, Mood, And Other Literary Features

We went tiptoeing along a path amongst the trees back towards the end of the widow's garden, stooping down so as the branches wouldn't scrape our heads. When we was passing by the kitchen I fell over a root and made a noise. We scrouched down and laid still. …Jim was setting in the kitchen door; we could see him pretty clear, because there was a light behind him.  He got up and stretched his neck out about a minute, listening. Then he says:

“Who dah?”

He listened some more; then he come tiptoeing down and stood right between us; we could a touched him, nearly. Well, likely it was minutes and minutes that there warn't a sound, and we all there so close together. There was a place on my ankle that got to itching, but I dasn't scratch it; and then my ear begun to itch; and next my back, right between my shoulders. Seemed like I'd die if I couldn't scratch. Well, I've noticed that thing plenty times since. If you are with the quality, or at a funeral, or trying to go to sleep when you ain't sleepy—if you are anywheres where it won't do for you to scratch, why you will itch all over in upwards of a thousand places.

What is the overall tone of this passage?

Possible Answers:

Admonitory

Didactic

Furtive

Comical

Sardonic

Correct answer:

Comical

Explanation:

With its characters’ farcical tiptoeing around, tripping on a branch, and narrow avoidance of discovery, the tone of the passage is decidedly comical. It is made more so by the narrator’s internal monologue about itching and the inability to do so in certain social situations. While the characters are behaving with a degree of furtiveness, the tone of the passage itself is not stealthy or secretive.

Passage adapted from Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884).

Example Question #31 : Tone, Style, And Mood

From the dim woods on either bank, Night’s ghostly army, the grey shadows, creep out with noiseless tread to chase away the lingering rear-guard of the light, and pass, with noiseless, unseen feet, above the waving river-grass, and through the sighing rushes; and Night, upon her sombre throne, folds her black wings above the darkening world, and, from her phantom palace, lit by the pale stars, reigns in stillness.

Then we run our little boat into some quiet nook, and the tent is pitched, and the frugal supper cooked and eaten. Then the big pipes are filled and lighted, and the pleasant chat goes round in musical undertone; while, in the pauses of our talk, the river, playing round the boat, prattles strange old tales and secrets, sings low the old child’s song that it has sung so many thousand years...

Harris said: “How about when it rained?”

You can never rouse Harris. There is no poetry about Harris—no wild yearning for the unattainable. Harris never “weeps, he knows not why.” If Harris’s eyes fill with tears, you can bet it is because Harris has been eating raw onions, or has put too much Worcester over his chop.

What is the tone of paragraph 2?

Possible Answers:

Petulant

Mirthful

Ebullient

Wistful

Sardonic

Correct answer:

Wistful

Explanation:

The paragraph in question describes happy times in a somewhat pensive tone. While paragraph 2 is not as imagistic or lyrical as paragraph 1, it is certainly not sardonic (sarcastic) or mirthful. It is also not ebullient (overjoyed) or petulant (peevish).

Passage adapted from Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat (1889).

Example Question #32 : Tone, Style, And Mood

From the dim woods on either bank, Night’s ghostly army, the grey shadows, creep out with noiseless tread to chase away the lingering rear-guard of the light, and pass, with noiseless, unseen feet, above the waving river-grass, and through the sighing rushes; and Night, upon her sombre throne, folds her black wings above the darkening world, and, from her phantom palace, lit by the pale stars, reigns in stillness.

Then we run our little boat into some quiet nook, and the tent is pitched, and the frugal supper cooked and eaten. Then the big pipes are filled and lighted, and the pleasant chat goes round in musical undertone; while, in the pauses of our talk, the river, playing round the boat, prattles strange old tales and secrets, sings low the old child’s song that it has sung so many thousand years...

Harris said: “How about when it rained?”

You can never rouse Harris. There is no poetry about Harris—no wild yearning for the unattainable. Harris never “weeps, he knows not why.” If Harris’s eyes fill with tears, you can bet it is because Harris has been eating raw onions, or has put too much Worcester over his chop.

What is the tone of paragraph 4?

Possible Answers:

Parsimonious

Droll

Obstreperous

Dreary

Lugubrious

Correct answer:

Droll

Explanation:

The speaker’s assessment of Harris’s character is dry, sardonic, and somewhat comedic. In other words, the tone is droll. None of the other choices make sense in the context of the speaker’s sentences.

Passage adapted from Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat (1889).

Example Question #33 : Tone, Style, And Mood

(1) We had taken up an oil-stove once, but “never again.” (2) It had been like living in an oil-shop that week. (3) It oozed. (4) I never saw such a thing as paraffin oil is to ooze. (5) We kept it in the nose of the boat, and, from there, it oozed down to the rudder, impregnating the whole boat and everything in it on its way, and it oozed over the river, and saturated the scenery and spoilt the atmosphere. (6) Sometimes a westerly oily wind blew, and at other times an easterly oily wind, and sometimes it blew a northerly oily wind, and maybe a southerly oily wind; but whether it came from the Arctic snows, or was raised in the waste of the desert sands, it came alike to us laden with the fragrance of paraffin oil.

(7) And that oil oozed up and ruined the sunset; and as for the moonbeams, they positively reeked of paraffin.

What is the tone of this passage?

Possible Answers:

Glamorous

Ecumenical

Comedic

Indigent

Plaintive

Correct answer:

Comedic

Explanation:

Due to the author’s use of hyperbole and repetition, we can surmise that readers are meant to find humor in this passage. The tone might be comically indignant (annoyed) at the paraffin oil mishap, but don’t confuse this term with indigent (impoverished). Ecumenical refers to matters of church or religion, plaintive is a synonym for mournful, and glamorous is a synonym for beautiful or stylish. None of these terms make sense given the style and content of the passage.

Passage adapted from Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat (1889).

Example Question #1 : Tone, Style, And Mood: Eighteenth And Nineteenth Century Prose

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness; that, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.

(1776)

The tone of this passage could be described as ____________________.

Possible Answers:

angry and over-excited

indignant and solemn

disrespectful and irreverent

melancholy and apologetic

logical and indifferent

Correct answer:

indignant and solemn

Explanation:

One possible way to describe the tone of this passage is "indignant and solemn." The adjective "indignant" means that the author(s) are writing about a wrong that has been done to them, and passionately believe that it must be corrected. "Solemn" is appropriate because the tone is very formal and serious.

Passage adapted from The Declaration of Independence of the Continental Congress of the United States of America in 1776.

Example Question #35 : Tone, Style, And Mood

(1) The Baron's lady weighed about three hundred and fifty pounds, and was therefore a person of great consideration, and she did the honours of the house with a dignity that commanded still greater respect. (2) Her daughter Cunegonde was seventeen years of age, fresh-coloured, comely, plump, and desirable. (3) The Baron’s son seemed to be in every respect worthy of his father. (4) The Preceptor Pangloss was the oracle of the family, and little Candide heard his lessons with all the good faith of his age and character. (5)

Pangloss was professor of metaphysico-theologico-cosmolo-nigology. (6) He proved admirably that there is no effect without a cause, and that, in this best of all possible worlds, the Baron's castle was the most magnificent of castles, and his lady the best of all possible Baronesses.

(1759)

What is the tone of this passage?

Possible Answers:

Malicious

Flattering

Comedic

Bathetic

Pathetic

Correct answer:

Comedic

Explanation:

The author pokes fun at both the Baron’s wife and at Pangloss in this passage, and he does so in a lighthearted tone. There is no malice in his descriptions, even though they are somewhat unflattering. Pathos is a synonym for poignancy or tragedy, and bathos is a synonym for ridiculousness.

Passage adapted from Voltaire’s Candide (1759)

Example Question #36 : Tone, Style, And Mood

(1) The Baron's lady weighed about three hundred and fifty pounds, and was therefore a person of great consideration, and she did the honours of the house with a dignity that commanded still greater respect. (2) Her daughter Cunegonde was seventeen years of age, fresh-coloured, comely, plump, and desirable. (3) The Baron’s son seemed to be in every respect worthy of his father. (4) The Preceptor Pangloss was the oracle of the family, and little Candide heard his lessons with all the good faith of his age and character. (5)

Pangloss was professor of metaphysico-theologico-cosmolo-nigology. (6) He proved admirably that there is no effect without a cause, and that, in this best of all possible worlds, the Baron's castle was the most magnificent of castles, and his lady the best of all possible Baronesses.

(1759)

Which sentence in the passage is tongue-in-cheek?

Possible Answers:

Sentence 1

Sentence 2

Sentence 6

Sentence 4

Sentence 5

Correct answer:

Sentence 6

Explanation:

Sentence 6 lists the several things that Pangloss “proves” in an approving tone. However, everything on the list is somewhat ridiculous, obvious, or obsequious: “He proved admirably that there is no effect without a cause” (obvious), “and that, in this best of all possible worlds, the Baron's castle was the most magnificent of castles and his lady the best of all possible Baronesses” (ingratiating).

Passage adapted from Voltaire’s Candide (1759)

Example Question #37 : Tone, Style, And Mood

(1) The Baron's lady weighed about three hundred and fifty pounds, and was therefore a person of great consideration, and she did the honours of the house with a dignity that commanded still greater respect. (2) Her daughter Cunegonde was seventeen years of age, fresh-coloured, comely, plump, and desirable. (3) The Baron’s son seemed to be in every respect worthy of his father. (4) The Preceptor Pangloss was the oracle of the family, and little Candide heard his lessons with all the good faith of his age and character. (5)

Pangloss was professor of metaphysico-theologico-cosmolo-nigology. (6) He proved admirably that there is no effect without a cause, and that, in this best of all possible worlds, the Baron's castle was the most magnificent of castles, and his lady the best of all possible Baronesses.

(1759)

Which sentence in this passage is overtly ambiguous?

Possible Answers:

Sentence 2

Sentence 3

Sentence 6

Sentence 4

Sentence 5

Correct answer:

Sentence 3

Explanation:

While short, sentence 3 could be interpreted in various ways. “The Baron’s son seemed to be in every respect worthy of his father,” could be a compliment – if the father is a good person. However, if the father is a scoundrel, saying that the son is worthy of (deserves) the father would be an insult.

Passage adapted from Voltaire’s Candide (1759)

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