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

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for SAT II Literature

varsity tutors app store varsity tutors android store

Example Questions

2 Next →

Example Question #12 : Tone, Style, And Mood: Poetry

1 Infer the wilds which next pertain. 

2 Though travel here be still a walk,

3 Small heart was theirs for easy talk.

4 Oblivious of the bridle-rein

5 Rolfe fell to Lethe altogether,

6 Bewitched by that uncanny weather

7 Of sultry cloud. And home-sick grew

8 The banker. In his reverie blue

9 The cigarette, a summer friend,

10 Went out between his teeth—could lend

11 No solace, soothe him nor engage.

12 And now disrelished he each word

13 Of sprightly, harmless persiflage

14 Wherewith young Glaucon here would fain

15 Evince a jaunty disregard.

16 But hush betimes o’ertook the twain—

17 The more impressive, it may be,

18 For that the senior, somewhat spent,

19 Florid overmuch and corpulent,

20 Labored in lungs, and audibly. 



In lines 17-20 the tone is __________________.

Possible Answers:






Correct answer:



The last four lines of this passage take on a distinctly humorous or comic tone. The poet here describes how the elder of the two travelers is out of shape and therefore huffing and puffing as they go along. The way this is presented is humorous in part because the poet lists this as a reason why it is surprising the two could be silent. It also appears comic because of how much it contrasts with the more serious, even dreary, preceding lines.

Passage adapted from Herman Melville's epic poem Clarel (1876).

Example Question #13 : Tone, Style, And Mood: Poetry

Passage adapted from "Ozymandias" by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1818)
I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said—Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

How does the author create a tone of irony in this poem?

Possible Answers:

The statue of Ozymandias was designed to immortalize the king and give him credit for the kingdom after death, but all that remains of the kingdom is his crumbled statue

The "traveler" in the poem's first line is actually Ozymandias

There is no example of irony in this poem

Ozymandias believed he was greater than god

Correct answer:

The statue of Ozymandias was designed to immortalize the king and give him credit for the kingdom after death, but all that remains of the kingdom is his crumbled statue


Shelley creates irony in "Ozymandias" by riffing on the king's arrogance. Ozymandias believes his kingdom will exist forever, so he builds a statue to ensure he earns credit for his work long after death. In the present, the kingdom is nowhere to be found and all that remains is the wreckage of his statue, essentially giving Ozymandias credit for a kingdom that did not stand the test of time; exactly the opposite of his intent.

Example Question #14 : Tone, Style, And Mood: Poetry

Passage adapted from Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice (1813)

"Elizabeth listened in silence, but was not convinced ; their behavior at the assembly had not been calculated to please in general ; and with more quickness of observation and less pliancy of temper than her sister, and with a judgement too unassailed by any attention to herself, she was very little disposed to approve them. They were in fact very fine ladies ; not deficient in good humour when they were pleased, nor in the power of being agreeable where they chose it ; but proud and conceited. They were rather handsome, had been educated in one of the first private seminaries in town, had a fortune of twenty thousand pounds, were in the habit of spending more than they ought, and of associating with people of rank ; and were therefore in every respect entitled to think well of themselves, and meanly of others. They were of a respectable family in the north of England ; a circumstance more deeply impressed on their memories than that their brother’s fortune and their own had been acquired by trade."

This passage is an example of what type of narration? 

Possible Answers:

Third Person Limited

Third Person Omniscient

Free Indirect Discourse


First Person

Correct answer:

Free Indirect Discourse


The answer is free indirect discourse. Jane Austen was the first to formalize this type of narration and its conception remains a significant part of her legacy. FID is a special kind of third-person narration where the narrator moves back and forth between omniscient narration and a character's subjective point of view without making this clear in the text. An example from this passage is the phrase : "and [they] were therefore in every respect entitled to think well of themselves." This is the perspective of a character within the story that the narrator is detailing, yet the reader is informed as if the narrator held this belief themselves.

Example Question #15 : Tone, Style, And Mood: Poetry

On thy stupendous summit, rock sublime! 

That o’er the channel reared, half way at sea 
The mariner at early morning hails, 
I would recline; while Fancy should go forth, 
And represent the strange and awful hour                                        5
Of vast concussion; when the Omnipotent 
Stretched forth his arm, and rent the solid hills, 
Bidding the impetuous main flood rush between 
The rifted shores, and from the continent 
Eternally divided this green isle.                                                     10
Imperial lord of the high southern coast! 
From thy projecting head-land I would mark 
Far in the east the shades of night disperse, 
Melting and thinned, as from the dark blue wave 
Emerging, brilliant rays of arrowy light                                            15
Dart from the horizon; when the glorious sun 
Just lifts above it his resplendent orb. 
Advances now, with feathery silver touched, 
The rippling tide of flood; glisten the sands, 
While, inmates of the chalky clefts that scar                                    20
Thy sides precipitous, with shrill harsh cry, 
Their white wings glancing in the level beam, 
The terns, and gulls, and tarrocks, seek their food, 
And thy rough hollows echo to the voice 
Of the gray choughs, and ever restless daws,                                  25
With clamor, not unlike the chiding hounds, 
While the lone shepherd, and his baying dog, 
Drive to thy turfy crest his bleating flock. 
The high meridian of the day is past,                                              
And Ocean now, reflecting the calm Heaven,                                  30
Is of cerulean hue; and murmurs low 
The tide of ebb, upon the level sands. 
The sloop, her angular canvas shifting still, 
Catches the light and variable airs                                                 
That but a little crisp the summer sea,                                           35
Dimpling its tranquil surface. 

The mood of the final eight lines, following the break after line 28, can best be described as __________________.

Possible Answers:

Lonely and distressed 

Optimistic and ebullient 

Light-hearted and amused

Tranquil and reflective 

Melancholy and regretful 

Correct answer:

Tranquil and reflective 


The two words that best describe the mood of the final eight lines are tranquil and reflective. After a series of lines devoted to describing a noisy scene of birds and dogs, the speaker notes that "the high meridian of the day is past." The final eight lines contain words suggesting calmness: the ocean "reflects the calm Heaven" and "murmurs low"; a sailboat "catches the light and variable airs" and dimples the sea's "tranquil surface." These phrases suggest a tranquil and reflective mood, certainly not one that is melancholy and regretful or lonely and distressed. The speaker is alone but not lonely. The speaker is also not light-hearted and amused, nor ebullient and optimistic. The lines are entirely focused on reflecting quietly on the present moment.

Passage adapted from Charlotte Smith's "Beach Head" (1807)

2 Next →
Learning Tools by Varsity Tutors