Mood in Literature: Definition and Examples

mood in literature

In the context of literature, mood is a literary element that reflects the emotional state of a person or even a nation during a certain period. Mood in literature can be defined as an intangible atmosphere that leaves a strong impression on the reader and influences his final perception of what he has just read.

On the other hand, the mood may be seen as a psychological and emotional state of mind and can therefore distinguish between different types of moods: sad vs happy, depressed vs elated, etc.

In literature, good examples of such distinctions are found in novels by William Faulkner (The Sound and the Fury) where there are four distinct parts with four different moods each. Overall, this classic American novel tells about the lives of members of three families during almost fifty years between the end of the 19th and the 20th centuries.

What is Mood in Literature?

Mood is a literary element that reflects the emotional state of a person or even a nation during a certain period. Mood can be defined as an intangible atmosphere that leaves a strong impression on the reader and influences his final perception of what he has just read.

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What Are Some Examples of Moods?

1. Optimistic Mood:

In this type of mood, people have a positive outlook on life and this means that they are optimistic about the future. This doesn’t necessarily mean that people feel happy all the time but it’s just a feeling that good times will come eventually. In literature, authors use words in order to convey a sense of this mood and they frequently use adjectives like “happy,” “joyful,” and “bright” in their writings.

2. Depressed Mood:

This type of mood is the complete opposite to the previous one and here people feel sad or even depressed about life in general. In literature, depressed mood is typically associated with gloomy works that are rich in dark colors and morbid details. Authors often use adjectives like: “gloomy,” “sad,” or simply reject positive words altogether and prefer to describe their work as “dark” or “ominous.”

3. Elated Mood:

This type of mood refers to a state where people feel elated—in other words, they feel extremely happy and satisfied during a certain period. In literature, authors convey such emotions by using cheerful language (where the color white dominates for instance).

4. Nostalgic Mood:

This type of mood is characterized by a longing for the past and it typically doesn’t involve emotions such as happiness or sadness but just a sense of yearning for something that has been lost forever no matter how strong our desire may be to bring it back in some way. Authors create nostalgic stories with words like “nostalgia,” “miss,” and other related terms which suggest yearning or longing for a certain thing or place from the past.

5. Angry Mood:

When people are angry they have an aggressive temper which means being easily irritated, displaying verbal or physical aggression, insulting others, etc. Authors can convey this particular mood by using words that express hostility and anger such as “rage,” “anger,” or even stronger terms like “hatred.”

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6. Bored Mood:

This mood refers to a state where people feel tired, unenthusiastic, uninterested, or even dull because of their lack of activity or simply their inability to find something that could potentially spark an interest in them. Authors use words like “boredom,” “monotony” and others related to this type of emotion in order to create works written in the style of this particular mood.

7. Contemptuous Mood:

This mood refers to a state when someone or something is looked down upon and treated with scorn and disrespect, often solely because it belongs to a class perceived as inferior in some way (e.g., social, economic, educational, etc). Authors use words like “contempt,” “disdain,” or any other terms that suggest looking down on others in order to convey this particular type of emotion which is more for satirical works (such as A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift) or works of social criticism (such as Moby Dick by Herman Melville).

8. Embarrassed Mood:

This mood refers to a state when someone feels agitated, confused, or chagrined due to some social situation that made them feel uncomfortable or threatened by public exposure of something they regard as disgraceful or discreditable. Authors create texts written in this particular mood by using terms that are typically associated with being embarrassed such as “abashment,” “bashfulness” etc.

9. Fearful Mood:

This mood refers to a state when a person experiences feelings of trepidation, agitation, or uneasiness because he/she has sensed danger (real or imagined). Authors create literature pieces written in this particular mood by using words like “fear,” “apprehension” etc which are often related to anxiety and insecurity.

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10. Grieving Mood:

This mood refers to a state when someone is suffering from feelings of deep sorrow or regret caused by the death or departure of a person who was important to them. Authors create texts written in this particular mood by using words that are typically associated with grief such as “loss,” “sorrow” etc.

11. Hungry Mood:

This mood refers to a state when someone feels the need for food. Authors create texts written in this particular mood by using words that are typically associated with hunger such as “craving,” “yearning” etc.

Here are other examples of mood:

  • Cheerful.
  • Melancholy.
  • Somber.
  • Glorious.
  • Bored.
  • Angry.
  • Embarrassed.
  • Fearful.
  • Grieving.
  • Hunger.
  • Dejected.
  • Ecstatic.
  • Eager.
  • Frantic.
  • Serene.
  • Tender.
  • Upset.
  • Vaguely uneasy.
  • Wistful.

How do You Identify Mood in Literature?

Mood is a feeling or emotion that can be described as part of the atmosphere in a work. The mood is an emotional response evoked from a reader by what he/she reads, either through dialogue and description or just by the way it’s written.

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In literature, authors convey their unique style, setting, or theme through characters, imagery, dialogue, or even just the way they word their sentences. The mood is often created through the description, tone, and figurative language that evokes an emotional response in a reader.

Besides these literary devices, writers can also convey mood by using words with certain connotations to create feelings of fear, sadness, happiness, etc. For example, if an author uses words like “fear,” “monotony” or “despair” in his/her work it’s likely that the piece will have a fearful mood since these are words typically associated with this particular type of emotion.

The Mood Can be Created in Many Ways:

When writing about emotions authors may use characters’ thoughts which are often focused on describing their feeling towards something or someone else. For example, if an author has a character written “I feel terrified of dying alone” it’s likely that the piece will have a fearful mood because these are words typically associated with this particular type of emotion.

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Authors can create text written in fear by using figurative language such as similes or metaphors to describe something related to being frightened. For example, if an author writes “He was so scared he felt sick to his stomach” it’s likely that the piece will have a fearful mood since “sick to his stomach” is typically associated with this particular type of emotion.

Final Thought:

Every piece of writing will have a different mood depending on what the author wants to convey through his/her work. A writer may want to invoke a certain feeling in his/her readers and purposefully select literary devices which will help them create a dark, fearful atmosphere for the reader. Or he/she might just use elements like dialogue or description to create a mood that reflects what’s going on in the story. In any case, it’s important to be able to identify mood as this will help you understand what the author of a specific piece of writing was trying to convey.

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