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Tone & Mood in "How It Feels to be Colored Me"

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Andrea Jenigar

on 27 April 2015

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Transcript of Tone & Mood in "How It Feels to be Colored Me"

Before We Begin...
Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960)
is one of America's best known writers, especially when it comes to African American literature.

She was born in Alabama, and her family moved to Eatonville, Florida when she was three. This is where she grew up.

In 1904, she moved to Jacksonville when her mother died and her father remarried. In 1925, she moved to Harlem, New York and began writing.
Perhaps one of the best known things that sprung out of the Harlem Renaissance is jazz music.

Let's have a listen...

Let's Take a Look at Jazz in "How It Feels to be Colored Me"
What inferences can you draw about how this kind of music make Hurston feel? How do you know?

What is unique about the way Hurston writes about
jazz music?
Mood & Tone
These are not to be confused--they're


is the author's overall attitude towards a subject.
is the emotion evoked by the author.
A Few Examples...
When I set my hat at a certain angle and saunter down Seventh Avenue, Harlem City, feeling as snooty as the lions in front of the Forty-Second Street library, for instance.

I do not belong to the sobbing school of Negrohood who hold that nature somehow has given them a lowdown dirty deal and whose feelings are all hurt about it.
The Harlem Renaissance
This period, which lasted from about 1910 to the mid 1930s, was a cultural, artistic, and social blossoming that took its roots in Harlem, New York, a primarily African American community.

During this time, residents of Harlem produced a plethora of music, art, literature, poetry, photographs, and more.
Tone & Mood in
"How It Feels to be Colored Me"

Good afternoon!
Write a short response to the following prompt as you wait for class to begin.

When you're listening to your favorite song, how does it make you feel? Describe your emotions or reactions to the song.
It's All in the Word Choice!
Tone and mood are often conveyed by an author's choice of words in a passage. Not only are words descriptive, but they also have hidden nuances in their meanings.

of a word is what the word literally means. It's the dictionary definition of a word.


of a word is what the word implies, based on cultural and emotional associations.

So Let's Take a Look at Hurston's Word Choice
For instance, when I sit in the drafty basement that is The New World Cabaret with a white person, my color comes.

It constricts the thorax and splits the heart with its tempo and narcotic harmonies.

I follow those heathen--follow them exultingly.
Why Does it Matter?
How does Hurston's word choice, and the denotations and connotations of those words, affect the tone and mood of the passage about jazz?

What does it tell us about our narrator?
Try It!
Pair up with the person beside you. Look at the word you have been given and, using Dictionary.com, define it on the front of your note card.

Then use Thesaurus.com to find synonyms of the word that have the same denotation, but a different connotation. On the back of your note card, write at least three of those words and describe their connotations.
Your Assignment...
Choose a (school appropriate!) song. It can be one that you love, or one that you absolutely despise.

Using Hurston's passage about jazz as a model, write a paragraph about how that song makes you feel when you hear it. Pay special attention to your word choice and the connotations and denotations of those words, noting how they affect the tone and mood of the piece.
Example 1:
Every time I hear Ed Sheeran's new song, "Thinking Out Loud," I feel like butterflies are flitting and fluttering all through my stomach. I feel my heart blossoming into a beautiful, vibrant flower, overflowing with jubilation. I can't help but waltz gracefully all around the room, twirling like an elegant ballerina. Each time I hear this song my whole soul fills with elation.
Example 2:
Every time I hear Ed Sheeran's new song, "Thinking Out Loud," I feel like butterflies are catapulting all through my stomach. I feel my heart erupting into a wild, uncontrollable vine, violently constricting my lungs and terminating my ability to breathe . I can't help but thrash all around the room, convulsing like a sputtering engine coming to a halt. Each time I hear this song I feel as though my ears are filling with thick gunk.
When you're done writing, please use the paper on your desk to make yourself a name tag so I know who you are :)
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