Mood is the feeling an author deliberately creates through the use of language and images, particularly in the treatment of the setting, the place or location of the story. You can think of the mood of a piece as an effect that the author tries to achieve through a consistent and repeated use of similar details in describing the place and time in which the story takes place. Think of the ever-present images of cold and snow slowly freezing the Newcomer in To Build a Fire or the rise and fall of the waves which threatened the shipwreck survivors in The Open Boat from American Literary Classics. Jack London captured the numbing feel of the cold Arctic and Stephen Crane consciously developed a wavelike rhythm in his prose, which captured the up-down and back-and-forth movements of the helpless lifeboat tossing in the sea. There is almost a sense of seasickness, combined with the exhaustion and desperation of the men in the boat.

While those stories developed a hyper-realistic sense of place, O. Henry's stories successfully captured the spirit of the times in which they took place: the Christmas setting in Jim and Della's squalid little apartment for The Gift of the Magi, strategically situated during America's Great Depression, and the nightlife in New York City in the early part of the 20th Century from The Green Door, as well as the sense of community and collaboration of Greenwich Village as it became the mecca for American artists around that same time in The Last Leaf.

In Tales of Mood and Mystery, authors such as Edgar Allen Poe and Shirley Jackson make much more dramatic use of their settings: the cavernous catacombs of The Cask of Amontillado and the frantic chaos of modern New York City.

Mood ••• Mystery ••• Genre ••• Definitions ••• Influences ••• Classifications

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