The manner in which an author expresses his or her attitude; the intonation of the voice that expresses meaning. Tone is described by adjectives, and the possibilities are nearly endless. Often a single adjective will not be enough, and tone may change or shift from chapter to chapter or stanza to stanza or even line to line. Tone is the result of allusion, diction, figurative language, imagery, irony, motif, symbol, syntax, and style.
Very young children can sense a speaker's attitude in tone. But understanding tone in prose and poetry is an entirely different matter. The reader does not have voice inflection to carry meaning. Thus, a student's appreciation (knowledge) of word choice, details, imagery, and language all contribute to the understanding of tone. To misinterpret tone is to misinterpret meaning.