Mood Examples in Literature and Writing

Updated September 13, 2022
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A mood is a feeling or a person's specific state of mind at any particular time. A mood is also the prevailing emotion found not only in people but also in literature, music, and other expressive arts. Moods set the overall tone for speech or writing and are an important element in literature as well as in everyday life.

Using Descriptive Writing to Set the Mood

While moods are commonly used to describe how an individual person feels at a given time, they also can be used to describe the atmosphere of groups of people, places, and eras or time periods.

When describing how a group is feeling, a collective mood is often used. For example, if something unfair happens in the workplace and a group of employees lost their jobs, this group's mood can be described as frustrated and enraged. If a group of students gets to go on a fun field trip for the day instead of sitting in the classroom, the mood can be described as excited or elated.

Descriptive writing can be used to set the mood of a place. When describing a place, you will want to add plenty of detail and use vivid words. For example, if writing about a beach use words such as salty sea air, gentle breeze, soft sand, lapping waves or warm sun rays. The mood set for this beach is calm and peaceful.

When referring to a period of time or specific era, moods can be used to set the scene. Use words that describe how people felt during the time and reflect on how they lived their lives. For example, during the Great Depression, the mood in the USA can be thought of as somber. People lost their jobs, went hungry and experienced a wide range of emotions. Words such as frightened, panicked and depressed are commonly used to describe people's moods during this time.

Moods Found in Literature

In literature, mood is the feeling created in the reader. This feeling is the result of both the tone and atmosphere of the story. The author's attitude or approach to a character or situation is the tone of a story and the tone sets the mood of the story. Atmosphere is the feeling created by mood and tone. The atmosphere takes the reader to where the story is happening and lets them experience it much like the characters.

Some common moods found in literature include:

Cheerful: This light-hearted, happy mood is shown with descriptions of laughter, upbeat song, delicious smells, and bright colors. A cheerful mood fills you with joy and happiness.

P.L. Travers in Mary Poppins creates a cheerful mood throughout the story by using silly words, such as "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious," taking the reader on wild adventures with the children and filling the pages of the book with scenes that make you laugh out loud.

Humorous: This mood is silly and sometimes ridiculous. Characters will do and say odd or funny things. This mood can be used to alleviate a somber or dangerous situation or to ridicule or satirize a situation. Jane Austin in Pride and Prejudice uses humor and absurd characters to take a comical look at love, reputation, and class.

For example, Elizabeth says the following humorous phrase about Mr. Darcy, "I could easily forgive his pride if he had not mortified me."

Idyllic: This is a calm and peaceful feeling, and the mood can sometimes be created by describing a natural setting, like in the countryside, as in this example from Charles Dickens' Pickwick Papers:

"The river, reflecting the clear blue of the sky, glistened and sparkled as it flowed noiselessly on."

Madness: This is a chaotic mood where random things happen, characters may feel out of control, and there seems to be no reason for what is happening. Madness can be clearly seen in Edgar Allen Poe's "The Black Cat."

The reason the narrator gives for wanting to kill his beloved cat is that, "I fancied that the cat was avoiding my presence... The fury of a demon instantly possessed me. I knew myself no longer." Obviously, he has no justified rationale and made his choices out of madness.

Melancholy: This mood is described as pensive and sad. It can be seen in the poem, "The Love-Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" by T.S. Eliot.

"The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening
Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys."

Mysterious: In this mood, things are hidden and puzzling. The reader really doesn't know what is going on, at least not for a while. Here's an example from Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven":

"Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before"

Romantic: To create a romantic mood, the setting needs to be beautiful, bright and carefree. This can be a candlelit dinner, a picnic on a beach, or sailing into the sunset. A romantic mood can also be set by emotive words spoken by the characters.

For example, in A Farewell to Arms Ernest Hemingway wrote, "Why, darling, I don't live at all when I'm not with you." Instantly, you should feel the amount of love one character is expressing to the other.


Common Moods

A mood is less specific than an emotion or feeling, less intense and less likely to be triggered by a particular action or event. Moods can be described as being either positive or negative. Here are some common moods that can be used in everyday conversation or in descriptive writing.

Positive Mood Examples:

  • Amused
  • Blissful
  • Calm
  • Cheerful
  • Content
  • Dreamy
  • Ecstatic
  • Energetic
  • Excited
  • Flirty
  • Giddy
  • Good
  • Happy
  • Joyful
  • Loving
  • Mellow
  • Optimistic
  • Peaceful
  • Silly
  • Sympathetic

Negative Mood Examples:

  • Angry
  • Annoyed
  • Apathetic
  • Bad
  • Cranky
  • Depressed
  • Envious
  • Frustrated
  • Gloomy
  • Grumpy
  • Guilty
  • Indifferent
  • Irritated
  • Melancholy
  • Pessimistic
  • Rejected
  • Restless
  • Sad
  • Stressed
  • Weird

Show Your Emotions

There are many mood examples in literature as well as examples of moods that you might experience in everyday life. Moods set the overall emotion of a story and are a way to express how a person is feeling at a specific point in time. Without moods, life would be dull and boring. Moods convey emotion and feelings and add interest to any story or situation.