Silent Witness – Chapter 8


You will need to read the entire chapter to complete this exercise today- some students may need to spend a good part of the lesson reading 🙂

MOOD refers to the atmosphere (or feelings) created in a passage of writing. Words that might describe the “Mood” of the passage are: threatening, restful, nostalgic, peaceful, chaotic, joyful or jubilant, sad or melancholic…etc.

TONE refers to the attitude of the writer (in our case, the narrator) towards what is happening in the passage. Words that might describe the “Tone” of the passage are: humorous, angry, witty, direct, positive, sensitive, nervous or hesitant, questioning, unconcerned…etc.

Here is a site that lists a number of words to describe MOOD and TONE:


It is important to understand, that the MOOD (atmosphere created) and TONE of the passage (the attitude of the writer towards what is happening) are created through:

  1. The word choice
  2. The language techniques used (I have posted a handout as a quick reference for language techniques)
  3. The sentence structure/syntax


Choose TWO of the following passages from Chapter 8 and describe the MOOD and TONE in each passage. Also, explain how this MOOD and TONE was created. I.e. Reference any word choice, language techniques used, or sentence structure chosen.

“I stared at the mountain rising over me. Empty. It was a pointless thing to have done – climb up it, across it, and down it. Stupid! It looked perfect; so clean and untouched, and we had changed nothing, It was beautiful, immaculate, but it left me empty. I had been on it too long, and it had taken everything.” Page 117

“I looked back up the face and marked the descent we had taken during the lowerings in a plumb straight line down to where I stood. I felt cheated. The very means by which we had managed to rescue ourselves had caused the accident. I remember the mounting excitement I had felt as we had progressed smoothly down the mountain. I had been proud of what we had managed. It had worked so well – and all Joe’s pain, all his digging, and fighting, had simply speeded the inevitable accident on the cliff.” Page 118

“If I hadn’t cut the rope I would have certainly died. Looking at the cliff, I knew there would be no surviving such a fall. Yet, having saved myself, I was now going to return home and tell people a story that a few would ever believe. No one cuts the rope! It could never be that bad! Why didn’t you do this, or try that? I could hear the questions, and see the doubts in the eyes even of those who accepted my story. It was bizarre, and it was cruel. I had been on to a loser from the moment he broke his leg, and nothing could have changed it.” Page 121

“This place was ageless and lifeless. A mass of snow, and ice, and rock slowly moving upwards; freezing, thawing, cracking asunder, always chasing with the passing of centuries. What a silly thing to pit oneself against!” Page 121

“The first feelings of panic built up as I stared wildly from one crevasse to another. Had we gone above or below that one? Or was it that lower one? I couldn’t remember. The harder I tried the more confused I became, and eventually I was weaving a contorted and terrifying path, unsure of where I was heading.” Page 123

“Instead there was a slow ache inside, a growing sense of loss and sorrow. This is what it had all come down to – standing alone, amid the mountain debris thinking of the waste and the pity. I thought of saying a quiet farewell as I turned to leave, but in the end, didn’t. He had gone for good. The steady surge of the glacier would take him down to the valleys in the coming years, but by then he would have become a casual memory. Already, it seemed, I was beginning to forget him.” Page 124

“It was a lonely place to rest. In the huge chaos of the moraines, I had sat down to rest at the one spot where I would be reminded. We and sat in the same spot six days earlier. All our keen excitement, and the healthy strong feel in our bodies, had become an empty memory.” Page 125

This work is due for our next lesson (Wednesday, next week).

Have a wonderful Easter and thank you for your work this week!

Posted by Jo Waide

Teacher of English at Mount Aspiring College, Wanaka, New Zealand.

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