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Prince Caspian

Prince Caspian

by C.S. Lewis

Analysis: Tone

Take a story's temperature by studying its tone. Is it hopeful? Cynical? Snarky? Playful?

Once Upon a Grandpa's Knee

Or Grandma's knee. Whichever one of your grandparents has that perfect comfy knee to story-telling talent ratio.

Yes, Prince Caspian is a war story, but it doesn't go for the dreary tone modern readers associate with such tales (we're looking at you, All Quiet on the Western Front). Instead, the story's tone is a lighthearted and adventurous one we'd associate with a story told to us on our grandpa's knee:

It was not like the silly fighting you see with broad swords on the stage. It was not even like the rapier fighting which you sometimes see rather better done. This was real broad-sword fighting. The great thing is to slash at your enemy's legs and feet because they are the part that have no armor. (8.30)

The voice almost seems to reveal itself in the fighting. Kind of like a grandpa really getting into the telling of his story, swishing his arms through the air as he wields his imaginary blade.

But if you find it a little odd that a war story would have such a tone, you're not alone. David Holbrook finds the "'jokey'" tone "disturbing," believing it "smacks of the enthusiast for the whip" (source). And there is something double-take worthy when you encounter such a "jokey" tone in a passage like this:

Many a Telmarine warrior that day felt his foot suddenly pierced as if by a dozen skewers, hopped on one leg cursing the pain, and fell as often as not. If he fell, the mice finished him off; if he did not, someone else did. (14.39)

Brutal.

On the other hand, Michael Ward feels Caspian successfully "attempts to avoid a jingoistic tone" (source). But we here at Shmoop think… well, that's not important. More important to us is what you think. Is the tone appropriate given the themes and subject matter or is it the candy-coating over a chocolatey, war-loving center?

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