Study Guide

The Ear, the Eye, the Arm Tone

By Nancy Farmer

Tone

Dispassionate, Descriptive

If you're like us, then you might think "boring" when you hear the word "dispassionate." Fret not, though, because The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm is anything but boring. It's just not interested in telling us the events in a melodramatic way. Farmer constructs sentences that give incredibly descriptive accounts of the setting and Tendai's response to it, though. Just feast your eyes on this little jewel when Tendai first walks through Dead Man's Vlei: 

They're like moths, Tendai thought. They've camouflaged themselves to fit their background. And he wondered at their silence. They didn't laugh or talk. They didn't even make much noise as they shuffled across the ground. It's not surprising this place is called dead, he thought with a shudder. (7.2)

 We might be expecting the music to swell and dramatic sentences to leap off the page, but instead we get a very measured—and very descriptive—explanation of what's happening. It's as though the story is dramatic and exciting enough that we don't need the tone to be that way, too. In fact, the tone helps us get our bearings. Since it's always heavy on the details, we get a clear image of what everything looks and sounds like as Tendai walks through Dead Man's Vlei. It's as though we are right there with him. You know, minus the dirty clothes.

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