Difference Between Mood and Atmosphere

Main Difference – Mood vs Atmosphere

Mood and atmosphere are important elements in a literary work. Mood and atmosphere affect the readers psychologically and emotionally. In simple words, mood and atmosphere both refers to the emotional feelings inspired by a work. In literature, the two terms mood and atmosphere are taken as synonyms. However, there is a slight difference between mood and atmosphere in usage. Atmosphere is usually linked to a place. Mood refers to the internal emotions of an individual. Nevertheless, the moods of a group of people can affect one another and create the atmosphere of a venue. This is the main difference between mood and atmosphere.

This article covers,

1. Basic Details, Meaning, and  Examples of Atmosphere

2. Basic Details, Meaning, and  Examples of Mood

3. Difference Between Mood and Atmosphere

Atmosphere and Mood – Meaning and Usage

Mood and atmosphere refer to the emotional feelings inspired by a piece of literary work. These feelings are established in order affect the reader psychologically and emotionally; establishment of the mood/ atmosphere helps to provide a feeling for the narrative. Mood can be created by different literary elements such as the setting (physical location), dialogues between the characters, the tone of the narrator, descriptions, and diction (the choice of words).

The opening scene in a novel or a play establishes the mood or atmosphere of the entire work. For example, the opening scene of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet creates a brooding atmosphere of unease. Most works of literature have a dominant theme that runs throughout the work; however, a shift can take place in the mood or atmosphere to provide comic relief or to indicate a major change.

Difference Between Mood and Atmosphere

Given below are two excerpts taken from the works of Charles Dickens and Edgar Allen Poe. Try to identify and describe the mood/atmosphere in them.

 “There was a steaming mist in all the hollows, and it had roamed in its forlornness up the hill, like an evil spirit, seeking rest and finding none. A clammy and intensely cold mist, it made its slow way through the air in ripples that visibly followed and overspread one another, as the waves of an unwholesome sea might do.”

(A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens)

Atmosphere – gloomy and ominous

“During the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens, I had been passing alone, on horseback, through a singularly dreary tract of country; and at length found myself, as the shades of the evening drew on, within view of the melancholy House of Usher. I know not how it was–but, with the first glimpse of the building, a sense of insufferable gloom pervaded my spirit. I say insufferable; for the feeling was unrelieved by any of that half-pleasurable, because poetic, sentiment, with which the mind usually receives even the sternest natural images of the desolate or terrible.”

(The Fall of the House of Usher and Other Tales by Edgar Allan Poe)

Atmosphere – gloom and emotional decay

Mood vs Atmosphere

Although the two terms mood and atmosphere are usually used as synonyms, there is a subtle difference between mood and atmosphere in a general sense. Mood can refer to the internal feelings and emotions of an individual. However, the term atmosphere is always associated with a venue. But, the mood and atmosphere are interrelated in this aspect as well. For example, a gloomy and dark setting in a play creates an ominous atmosphere. This atmosphere can also affect the mood of the characters as well as the audience. 

Difference Between Mood and Atmosphere

  • Mood refers to the internal emotions of an individual.
  • Atmosphere is usually linked to a place.
  • However, both mood and atmosphere are used as synonyms in literature.   
  • They refer to the emotional feelings inspired by a piece of literary work.
  • Mood and atmosphere are created by diction, dialogues, descriptions, tone, setting, etc.

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About the Author: Hasa

Hasa has a BA degree in English, French and Translation studies. She is currently reading for a Masters degree in English. Her areas of interests include literature, language, linguistics and also food.


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