AP 11 Literary Terms

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Definitions for literary terms and examples. - Ryan Burke 3/24/11

Allegory

an extended metaphor where objects, characters, and actions in a story are equated with meanings outside of the story. The underlying meaning has moral, social, religious, or political significance

Example: The Crucible by Arthur Miller

Alliteration

the repetition of letters or sounds at the beginning of neighboring words

Example: The Lazy Lizard Loitered in the Lot

Allusion

A reference to a person, event, or place in a work of art

Example:" When separations come by the hand of death, the pious soul can bow in resignation, and say, 'Not my will, but thine be done, O Lord"- Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs

Analogy

The comparison of two pairs that have the same relationship, such as opposites or parts to a whole

Example: Hear is to ear as sight is to eye.

Antithesis

Two ideas that are juxtaposed or brought together in order to establish a clear contrast between them

Example: "Give me liberty or give me death" - Patrick O'Henry

Aphorism

A brief saying embodying a moral

Example: "Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise." - Benjamin Franklin

Apostrophe

A statement addressing someone that is dead, an idea or object that is not present

Example: "Busy old fool, unruly sun,
Why dost thou thus,
Through windows, and through curtains call on us?"
- The Rising Sun by John Donne

Archetype

An object or situation that reoccurs in literature as it was originally made

Example: Tom Robinson in To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Assonance

The repetition of vowel sounds in neighboring words

Example: "Hear the lark and harken to the barking of the dark fox gone to ground" - Grantchester Meadows by Pink Floyd

Asyndeton

A word, phrase or clause without conjunctions to give an effect of multiplicity

Example: It was a rather plain story, they meet each other, fall in love, get married, grow old, die happily.

Atmosphere

The use of tone to shape the reader's feelings

Example: "She was stretched on her back beneath the pear tree soaking the alto chant of the visiting bees, and the gold of the sun and the panting breath of the breeze when the inaudible voice came to her." - Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

Balanced Sentence

A sentence constructed to emphasize a similarity or contrast between two or more of its words, phrases, or clauses

Example: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times" - A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

Blank Verse

Lines of iambic pentameter without end rhyme

Example: "What is the boy now, who has lost his ball,
What, what is he to do? I saw it go
Merrily bouncing, down the street, and then
Merrily over-there it is in the water!"
- The Ball Poem by John Berryman

Burlesque

to ridicule or mock a style, literary form, or other subject matter, usually by exaggeration

Example: Scary Movie- Keenen Wayans

Cadence

A rhythmic pattern in a free verse that is nonmetrically structured

Example: "You can have your Army Khakis,
And your Navy Blues,
But here's a different fighting man,
I'll introduce to you.
His uniform is unlike,
Any you've ever seen,
The Germans called him Devil Dog,
His title is Marine." - Marine Corps

Characterization

The methods used to develop a character

Example: " Now he was a sturdy straw-haired man of thirty with a rather hard mouth and a supercilious manner." - The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Chiasmus

a statement consisting of two parallel parts in which the second part is structurally reversed
Example: "Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed." - Genesis 9:6

Cliché

An expression that has been extremely overused

Example: What goes around comes around.

Climax

The moment in a work of literature where the story reaches the point of greatest intensity

Example: When Nick Carroway is pursuing Mr Wilson in The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Colloquialism

An informal word or phrase that is not accepted in formal language or writing

Example: I saw him walking down yonder.

Conceit

A far-fetched simile or metaphor a literary, occurs when the speaker compares two highly dissimilar things

Example: "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?" - William Shakespeare

Conflict

The internal or external struggle found in a story

Example: "So when the bread didn't rise, and the fish wasn't quite done at the bone, and the rice was scorched, he slapped Janie until she had a ringing sound in her ears and he told her about her brains before he stalked on back to the store." - Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

Connotation

The implied meaning of a word, or ideas that are associated with the word that are not associated with its definition

Example: The young lady was known around town to be easy.

Consonance

the repetition of consonants or consonant patterns, especially at the ends of words

Example: As he began to play the music that way everybody began to sway.

Couplet

two lines of a verse that rhyme

Example: "There once was a man from Peru
Who dreamed he was eating his shoe."

Denotation

the literal meaning or dictionary definition of a word

Example: The dog was barking up the wrong tree, he toy was in the other one.

Details

attention to or treatment of a subject in individual or minute parts

Example: "Then too she noticed how baggy Joe was getting all over. Like bags hanging from an ironing board. A little sack hung from the corners of his eyes and rested on his cheek bones; a loose-filled bag of feathers hung from his ears and rested on his neck beneath his chin." - Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

Dialogue

a conversation ibetween two or more individuals

Example: John asked, "What did you think of the movie?"
Bill responded, " I was alright but I have seen better".

Dramatic Monologue

a single character's speech that indirectly reveals his thoughts to the audience but not to other character

Example: "Thou knowest the mask of night is on my face;
Else would a maiden blush bepaint my cheek
For that which thou hast heard me speak to-night.
Fain would I dwell on form, fain, fain deny
What I have spoke; but farewell complement!
Dost thou love me?..." - Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

Elaboration

expressed in great length or detail

Example: "There was a big fireplace that was bricked on the bottom, and the bricks was kept clean and red by pouring water on them and scrubbing them with another brick..." -Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

Epithet

a descriptive adjective used to denote certain characteristics to a person or a thing

Example: "with comrades on a ship sailing across the wine-dark sea to men whose style of speech is very different..." - The Odyssey by Homer

Epistrophe

the repitition of a concluding word or word endings, forms the counterpart to anaphora

Example: "When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child." - 1 Corinthians 13:11

Ethos

the persuasive appeal of one's character, or credibility

Example: Ryan's restaurant, serving you since 1892.

Euphemism

the substitution of an agreeable or less offensive expression in place of one that may offend the listener or reader

Example: The boy struggled since he was mentally challenged.

Euphony

the use of soothing pleasant sounds

Example: "Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run..."
-To Autumn by John Keats

Figurative Language

language that does not mean exactly what it says, but instead forces the reader to make an imaginative leap in order to comprehend an author's point

Example: "When i walked outside it was raining cats and dogs.

First Person

when a character, often the protagonist, narrates the story

Example: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Flashback

an action that interrupts a story th show an event that happened at an earlier time.

Example: The smell of funnel cake recalled memories of when my uncle would take me to the state fair and let me play all the games and ride all the rides.

Foreshadowing

the use of hints or clues to suggest what will happen later in a story

Example: "The police, on the strength of what he said to Michaelis, thar he 'had a way of finding out" - The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Free Verse

lines with no rhyme or regular meter

Example:
"All truths wait in all things
They neither hasten their own delivery nor resist it,
They do not need the obstetric forceps of the surgeon."
-Walt Whitman

Hyperbole

an exaggeration or overstatement

Example: I'm so hungry I could eat a horse.

Idiom

a phrase or expression that means something different from what the words

Example: The baseball cards he were claiming to be rare were actually a dime a dozen.

Imagery

language that evokes one or all five of the senses

Example: "His hair was long and tangled and greasy, and hung down, and you could see his eyes shining through like he was behind vines." - Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

Irony

incongruity between what might be expected and what actually occurs

Example: the movie, Hitch with Will Smith, he can give really good dating advice but is goofy and bad on his own dates.

Limerick

a five line closed-form poem in which rhyme in an AABBAA pattern

Example:There once was a fellow named Tim
whose dad never taught him to swim.
He fell off a dock
and sunk like a rock.
And that was the end of him.
- A Clumsy Young Fellow Named Tim

Litotes

a particular form of understatement that denies the opposite or contrary of the word which otherwise would be used

Example: John: "We crushed them in our soccer game eleven to
zero!"
Bill: "Not bad...not bad at all."

Logos

an appeal based on logic or reason

Example: You should not smoke because it is unhealthy and can
kill you, besides that it is also an expensive habbit.

Loose Sentence

a sentence which expresses the main thought near the beginning and adds explanatory material as need

Example:The man was obviously poor, wearing clothes to big for him that were all tattered, walking around with a can asking for chance.

Metaphor

the comparison of two unlike things

Example: "Us colored folks is branches without roots" - Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

Memoir

taken from a private diary or journal, it is the day-to-day record of events in a person's life, written for personal use and pleasure. It tells of the people and events that the author has known or witnessed.

Example: "I was on fire. It's my earliest memory..." - The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Meter

the pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables established in a line of poetry

Example: "This boat that we just built is just fine-
And don't try to tell if it's not.
The sides and the back are divine-
It's the bottom I guess we forgot..."
-"Homemade Boat" by Shel Silverstein

Metonymy

substituting a word for another word closely associated with it

Example: "I had been in my cell six years..." - Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs

Mood

the feeling a piece of literature evokes in the reader

Example: The mood of Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs is depressing and sympathetic.

Motif

a dominant theme or central idea that reoccurs throughout a story

Example: Corruption and loose morals are motifs in The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Motivation

the reason why a character acts, feels or thinks in a certain way

Example: In the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, Tom Sawyer's motivation for the things he does is he wants his adventures to be like those he has read about in books.

Myth

a traditional story that attempts to explain how the world was created or why the world is the way that it is

Example: Australian Aboriginal Legend called "How the Kangaroo Got Its Tail"

Narration

a recital of events in chronological order

Example: The man walk toward the teller, whispered in his ear, the teller handed him a bag of money, then he just walked out.

Non Squitur

a comment which is funny and even confusing because of its apparent lack of relevance to what follows it

Example: "Standing on my elbow
with my finger in my ear,
biting on a dandelion..."
-Standing by Shel Silverstein

Ode

a lyric poem written in an elevated tone about a serious topic

Example: Ode to the people who were forgotten
They were once loved and cared for

Ode to their lives
Everyday they hurt
While in desperation for love
and generosity.

Ode to their heart
That was torn apart viciously
With little consideration
Of their inner feelings

Ode to their memories
That bring back happiness
Or to the ones
That are very vague.

Ode to those who have tried
Those who haven't given up
The ones that will keep climbin
For them life hasn't been easy.

- Ode to The Forgotten

Omniscient

the third person narrator is all-knowing and relates the thoughts, feelings and motivations of all the characters

Example: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling

Onomatopaeia

the use of a word to represent or imitate natural sounds

Example: "me-yow, me-yow" - Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

Oxymoron

a type of paradox in which two linked words contradict each other

Example: The man was speculated how big the jumbo shrimp would be.

Paradox

a statement that seems to be self-contradictory but has valid meaning

Example: If you are lost in the woods stay still and don't wander.

Parallelism

recurrent syntactical similarity. Several parts of a sentence or several sentences are expressed similarly to show that the ideas in the parts or sentences are equal in importance

Example: " We could have told them a different story. We could have given them a chapter of wrongs and sufferings...We could have told them how the poor old..."
- Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs

Pathos

an appeal that evokes the feelings of tenderness, pity, or sympathetic sorrow from the audience or reader

Example: "I dropped to my knees, and breathed a short prayer to god for guidance and protection."
-Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs

Persuasion

when a writer tries to sway reader's feelings or opinions one way or another

Example: " I do it to kindle a flame of compassionin your hearts for my sisters who are still in bondage, suffering as I once suffered." - Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs

Personification

the giving of human characteristics to inanimate objects, ideas, or animals

Example: The flag danced as the wind blew.

Point of View

the outlook from which the events in a work are told

Example: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain is told through the eyes of a young boy to capture the wrongs of slavery.

Prose

the ordinary form of spoken and written language, language that lacks special features

Example: The boy walked his excited dog through the park.

Protagonist

the main character in a story, the hero

Example: Nick Carroway is the protagonist in The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Pun

a play on words that is identical or similar but has diverse meanings

Example: "Ask for me tomorrow and you shall find me a grave man" - Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

Repitition

reiterating or reusing a word or phrase

Example: "I was never cruelly over-worked; I was never lacerated with the whip from head to foot; I was never so beaten and bruised that I could not turn from one side to the other..."
-Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs

Rhyme

the similarity of sound between two words

Example: I lost my dog in the bog!

Sarcasm

the act of saying one thing but meaning another, verbal irony

Example: "THAT'S THE BEST G* DN ANSWER I'VE EVER HEARD! YOU MUST HAVE A G* DN IQ OF 160! YOU ARE G D*N GIFTED PRIVATE GUMP!" - Forrest Gump

Satire

a technique used to ridicule the flaws and weaknesses of society

Example: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

Scenario

an outline of the plot of a dramatic work, which provides particulars about characters, settings, and situation

Example: The Great Gatsby is narrated by Nick Carroway, the main character. He lives next to a wealthy man named Gatsby but is not rich himself. He spends more time with Gatsby and his friends and sees how the rich live.

Setting

the time and place in which the action of a literary work occurs

Example: The Great Gatsby takes place during the 1920's in New York.

Simile

direct comparison between two usually unrelated things using "like" or "as"

Example: The cat seemed like a statue as it waited to pounce on the unsuspecting mouse.

Speaker

the imaginary voice assumed by the poet

Example: "Can anyone lend me
two eighty-pound rats?
I want to ride my house of cats."
-"Drats" by Shel Silverstein
*The reader does not know for sure who is speaking so it is assumed it is Shel Silverstein

Sonnet

a distinctive poetic style that has fourteen lines. The first eight lines follow the rhyme scheme a-b-b-a, a-b-b-a. The last six lines follow the rhyme scheme c-d-e-c-d-e.

Example: "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date.

Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature's changing course, untrimmed;

But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest,
Nor shall death brag thou wanderest in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest.

So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee."

by William Shakespeare

Sound Devices

a writer's strategic use of language to evoke images and create sounds within his or her work

Example: "boom-boom-boom"
- The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

Stream of Consciousness

a style of writing in which the thoughts and feelings of the writer are recorded as they happen

Example: The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner

Stanza

a division of poem based on thought or form

Example:"I am a DOG
And you are a FLOWER
I lift my LEG UP
And give you a SHOWER" - I Am A Dog

Structure

the design or form of the completed action in a work of literature

Example: Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

Suspense

an anxious uncertainty about what is going to happen to the reader's favorite characters

Example: "There was a faint, barely perceptible movement of the water as the flow from one end urged its way toward the drain at the other. With little ripples that were hardly the shadows of waves, the laden mattress moved irregularly down the pool."
-The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Symbol

a word or image that signifies something other than what is literally represented; it has both a literal and figurative meaning

Example: The "witches" in The Crucible by Arthur Miller symbolize communists during the 1950's.

Synecdoche

a substitution in which a part is used to represent the whole

Example: Can you give me a hand with this heavy box?

Third Person

the narrator is not in the story and sees and records the information from a neutral or unemotional viewpoint

Example: Bob decided to talk to Tom
Tom asked " Bob did you get a new car?"
Bob replied "No, I just painted it"

Tone

the author's attitude toward his subject matter

Example: The tone of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain is sarcastic and ironic.

Tragedy

a literary work in which the hero is destroyed by some flaw within his character and by forces which he cannot control

Example: Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare

Trope

any use of a word that turns its meaning from literal to figurative

Example: "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May
And summer's lease hath all too short a date"
-William Shakespeare

Understatement

saying less than one means or saying what one means with less force than the occasion warrants

Example: " I have to have this operation. It isn't very serious. I have this tiny little tumor on the brain."
- The Catcher In The Rye by J.D. Salinger

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