Literary elements

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comparison of two things without using like or as


comparison of two things using like or as


human characteristics are given to non-human things


story or poem with two meanings: a literal meaning and a figurative (metaphorical/symbolic) meaning

Verbal irony

characters mean the exact opposite of what they say; sarcasm

Dramatic irony

readers know something that the characters do not

Situational irony

the opposite of what is expected occurs


sequence of a story that has five parts: setting, rising action, climax, falling action, denouement


time and place of action in a story

Rising action

conflicts are introduced


turning point of a story (no more conflicts arise after this)

Falling action

conflicts begin to be resolved


story is resolved and comes to a close


description of a character, either direct or indirect


pair of opposite words (bright night)


sound effects (crash, bang, boom)


underlying lesson or moral in writing


the attitude a writer takes within a work (satiric, ironic, hyperbolic, etc)


apparent contradictions which are true


repeated consonant sounds


repeated vowel sounds


poem that mourns the death of a person or laments something lost

Lyric poem

songlike poem that expresses emotion or thoughts rather than a story


a play on words with multiple meanings or with words that sound alike but have different meanings


a moment of sudden insight or revelation

Visual imagery

descriptive language that appeals to the sense of sight

Aural imagery

descriptive language that appeals to the sense of hearing

Tactile imagery

descriptive language that appeals to the sense of touch

Olfactory imagery

descriptive language that appeals to the sense of smell

Gustatory imagery

descriptive language that appeals to the sense of taste


creature, concept, object, idea with both literal and figurative meanings

Stream of consciousness

writing style that mimics the random flow of thoughts, emotions and memories running through a characters mind

Carpe diem

"seize the day" is a literary theme that urges us to live in the present moment


hints or clues an author gives about what is to come later on


author remembers the past, but acts like it is happening now

Iambic pentameter

line of poetry made of five iambs (10 syllables) and is the most common verse rhythm of poetry. An iamb is a unit of measure made of one unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable


a philosophy that suggests we must struggle to create our won meaning and morality in the absence of absolute values; many believe that the universe is indifferent to human suffering


continuation of meaning from one line of poetry to the next


pause of break within a line of poetry, usually indicated by a natural rhythm


14-line poem about love, death, and/or time

pastoral poetry

works set in an idealized countryside


extreme overstatement


extreme sarcasm, saying much less than what you mean


extreme extreme exaggeration

blank verse

unrhymed iambic pentameter

free verse

poetry with no regular meter or rhyme scheme


pair of rhyming lines in poetry


triplet or three rhyming lines in poetry


a four line stanza or poem usually unified by a rhyme scheme


a six line stanza or poem, or the last six lines of a Petrarchan (Italian) sonnet


an eight line stanza or poem, or the first eight lines of a Petrarchan (Italian) sonnet where the rhyme scheme is abbaabba


writing that ridicules human weakness, vice, or folly in order to cause social reform


complex, long lyric poem on a serious subject


record of events, kept regularly by an eyewitness or participant


historical account of specific events told in chronological order

metaphysical conceits

especially complex and ingenious figures of speech that make surprising connections between two seemingly extremely dissimilar things


depicts serious events where the protagonist (usually high-ranking and dignified) comes to an unhappy end

tragic hero

a character of high status who possesses a tragic flaw

tragic flaw

a great weakness that causes the tragic hero's downfall


the ruin, devastation, calamity caused by the tragic hero's tragic flaw


figurative cleansing of emotions caused by the resolution of catastrophe


private words a character speaks to the audience or to another character which are not heard by others onstage

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