Basic Literary Terms Review

THEME
A central message or insight into life revealed through a literary work. A Lesson about life or people
Example:
The theme of the party was going to be the 70’s, so the invited was asked to dress up properly with inspiration from the decade.
THEME
PERSONIFICATION
Writing that gives inanimate objects or abstract ideas human characteristics.
Example:
The apple came walking and told me: Eat me! Eat me!
PERSONIFICATION
ARCHETYPE
A type of character, action, or situation that occurs over and over in literature; a pattern or example that occurs in literature and life.
Example:
The emperor himself was an archetype of what the modern world calls a constitutional monarch; he reigned, but did not govern.
ARCHETYPE
CONNOTATION
A commonly understood subjective cultural or emotional association that some word or phrase carries, in addition to the word’s or phrase’s explicit or literal meaning (its denotation).
Example:
Thin and Scrawny
Thin has the more positive connotation. Scrawny sounds malnourished and perhaps unkempt, but thin sounds attractive and positive.
CONNOTATION
CHARACTERIZATION
The methods used by an author to create a character.
Example:
The girl had long, wavy, blonde hair, eyes blue like the ocean and pretty, red lips.
CHARACTERIZATION
INCIDENT INCITED
Interrupts the peace and balance of the situation and one more of the characters comes into conflict with an outside force, himself, or another character.
Example:
The inciting incident from the movie “Twilight” is when Bella doesn’t know who to stay with.
SETTING
The time and place of the action of a literary work.
Example:
The story takes places in a forest, near the border to China and Russia.
SETTING
ANTAGONIST
The character opposing the protagonist; can be a person, idea, or force.
Example:
The antagonist in the Lion King is Scar.
ANTAGONIST
PROTAGONIST
The central character, and focus of interest; who is trying to accomplish or overcome adversity, and has the ability to adapt to new circumstances.
Example:
Harry Potter, the film’s main protagonist, was suffering from a lot of issues.
PROTAGONIST
METAPHOR
It is a literary figure of speech that uses an image, story or tangible thing to represent a less tangible thing or some intangible quality or idea.
Example:
Her eyes were glistering jewels.
METAPHOR
SIMILE
A comparison of two different things or ideas through the use of the words-like or as.
Example:
She is as beautiful as a flower.
SIMILE
IMAGERY
Language that appeals to the senses; the use of figurative speech or vivid description to produce mental images.
Example:
Though I was on the sheer face of a mountain, the feeling of swinging through the air was euphoric, almost like flying without wings.
IMAGERY
SUSPENSE
The quality of a literary work that makes the reader uncertain or tense about the outcome of events.
Example:
-a character goes into a dark room, or a spooky building
-any sort of deadline, especially if lives might be lost
-any mystery
SUSPENSE
POINT OF VIEW
The perspective from which a story is told.
Example:
In my opinion Michael Jackson was the king of pop, that is my point of view.
SYMBOL
The use of any object, person, place or action that both has a meaning in itself and that stands for something larger than itself, asuch as a quality, attitude, belief, or value.
Example:
The cross is a symbol of Christianity.
SYMBOL
ALLUSION
A form of paradox that combines a pair of opposite terms into a single unusual expression.
Example:
Ben’s sudden silence was an indirect reference to his recent affair.
ALLUSION
OXYMORON
A form of paradox that combines a pair of opposite terms into a single unusual expression.
Example:
We heard a silent scream.
Ralph, if you are going to be a phony, you might as well be a real phony.
OXYMORON
IRONY
A contrast between appearance and reality; usually one in which reality is the opposite from what it seems; when something is expected to happen or be, and the exact opposite occurs.
Example:
The firefighter is dedicated to light buildings in fire.
IRONY
RISING ACTION
A related series of incidents in a literary plot that build toward the point of greatest interest.
Example:
The rising action in The Three Little Pigs takes place as the pigs set out on their own and begin to make their own decisions.
RISING ACTION
PARADOX
When elemensts of a statement contradict each other, may appear illogical, impossible, or absurd, but turns out to reveal a hidden truth.
Example:
The tears learned to smile after so many years of suffering.
PARADOX
CLIMAX
The most critical moment in the story. The point at which the main conflict is at its highest point.
Example:
In the story of Cinderella, the true climax is when the Prince shows up at Cinderella’s house and puts the glass slipper on her foot. This is the part where it all starts to come together to move forward towards the resolution which would be the Prince and Cinderella falling in love and getting married.
CLIMAX
PUN
A play on words that are identical or similar in sound, but have sharply different meanings. Puns can have serious as well as humorous uses.
Example:
“And how many hours a day did you do lessons?” said Alice, in a hurry to change the subject.
“Ten hours the first day,” said the Mock Turtle, “nine the next, and so on.”
“What a curious plan!” exclaimed Alice.
“That’s the reason they’re called lessons,” the Gryphon remarked:”because they lessen from day to day.”
PUN
TONE
The writer’s attitude towards his/her subject. Tone can often be described by a single adjective.
Example:
Finally, in A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, the tone could be said to be mysterious, secretive, ominous, or evil.

In Hemingway’s “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” the tone is calm and peaceful.

TONE
MOOD
The feeling created in the reader by a literary work or passage.
Example:
Thunderstorms and darkness at the beginning of a book or movie create an eerie and scary mood.
Amused

Angry

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Annoyed

Anxious

Apathetic

Ashamed

MOOD
DETAIL
Facts revealed by the author or speaker that support the attitude or tone in the work.
Example:
“The old man’s carefully parted hair suggest that he has not totally given up.”
DETAIL
IDIOM
An accepted phrase or expression having a meaning different from the literal.
Example:
“I don’t believe what Bob said. Why is he bad-mouthing me?”
IDIOM
STATIC CHARACTER
A character that does not grow or change throughout the story, that ends as he/she began.
Example:
Almost any cartoon character you could name. They never age, never learn, and keep repeating the same daft things over and over.
STATIC CHARACTER
DYNAMIC CHARACTER
A character that undergoes a change in actions or beliefs during the course of the story.
Example:
The assitional scene where Charlie changes his attitude makes him a dynamic character rather than a static one.
DYNAMIC CHARACTER
CHARACTER VS. CHARACTER
When a character has a problem with another character.
Example:
The ogre from Shrek has trouble getting along with others because of his appearance.
CHARACTER VS. CHARACTER
CHARACTER VS. SELF
When a character must make a decision about a problem or struggle he is having within himself.
Example:
In the movie “Twilight” Bella struggles with herself when she has to decide if she should stay with Edward or with Jacob. At the end she decides to stay with Edward.
CHARACTER VS. SELF
CHARACTER VS SOCIETY
When a character has a problem with a tradition or rule of society.
Example:
He was accused of murder, but he was innocent.
CHARACTER VS SOCIETY
EXPOSITION
The author lays the ground work for the story by revealing the setting, relationships between the characters and situation as it exists before the conflict begins.
Example:
Today was one of those times. While his mother was busy with the laundry down in the basement, David was busy scribbling on the kitchen wasll with a purple crayon. He knew he wasn’t supposed to write on the walls, but he did it anyway. Whe he heard his mother start back up the stairs, he ran and hid behind the couch, thnking she couldn’t punish him if she couldn’t find him. But his mother wasn’t fooled for one minute. She knew all too well where David’s favorite hiding place was.
EXPOSITION
FALLING ACTION
Events that occur after the climax and lead up to the closure and conclusion of a story.
Example:
In “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”, the falling action occurs after the climax of Professor Snape’s apparent hex upon Harry during the Quidditch match: Harry, Ron, and Hermione learn about the Sorcerer’s Stone; Voldemort attacks Harry in the Forbidden Forest; and Harry faces Professor Quirrell and Valdemort.
FORESHADOWING
Use of hints and clues to suggest what will happen later in the story, often used to build suspense or tension in a story.
Example:
Maria’s bad grades are foreshadowing that she might not have enough credits to graduate.
FORESHADOWING
EPIPHANY
An event in which the essential nature of something- a person, a situation, an object-is suddently understood in a new way, a sudden realization, an “ah ha!” moment.
Example:
The epiphany ocurred while I was attending a science high school summer program.
EPIPHANY
MOTIVATION
A reason that explains a character’s thoughts, feelings, actions or behavior.
Example:
A child obeys his/her parents to avoid punishment.
A clerk works overtime so that he can afford a better car.
DENOTATION
The specific dictionary definition of a word.
Example:
The word “snake” simply denotes a reptile.
DENOTATION
DICTION
Word choice, an author chooses words to create a specific EFFECT. The appropriateness of the words with regard to the emotions and/or ideas associated with them.
Example:
Abraham Lincoln’s carefully crafted address, secondary to other presentations that day, came to be regarded as one of the greatest speeches in American history. In just over two minutes, Lincoln invoked the principles of human equality espoused by the Declaration of Independence and redefined the Civil War as a struggle not merely for the Union, but as “a new birth of freedom” that would bring true equality to all of its citizens, and that would also create a unified nation in which states’ rights were no longer dominant.

Your diction is simply your choice of words. There is no single, correct diction in the English language; instead, you choose different words or phrases for different contexts.

DICTION
HYPERBOLE
A deliberate, extravagant, and often outrageous exaggeration; may be used for either serious or comic effect.
Example:
“I’ve told you a million times”
“It was so cold, I saw polar bears wearing jackets”
“she is so dumb, she thinks Taco Bell is a Mexican phone company”
HYPERBOLE
CHARACTER VS. FATE
When a character has a problem with something he can’t do anything about, such as God, luck, death, etc.
Example:
Romeo and juliet were in love and by fate, they were born into two feuding families.
CHARACTER VS. NATURE
When a character has a problem with a force of nature such as, cold, storms, earthquakes, etc.
Example:
“The Dove” by Robert Lee Graham was a true story about a boy’s lone voyage across the worlds deadliest ocean…..
PLOT
The sequence of events or actions in a short story, novel, play, or narrative poem.
Example:
“Captain Stronghead piloted his spacecraft to Proxima Centauri,” is an event with no plot. “Captain Stronghead piloted his spacecraft to Proxima Centauri in order to escape the despotic regime on Earth,” has the beginning of a plot.
PLOT
DENOUEMENT
The problem set up in the inciting incident is unraveled; there is a revelation of meaning.
Example:
The denouement or resolution of Charles Dickens’ “Great Expectations” is Pip and Estella’s marriage.
DENOUEMENT
MOTIF
A recurrent element in a literary work. A pattern or strand of imagery or symbolism in a work of literature.
Example:
Prosperity is a motif used by Garcia Marquez in the story “An Old Man with Enormous Wings.”
MOTIF