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Literary Terms
A story which has meaning
on both the literal and
figurative or moral level.
e.g. “Young Goodman Brown”
Scarlet Letter
Star Wars
The repetition of sounds in a
group of words as in
“Peter Piper Picked a Peck
of Pickled Peppers.”
A reference to a person, place,
or thing--often literary,
mythological, or historical. The
infinitive of allusion is
to allude.
e.g. Romeo alludes to the
mythological figure Diana in the
balcony scene.
A major character who
opposes the protagonist in a
story or play.
A character who represents
a certain type of person.
e.g. mother/father figure
the know-it-all
The repetition of vowel
sounds as in
“And so, all the night-tide, I lie down
by the side
Of my darling, my darling, my life and
my bride.
--Edgar Allan Poe, Annabel Lee
The overall feeling of a
work, which is related to
tone and mood.
The audience for a piece of
literature may be a single
person or a group of people. To
what person or group is the
text directed?
Blank verse:
Unrhymed lines of poetry
usually in iambic pentameter.
Plenty of modern poetry is
written in blank verse.
The means by which an
author establishes
character. An author may
directly describe the
appearance and personality
of character or show it
through action or dialogue.
The point at which the
action in a story or play
reaches its emotional peak.
The struggle in the story.
Traditionally, there are four main
person vs. self (internal)
person vs. person (external)
person vs. society (external)
person vs. nature (external)
The repetition of consonant sounds
as in
“The fair breeze blew, the white
foam flew,
The furrow followed free;”
--The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
To explain how two things
differ. To compare and
contrast is to explain how
two things are alike and how
they are different.
A pair of rhyming lines in a
poem often set off from the
rest of the poem.
Shakespeare’s sonnets all
end in couplets.
The resolution of the conflict in a
plot after the climax. It also
refers to the resolution of the
action in a story or play after the
principal drama is resolved.
e.g. Romeo and Juliet’s families
decide to build statues after
their death.
1)Word choice.
2) The author’s choice of words.
An author has the option of
choosing any word from our
language, why does he/she choose
to use certain words and not
others? In order to create a
certain tone.
1)The definition of a word
found in the dictionary.
2)Literal meaning of a word.
3) The verb form is “to denote”
which means “to mean.”
e.g. The word “indolence”
denotes “laziness.”
1)The definition of a word found
outside of the dictionary.
2)Figurative meaning of a word.
3) The verb form is “to connote”
which means “to suggest or imply a
meaning beyond the literal meaning of
a word.”
e.g. The word “cool” connotes
“an awesome or exciting thing.”
What the writer wants to
prove. Also called an
assertion, position, or thesis.
Counter-claim or
An opinion that challenges
the reasoning behind a
position and shows that
there are grounds for having
an opposite view.
Dramatic Monologue:
A poem in which the speaker
reveals his or her character
through an extended speech
or a one-way dialogue.
e.g. Browning’s “My Last Duchess”
A poem mourning the dead.
End rhyme:
Rhyming words that are at
the ends of their respective
lines—what we typically think
of as normal rhyme.
A long poem narrating the
adventures of a heroic
e.g. Homer’s The Odyssey.
A story that illustrates a moral
often using animals as
e.g. The Tortoise and the Hare
Figurative Language:
Whenever you describe something by
comparing it with something else, you are
using figurative language. Any language that
goes beyond the literal meaning of words in
order to furnish new effects or fresh
insights into an idea or a subject.
e.g. Whenever you call something “cool,”
you’re not talking about its temperature but
referring to some other quality it possesses.
A technique in which an
author gives clues about
something that will happen
later in the story.
Free Verse:
Poetry with no set
meter (rhythm) or
rhyme scheme.
A term used to describe a
particular category or type of
literature. Some literary
genres are mysteries,
westerns, and romances.
An extreme exaggeration.
e.g. To say that it took you
hours to walk home when in
reality it was only 10 mins
would be a hyperbole.
Iambic pentameter:
Ten-syllable lines in which
every other syllable is
e.g. “With eyes like stars
upon the brave night air.”
The use of description that helps the
reader imagine how something looks,
sounds, feels, smells, or tastes. Most
of the time, it refers to appearance.
e.g. “Tita was so sensitive to onions, any
time they were being chopped, they say she
would just cry and cry; when she was still in
my great-grandmother’s belly her sobs
were so loud that even Nacha, the cook,
who was half-deaf, could hear them easily.”
--Like Water for Chocolate
Internal rhyme:
A rhyme that occurs within
one line such as “He’s King of
the Swing.”
Language that conveys a
certain idea by saying just the
e.g. Saying that you love
someone’s shirt when you really
think it’s ugly is being ironic.
Literal Language:
Language that means exactly
what it says.
A type of poetry that
expresses the poet’s
emotions. It often tells
some sort of brief story,
engaging the reader in the
An appeal to the audience’s
logic—common sense—in
An appeal to the audience’s
ethics—knowing right from
wrong—in rhetoric.
An appeal to the audience’s
emotions in rhetoric.
A comparison of two unlike
things using any form of the
verb “to be”–-i.e. am, are, is,
was, were.
Ex: “This chair is a rock,” or
“I am an island.”
The pattern of stressed and
unstressed syllables in the
lines of a poem.
A long speech by one
character in a play or story.
The feeling created in the
reader by a literary work or
passage. The mood may be
suggested by the writer's
choice of words, by events in
the work, or by the physical
A recurrent image, word,
phrase, or action that tends to
unify the literary work or that
forms the theme in a work of
A legend that embodies the
beliefs of people and offers
some explanation for natural
and social phenomena.
The use of words that sound
like what they mean such as
“buzz,” “bang,” or “tic-tock.”
a statement that is apparently
self-contradictory or absurd
but really contains a possible
e.g. Cowards die many times
before their deaths.
--Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar
The use of similar grammatical structure
for effect.
e.g. I came,
I saw,
I conquered.
Also, a requirement in grammar to use the
same grammatical form for cojoined ideas.
e.g. We went biking, sailing, and hiking on our trip,
not We went biking, sailing, and hiked on our trip.
A humorous, exaggerated
imitation of a work of
Giving inanimate objects
human characteristics.
e.g. “The wind howled
through the night.”
The series of events that
form the story.
Point of View (P.O.V):
The perspective from which the
story is told. Narrators of stories can
take on three points of view:
1st person= “I/we”
2nd person= “you”
3rd person= “he/she, they/them”
Omniscient Point of view
The narrator is an all-knowing
outsider who can enter the minds of
all of the characters.
Writing organized into
sentences and paragraphs
that is not poetry.
e.g. Novels and short stories
are examples of prose.
The main character of a
novel, play, or story.
The use of a word in a way that
plays on its different meanings.
e.g. “Noticing the bunch of
bananas, the hungry gorilla
went ape.”
A four-line stanza.
Rhetorical Question:
A question not meant to be answered but
asked solely to produce an effect or to make a
statement. The purpose to such a question,
whose answer is obvious, is usually to make a
deeper impression upon the hearer or reader
than a direct statement would. Its effect is to
make the reader stop and think about what is
being asked.
e.g. “How many times have I asked you to
take out the trash?”
Language that conveys a
certain idea by saying just
the opposite such as if it’s
raining outside and you say,
“My, what a beautiful day.”
A work that makes fun of
something or someone.
e.g. Swift’s “A Modest Proposal”
The Simpsons
South Park
Comparing two unlike things
using “like” or “as.”
e.g. “I’m as hungry as a pig,” or
“Your eyes are like stars that
brighten my night.”
A monologue in which a
character expresses his or
her thoughts to the
audience and does not intend
the other characters to
hear them.
A fourteen-line poem written
in iambic pentameter.
Different kinds of sonnets have
different rhyme schemes. The
most notable are Shakespeare’s
Sonnets which employ the
abab,cdcd,efef,gg rhyme scheme.
A major subdivision in a
poem. A stanza of two lines
is called a couplet; a stanza
of three lines is called a
tercet; a stanza of four lines
is called a quatrain.
The secondary action of a story, complete
and interesting in its own right, that
reinforces or contrasts with the main plot.
There may be more than one subplot, and
sometimes as many as three, four, or even
more, running through a piece of fiction.
Subplots are generally either analogous to
the main plot, thereby enhancing our
understanding of it, or extraneous to the
main plot, to provide relief from it.
The use of one thing to
represent another. Something
that stands for something else.
e.g. A dove is a symbol of peace.
The central idea of a work.
The author’s attitude toward
the subject of the work.
Usually positive or negative.
e.g. The tone of a piece of
literature could be pessimistic,
optimistic, angry, or sarcastic.
The authorial presence in a
piece of literature whether
in the first, second, or third