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Key Literary Terms . A Brief Overview . What’s the point?. Alabama/Auburn game Your favorite song Your favorite movie. Terms cont’d. Theme. Moral . A central message or insight into life revealed through the literary work The underlying, unifying idea in a text

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key literary terms

Key Literary Terms

A Brief Overview

what s the point
What’s the point?

Alabama/Auburn game

Your favorite song

Your favorite movie

terms cont d
Terms cont’d



  • A central message or insight into life revealed through the literary work
  • The underlying, unifying idea in a text
  • This is NOT a plot summary.
  • Examples:
    • The Adventures of Tom Sawyergrowing up
    • Finding Nemo determination
    • Harry Potter good vs. evil; friendship
  • A lesson taught by a literary work
  • Example:
    • Aesop’s fable of the Tortoise and the Hare “slow and steady wins the race”
terms cont d4
Terms cont’d



  • A person (or animal) who takes part in the action of a literary work
    • Round: exhibits many different traits (faults and virtues)
    • Flat: one dimensional; lack of detail; minor characters; often stereotypes
    • Dynamic: develops and grows during the course of the story
    • Static: does not change throughout the story
  • The act of CREATING and DEVELOPING a character
  • Presented through:
    • Actions
    • Thoughts
    • Description
    • Dialect
    • Other characters’ reactions toward character being examined
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Terms cont’d


Figurative Language

  • A struggle between two opposing forces
    • Natural (man vs. nature): character(s) against natural elements
    • External (man vs. man): conflict between or among characters
    • Internal (man vs. self): conflict that exists within a character (a decision, etc)
    • Mechanical (man vs. machine): man against machine
  • Writing or speech that is not meant to be interpreted literally
  • Used to create vivid impressions by setting up comparisons between dissimilar things
    • Similes
    • Metaphors
      • “Life is a highway”
    • Personification
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Terms cont’d



  • A long work of fiction
  • Have a plot
  • Explore many conflicts and themes within one work
  • The ordinary form of written language
  • Most writing that is NOT poetry or drama is considered prose
  • Novels, short stories, memoirs, biography, sci-fi, etc.
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Terms cont’d



  • The sequence of events in a literary work
    • Exposition or initial situation: the beginning; the first incident that makes the story move
    • Rising action or complication: conflicts or obstacles the main character has to overcome
    • Climax: highest point of interest; turning point in the story
    • Falling action: tensions begin to unravel and resolve
    • Resolution (denouement): what happens to the character at the end in regard to conflicts examined in the story
  • The time AND place of the action of a literary work
    • Gone with the Wind 1860s during the Civil War; Georgia
    • A Separate Peace 1940s at the Devon School in New England
    • Harry Potter series present-day England; Hogwarts
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Terms cont’d



  • The descriptive or figurative language used in literature to create word pictures for the reader
  • Appeals the senses
  • The writer’s attitude toward his or her audience or subject
  • Revealed through choice of words, detail, mood
    • Formal, informal, solemn, serious, sarcastic, ironic, playful, bitter, nostalgic
    • Diary of a Young Girl tone is emotional and insecure
    • Ellen Foster tone is informal as it is written from the perspective of a young girl
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Terms cont’d



  • The main character of a literary work
    • Harry in Harry Potter
    • Scout Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird
    • Frodo in The Lord of the Rings
  • The general term for the literary techniques that portray differences between appearance and reality, expectation and result
    • Verbal: words are used to suggest the opposite of what is meant
    • Dramatic: the audience or reader knows something that the character does not
    • Situational: When one event is expected to occur but the opposite happens.
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Terms cont’d

Mood/ atmosphere


  • The feeling created in the reader by a literary work or passage
  • Horror, mystery, sadness, holiness, contemplation, etc.
  • The character or force in conflict with the protagonist
    • Malfoy in Harry Potter
    • Danglars in The Count of Monte Cristo
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Terms cont’d



  • The feeling of curiosity or uncertainty about the outcome of events in a literary work
  • Create suspense by raising questions in the minds of readers
  • Anything that stands for or represents something else
  • Symbols have 2 meanings:
    • 1. their practical function
    • 2. deeper meaning (abstract)
    • Examples:
      • American flag freedom
      • Heart  love
      • Dove  hope or peace
      • Wedding rings  commitment
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Terms cont’d



  • The highest point of interest or suspense in a literary work
  • Think: the most dramatic part of the story
  • A portrait of a person, place, or object in words
  • “Mademoiselle Eugenie Danglars was dressed, with elegant simplicity, in a figured white silk dress. A white rose half lost in her jet-black hair was her only ornament; she wore no jewels.”
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Terms cont’d



  • The form of language spoken by people in a particular region or group
    • “ya’ll” versus “you guys”
    • “fixin’” and “likta”
  • A conversation between characters
    • He said, she said, etc.
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Terms cont’d



  • A story written to be performed by actors
    • Shakespeare!
  • A short, non-fiction work about a particular topic
  • Generally thoughtful and interpretative
  • Presents author’s own ideas on a particular subject
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Terms cont’d



  • Prose writing that tells about imaginary characters and events
  • A device by which a work represents material that occurred prior to the opening scene of the work
  • Harry Potter’s flashback to when he was a baby.
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Terms cont’d



  • A category or type of literature
  • 3 major categories: prose, poetry, drama
  • Poetry: lyric, concrete, narrative
  • Prose: fiction, nonfiction
    • Science fiction, fantasy, adventure, historical, romantic, mystery, horror
  • Drama: tragedy, comedy, melodrama
  • The use of clues in a literary work that suggests events that have yet to occur
    • Dantes tells his friends at his wedding that he is afraid his happiness will not last.
terms cont d17
Terms cont’d

Hero/ heroine


  • The central character in a work is its hero
  • Represent the values or ideals of a culture
  • Who is the hero in The Count of Monte Cristo? Is there a hero at all?
  • Arrogance or pride that results in the misfortune of the protagonist of a tragedy
  • Refers to the emotions in Greek tragic heroes that led them to ignore warnings from the gods and thus invite catastrophe
the count of monte cristo
The Count of Monte Cristo

Author: Alexandre Dumas

Born in 1802 near Paris

Fused his works with his political beliefs

Forerunner of the French Romantic movement

Wrote plays, travel literature, and novels

Other famous works by Dumas: The Three Musketeers and The Man in the Iron Mask

the count based on true events
The Count: Based on True Events

His inspiration for the novel was an anecdote he read in a collection of intriguing criminal cases.

The anecdote relates that in 1807, a man named François Piçaud became engaged to a pretty and wealthy girl, inspiring the envy of his friends. One of these friends, Loupian, persuaded the others to join him in denouncing Piçaud as an English spy. Though innocent of the charge, Piçaud was arrested and kept in prison for seven years. While in prison, he befriended a rich Italian cleric who left Piçaud his vast fortune when he died. Piçaud returned to Paris in 1815 as a wealthy man. Using his wealth, as well as numerous disguises, he enacted a complex plan to avenge himself on his enemies, murdering several of them.

Though this real-life story has the all the essential plot elements of Dumas’s novel, it lacks the fantastical, epic proportions of great melodrama.

what makes the count melodramatic
What makes The Count melodramatic?

Published in serial format ($)

Exaggerated emotion

Page 143

Emphasis on plot and action rather than on character

Think: musical cues at the appropriate time

Page 393-394

Page 473

Page 522

a separate peace
A Separate Peace
  • Author: John Knowles
    • Attended Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire
    • Many of his experiences are portrayed in A Separate Peace
        • “The only elements in A Separate Peace which were not in that summer were anger, violence, and hatred. There was only friendship, athleticism, and loyalty.”
    • Attended Yale University
    • Served in the Air Force during World War II
title a separate peace
Title: A Separate Peace
  • Look to the title to determine a theme or an underlying meaning of text
  • What does Knowles mean by “a separate peace”?
    • Page 137
    • Page 123
  • Jealousy
  • Denial
  • Loss of innocence
  • Growing up “a coming of age” novel?