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Literary Terms

Literary Terms

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Literary Terms

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  1. Literary Terms EOC Essentials

  2. SENSORY LANGUAGE: Language that appeals to a reader’s sense of sight, hearing, touch, smell, or taste.

  3. An example of sensory language The crisp autumn wind felt cold on his wrist and almost tasted of ripe apples.

  4. Language that requires examination to understand the author’s true meaning, meaning that goes beyond the literal or obvious. What follows are literary devices that require examination to understand their deeper meaning as opposed to the literal, surface meaning of the words that form them. Figurative Language

  5. IRONY: There are three types of irony: verbal, situational, and dramatic. Each type involves a discrepancy (a distinct difference between two things).

  6. SITUATIONAL IRONY In situational irony, a discrepancy exists between the reader’s expectations of a situation and the actual outcome of the situation.

  7. Examples of situational irony The Most Dangerous Game: We expect a hunter to hunt an animal; however, in this story, the hunter (Rainsford) becomes the hunted. The Lottery: We expect a lottery winner to win money; however, in this story, the lottery winner wins death. She gets stoned to death. The assassination attempt on Pres. Ronald Reagan: When John Hinckley attempted to assassinate President Reagan, all of his shots initially missed the President; however, a bullet ricocheted off the bullet-proof Presidential limousine and struck Reagan in the chest. Thus, a vehicle made to protect the President from gunfire was partially responsible for his being shot

  8. DRAMATIC IRONY In dramatic irony, a discrepancy exists between what the reader or audience knows to be true and what one of the characters believes to be true. In other words, the reader/audience knows something the character does not. This knowledge often leads the reader/audience to assign a very different meaning or significance to the character’s words or actions than what the character intended.

  9. Examples of dramatic irony In The Cask of Amontillado, the reader knows that Montresor is planning on murdering Fortunato, while Fortunato believes they are friends. In Oedipus the King, the reader/audience knows that Oedipus himself is the murderer that he is seeking; Oedipus, Creon and Jocasta do not. In Trifles, the men mock the women and their concern over the “trifles” of life (and the crime scene). However, the reader/audience realizes that these so-called trifles have allowed the women to solve the case (what led Mrs. Wright to kill her husband). In Lamb to the Slaughter, the reader knows that the weapon is literally under the police detective’s nose. The policeman is actually eating the weapon, the leg of lamb, as he says, “It’s probably right under our noses.”

  10. Verbal Irony In verbal irony, a discrepancy (distinct difference) exists between what the speaker says and what he actually means. Verbal irony may take the form of sarcasm, overstatement, or understatement.

  11. Examples of verbal irony Your perpetually late friend arrives thirty minutes late and causes the two of you to miss the movie you were supposed to go see. You say to her, “Once again, your punctuality saves the day!” You mean the opposite of what you are saying. You’re being ironic by employing sarcasm. You earn straight A’s on your report card and your dad says, “Not bad.” He really means, “Awesome! Fantastic!” He is being ironic by employing understatement. Your computer freezes (again) while you are downloading a hilarious video you really want to watch. You scream, “I am going to throw this computer out the window!” You’re not really going to throw your $500 computer out the window. You just mean that you’re really frustrated with it. You’re being ironic by employing overstatement.

  12. SARCASM A bitter expression of disapproval that tends to mean the opposite of what the words actually say.

  13. OVERSTATEMENT Also called HYPERBOLE, overstatement is the use of exaggeration as a rhetorical device.

  14. UNDERSTATEMENT A form of speech which contains an expression of less strength than what would be expected.

  15. EUPHEMISM The substitution of a polite or milder phrase for a harsher or more offensive expression.

  16. Examples of euphemism Euphemisms:

  17. PARADOX In literature, a paradox is a contradictory, illogical, or absurd statement that contains some element of truth.

  18. Examples of paradox We are willing to fight for peace. While this statement appears to contradict itself, sometimes one must fight to ensure peace. “What a pity that youth must be wasted on the young.” -- George Bernard Shaw While your initial reaction is that this statement is absurd or illogical, Shaw’s point/truth is that youth can only truly be appreciated by someone who has lost it. It echoes the idea that a person only truly values something once he’s lost it.

  19. The most famous paradox in literature It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way. --Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities The first line of A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens, is the most famous line in literature. It is also the most famous paradox in literature. It appears contradictory; however, upon examination, we can find some truth in the words. In every era, our own time, the time of Dickens, the time of the French Revolution (the setting of A Tale of Two Cities), there are those who claim, “We’ve never had it so good.”There are also those who suffer and struggle to make ends meet. Some people think, “Things are going great in this country!” Others worry that our civilization could collapse on its decaying moral foundation.A person’s experiences and perspective will determine the period to be the best of times or the worst of times.  Some will see it as a time of wisdom, light, and hope; others will see it as a time of foolishness, darkness, and despair.

  20. OXYMORON An oxymoron brings together two contradictory words to create a special effect. An oxymoron is a compressed paradox.

  21. Examples of oxymoron A deafening silence “Deafening” usually means very loud, so in this case, a very loud silence is contradictory. A reader, however, would understand the intended meaning: an intense or meaningful silence. Bittersweet Bitter and sweet come together to suggest something that is both pleasant and regretful or painful. Running into an ex could be bittersweet as it may bring mixed emotions. Controlled chaos Chaos is defined as an utter state of confusion or disorder (uncontrolled). By pairing “chaos” with the contradictory word “controlled,” you can suggest a situation that appears disorganized but actually manages to work in an orderly fashion.

  22. SIMILE A comparison of two apparently unlike things using like, as, than, or resembles.

  23. Examples of simile "Life is like an onion: You peel it off one layer at a time, and sometimes you weep."(Carl Sandburg) "[H]e looked about as inconspicuous as a tarantula on a slice of angel food."(Raymond Chandler, Farewell, My Lovely, 194 "I'm happier than a tornado in a trailer park." - Mater, Cars The seven-layer sandwich resembleda skyscraper.

  24. METAPHOR A figure of speech that makes a comparison either by stating that one thing is something else, or by implying, through substitution, that one thing is something else.

  25. Examples of metaphor Here are some rather boring metaphors that we hear everyday: Her words rang true. By substituting “rang” for “sounded,” the speaker or writer has created a metaphor that compares her true words to the clear sound of a bell. You’re the light of my life. While you don’t literally provide light in her life, you are a crucial part of her life.

  26. More interesting metaphors from literature "The rain came down in long knitting needles." --Enid Bagnold, National Velvet Through substitution, raindrops are being compared to long knitting needles. The metaphor suggests that the raindrops are long and sharp or stinging against the skin, so we can infer that it’s probably raining hard. A strong wind has probably created a hard, driving rain. "Between the lower east side tenements the sky is a snotty handkerchief.“ --Marge Piercy, “The Butt of Winter” In this very direct form of metaphor, the author is saying that one object (the sky between low income, urban apartment buildings) is a snotty handkerchief. By creating this metaphor, she has painted a very ugly image of the living environment of the lower class.

  27. More metaphors "Memory is a crazy woman that hoards colored rags and throws away food.“ --Austin O'Malley, Keystones of Thought In this metaphor, by comparing memory to a crazy woman who hoards trash and throws away food, the author is commenting on the fact that people seem to remember the bad things (colored rags) that happen to them and forget the good (nourishing like food) things. “They carry bundles of garments from the factories to the tenements, little beasts of burden, robbed of school life that they may work for us.” Through substitution, Kelley used the above metaphor in her speech to compare children to worker animals. She was suggesting that we were working our children much like we worked our farm animals. By calling the children beasts of burden, the author was hoping to evoke images of horses pulling plows or mules loaded down with packages.

  28. An analogy, like a simile, compares two different things by identifying points of similarity. The difference is that an analogy usually identifies several points of similarity and is created for the purpose of conceptual clarity. Example: Flash memory chips work like a chalkboard, in that, when information is written on it, the information remains present even when the power is turned off. Only when the information is deliberately erased will it disappear. And like the chalkboard, flash memory can be written on and erased many times. ANALOGY

  29. PERSONIFICATION Attaching human characteristics to something that is not human.

  30. Examples of personification “The wind wandering by night rocks the wheat.” --Pat Mora in her poem Meciendo. The wind does not actually wander, nor does it rock wheat like a human would a baby. “the muttering and growling of the sea breaking on a rocky shore” “the sea licked greedy lips in the shadows” The sea does not actually growl and mutter, nor does it have lips. Human characteristics have been assigned to the sea. Both of these examples of personification come from The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell

  31. SYMBOLISM Symbolism is when the author uses an object or reference to represent an idea in order to add deeper meaning to a story. Symbolism in literature can be subtle or obvious, used sparingly or heavy-handedly. An author may repeatedly use the same object to convey deeper meaning or may use variations of the same object to create an overarching mood or feeling. Symbolism is often used to support a literary theme in a subtle manner.

  32. Symbols we’ve seen in literature Trifles: In this play, the broken, frozen jars of fruit are significant. The jars of fruit symbolized her hopes, dream, possibly her emotions. The freeze symbolized the cold (lack of love, affection) of her environment. The final frozen action that shattered those jars? Her husband killing her bird, the object of her love and affection. Remember that Mr. Wright was described as a very cold man. Fire and Ice: In this poem by Robert Frost, fire represents passion/love and ice represents hate. He uses the symbolism to suggest that both can be equally destructive. The poet suggests that emotions are powerful forces that both consume and destroy.

  33. Symbols in The Cask of Amontillado The motley jester outfit worn by Fortunato: The outfit is a symbolic representation of what Fortunato is – a fool. The coat of arms: Montresor’sdescription of his coat of arms is symbolic of Montresor and Fotunato. Fortunato, rich and respected, is represented by the huge golden foot. He has stepped, possibly unknowingly, on Montresor’spride, and Montresor, like the snake, is going to strike back. Some will interpret Montresor as the foot and Fortunato as the snake; however, the Montresor as serpent motif is further explored when Montresor repeatedly tempts Fortunato with the Amontillado and plays on Fortunato’s deadly sin (pride). Montresor, the serpent, has now been associated with the ultimate serpent, Satan. Montresor lies to Fortunato, tempts him with wine (made from fruit), and plays on his pride. In the story of the Garden of Eden, Satan, as a serpent, lies to Eve, tempts her with the fruit of knowledge, and plays on her pride/ambition to become godlike. Both Fortunato and Eve believe the serpent, and their mistakes lead to their death. The snake comes to symbolize pride, deceit, vengeance, death. In case you missed it, pride is the real villain in this little tale. If not for pride, this act of vengeance would have never occurred.

  34. LITERARY DEVICES OF SOUND

  35. ALLITERATION Repetition of initial sounds of words or stressed syllables in close proximity to one another.

  36. Examples of Alliteration A Dr. Seuss example: Big B little b what begins with B? Barber, baby, bubble, and a bumblebee. Something a little less obvious: "A moist young moon hung above the mist of a neighboring meadow."--Vladimir Nabokov, Conclusive Evidence, 1951 "[S]he had no room for gaiety and ease. She had spent the golden time in grudging its going." --Dorothy Parker, "The Lovely Leave"

  37. CONSONANCE Repetition of internal or ending consonant sounds of words close together. Consonants do NOT include A,E,I,O,U. Those are vowels.

  38. Examples of consonance Some commonly used phrases that employ consonance: Firstand last oddsand ends Notice the k sound shortand sweet a stroke of luck repetition We hear it in Shakespeare: “Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more Notice the ts sound. We hear it in rap music: “Rap rejects my tape deck, ejects projectile” Notice the ct sound -- The Fugees, in “Zealots” repetition.

  39. ASSONANCE "Assonance, (or medial rime) is the agreement in the vowel sounds of two or more words, when the consonant sounds preceding and following these vowels do not agree. Thus, strike and grind, hat and man, 'rime' with each other according to the laws of assonance.“ --J.W. Bright, Elements of English Versification, 1910

  40. Examples of assonance "I must confess that in my quest I felt depressed and restless." --Thin Lizzy, "With Love" Notice the repetition of the short e sound. "Hear the mellow wedding bells" by Edgar Allen Poe "It's hot and it's monotonous." by Stephen Sondheim (repeated short o sound) "The crumbling thunder of seas" by Robert Louis Stevenson Repetition of the short u sound.

  41. ONOMATOPOEIA The use of words that imitate the sounds associated with the objects or actions they refer to

  42. Examples of onomatopoeia Hiss Murmur Snip Plop Buzz Crack Rip Smack Boom Bang Roar Twang "It went zip when it moved and bop when it stopped, and whirr when it stood still. I never knew just what it was and I guess I never will.“ -- Tom Paxton, "The Marvelous Toy“

  43. TONE VS. MOOD Both tone and mood are developed through the author’s diction or word choice. However, it is important not to confuse these two literary elements.

  44. TONE Tone is the author’s attitude toward his subject and/or audience. Tone is different from mood because whereas tone describes how the author feels about his subject or audience, mood describes how the reader feels when reading the story. Tone reflects the writer’s feelings while mood reflects the reader’s.

  45. EXAMPLES TONE WORDS

  46. MOOD The atmosphere the author creates through his word choice. The mood of a story affects/reflects the reader’s emotions about the story. Setting plays a large part in determining the mood of the story.

  47. A FEW MOOD WORDS

  48. LITERARY TERMS REFERRING TO WORD CHOICE

  49. DENOTATION The dictionary definition of a word.

  50. CONNOTATION An idea or feeling associated with the word, in addition to its literal or primary meaning.