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Literary Terms

Literary Terms. Theme. DEF: An insight about human life that's revealed in a literary work. • Theme is rarely directly stated by author • Ask, "What's the author's message to me?" EX : You cannot stop love. (Shrek) EX : Things are not always as they seem.

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Literary Terms

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  1. Literary Terms

  2. Theme • DEF: An insight about human life that's revealed in a literary work. • • Theme is rarely directly stated by author• Ask, "What's the author's message to me?" • EX: You cannot stop love. (Shrek) • EX: Things are not always as they seem. • **In analysis, theme is given as a complete sentence= Love inspires sacrifice.

  3. Plot • DEF: how the action of the story is presented • Exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, resolution • plot triangle

  4. Direct Characterization • DEF: writer TELLS the audience the personality of a character; the description actually is IN THE TEXT. • EX: My mom is always thoughtful. • EX: Jack Sparrow is mysterious and charming.

  5. Indirect Characterization • DEF: writer SHOWS the audience the personality of a character; the description may be implied* but NOT STATED, so the reader must infer* • STEAL (speech, thoughts, effect on others, actions, looks) • EX: Mary looked away and shifted her feet when father asked her where the money went. • EX: Henry threw the winning touchdown pass with ease.

  6. Dynamic Character • DEF: the major character who encounters conflict and is changed by it • EX: Princess Fiona in Shrek • EX: Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz • EX: Harry Potter • EX: Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story

  7. Static Character • DEF: minor characters who do not change or grow in the course of the story, often flat • EX: Sherlock Holmes • EX: James Bond • EX: Tom Sawyer • EX: Robin -- Batman’s counterpart

  8. Conflict • DEF: A struggle between opposing forces; the basis of plot • EX: Man vs. Man (Socs Vs. Greasers) • Man vs. Nature (boy vs. raging wild fire) • man vs. machinery (woman Vs. Car that will not start) • man vs. society (man vs. how to feed the starving children in the world)

  9. Internal Conflict • DEF: character’s decision-making; conflict that takes place in the mind • EX: Ponyboy’s (The Outsiders) decision to be true to himself vs. the gang • EX: study or watch TV • EX: run or fight

  10. External Conflict • DEF: struggle between a character and an outside force • EX: fisherman vs. Storm (The Deadliest Catch) • EX: Parents vs. children • EX: Harry vs. Voldemort

  11. Simile (figure of speech) • DEF: The comparison of two different things using “like” or as” • EX: James was flopping like a fish when Julie tickled him. • EX: Her eyes twinkled like stars. • EX: She was as cool as a cucumber during her interview.

  12. Metaphor (figure of speech) • DEF: A comparison of two unlike things without using “like’ or “as” • a direct comparison • EX: You are the radiant sun. • Ex: Life is a battle.

  13. Symbol • DEF: word or object that stands for another word or object. • EX: In The Most Dangerous Game red was a symbol for blood, violence, and death on Ship-Trap Island. • EX: dove -- peace; apple – sin • EX: lion – courage, bravery, leadership

  14. Imagery • DEF: words or phrases that appeal to any of the five senses to recreate sight, sound, smell, taste, or touch • EX: music coursed through our veins • EX: the scent of warm cookies wafted in the air • EX: the fuzzy sweater caused me to itch

  15. Idiom • DEF: An expression not meant literally • a commonly used expression that means something other than the words actually spoken • that means something other than the literalmeanings of its individual words. • Ex: A chip on your shoulder - means you have a bad attitude • Ex: Sick as a dog - means you are very ill • Ex: Rub someone the wrong way - meaning to annoy or bother

  16. Alliteration • DEF: the repetition of a consonant sound in the first syllable of words within a sentence or passage (not vowel) • EX: She sells sea shells by the seashore. (**tongue twisters are alliteration on steroids!) • EX: The glistening stars gleamed on the water’s surface.

  17. Allusion • DEF: brief reference to a person, place, event or story that all people know. (If it starts with a capitalletter and you don’t know what it is, it may be an allusion) • EX: Tests are my Achilles’ heel. • EX: Sally has a smile that rivals that of the Mona Lisa. • EX: If it keeps raining like this, we’re going to need to build an ark.

  18. Onomatopoeia (figure of speech) • DEF: A word that imitates or suggests the sound that it describes • EX: The boom of the cannon scared me. • EX: The owl screeched all night long and kept me up.

  19. Personification(figure of speech) • DEF: Giving human traits (qualities, feelings, actions, characteristics) to something non-human. • non-human thing with human characteristics • EX: The sounds of the sea were calling me back home. • Ex: The thunder grumbled like an old man.


  21. Theme • Theme(s) holds a story together • Theme is seen throughout the text • Theme is essential to giving meaning • ***Without It- a story is a random list of pointless events

  22. Plot • DEF: plot is the sequence of EVENTS that makeup a story • Based on the principle of cause and effect, each event in the plot affects the next, basically keeping the story moving • Plot focuses attention on the significant parts of the characters’ lives. • Plot connects events for the reader.; it gives flow and purpose to the story,. • Plot can make the story seem more realistic if the reader feels that events are connected. • Bad series of events= a story that is too predictable or unrealistic

  23. Characterization • Characterization helps the reader relate to the story; it makes the story more interesting • Characterization brings characters to life and makes them believable • Characterization engages readers and helps them to connect to characters in the story, causing them to either like or dislike them

  24. Conflict • Conflict is the source of change in a story • Conflict defines characters; it reveals their nature, or personality • Conflict forces characters to make choices, choices that either strengthen or weaken characters

  25. Imagery • Imagery is a photograph or experience expressed in writing • Imagery shows the reader an experience, rather than just telling about it • Imagery brings writing to life; it creates something vivid and real in the reader’s imagination • Imagery makes writing more relatable and allows the reader to connect to the story- to walk in the characters’ shoes.

  26. Symbolism • Symbolism gives objects new and deeper meaning • Symbolism adds significance to objects or things • EX: rose- love • EX: ribbons- pain/joy (depending on which character) • Symbolism challenges the reader to think critically, to infer important ideas that are not directly stated in the text

  27. Figurative language • Force readers to imagine or infer what an author means with an expression or statement.  • Can make unfamiliar objects, settings and situations more relatable • Helps to make the characters and storylines come alive in the reader’s mind. It is usually meant to engage the reader’s imagination.

  28. Flashback • A flashback is an interruption in the plot to describe an action of the past. After the flashback, the story returns to the present time of action. • Flashbacks make a comparison between the present action and something that happened in the past, • Flashbacks provide background information in a more interesting way; this could be thru thoughts, memories, or dreams. • Flashbacks can explain the reasons behind a character’s behavior or events and situations that might be unclear. • This technique can add suspense to the narrative.

  29. Foreshadowing • DEF: clues that PREDICT an event that DOES HAPPEN later • EX: scary, dramatic music gets louder in horror movie just before the babysitter eating popcorn on the couch is attacked • Creates suspense and can build tension- it makes the reader keep reading • ***(when something is predicted BUT does NOT happen=irony)

  30. Diction/Dialect • Diction- refers to the writer’s word choice; why choose simple, easy to understand words? complex, technical terms? sophisticated language? slang? • Dialect refers to the speech patterns of a particular region or social group; naturally, it changes from location to location and is often a reflection of an author’s native region • Diction and dialect help make the story more realistic and relatable. • Diction should reflect the abilities of the author’s target audience. • EX: ain’t, hafta, yessum(Shetde do’ -- Shut the door). • EX: pedantic – precise – fussy - picky

  31. Antagonist • DEF: the main character or force that opposes the protagonist (causes problems), creating conflict in the story • The antagonist usually gives the reader someone to dislike, or hope to see defeated • EX: Voldemort (archenemy of Harry Potter) • EX: Lex Luthor (archenemy of Superman)

  32. Protagonist • DEF: principal (main) character; the force that drives the action (plot) of the story • The protagonist gives the reader someone to cheer for and can be the reason the reader continues reading- hoping to see the antagonist’s problem solved- the happily ever after • EX: Superman • EX: Romeo AND Juliet

  33. Hyperbole • DEF: extreme exaggeration used for emphasis or humor • EX: I am so tired I could sleep for two days straight. • EX: “. . . the shot heard round the world.” (Emerson)

  34. Oxymoron • combination of words that contradict each other • Ex: “deafening silence” • Ex: “wise fool” • Ex: “honest thief” • Ex: “bittersweet”

  35. Situational Irony • DEF: Unexpected events; Irony that occurs when what we expect to happen is the opposite of what actually does happen • EX: The small “nerd” beats up the big “jock”. • EX: A single woman reluctantly goes to a wedding but ends up meeting the man she marries. • EX: The paint inside a can promises to stop metal from rusting, yet the metal can it is in is rusted.

  36. Dramatic Irony • DEF: Irony which occurs when the audience or reader knows something important that a character does not know. • EX: In a movie, a slasher is in the woods and the audience can see him. The character runs to the woods to hide not knowing the slasher is in the woods. • EX: Romeo does not know Juliet is just asleep in the tomb. The reader or audience knows this information.

  37. Verbal Irony • DEF: Irony where a writer or speaker says something but means something else. • EX: Your D’s and F’s Will surely get you in the Smart People of America Club. • How wonderful it is that the water will be turned off for six hours tomorrow!

  38. Point of View • DEF: perspective from which the narrator tells a story (first person, third person omniscient, third person limited- occasionally second person) • First person -- one of the characters is usually the narrator telling the story (pronouns I, me, my, mine) • Third person omniscient -- the person telling the story knows everything about the characters and their problems. The narrator is not in the story • Third person limited -- the narrator, who is one of the characters, zooms in on one character’s thoughts and feelings.

  39. Pun • A play on words involving a word with two or more different meanings or two words that sound alike but have different meanings. • EX: Police were called to a daycare where a three-year-old was resisting a rest. • EX: What did the grape say when it got stepped on? Nothing - but it let out a little whine. • EX: Santa’s helpers are subordinate Clauses.

  40. Elements in Context • The large black shoulders that had once towered over his opponent were plastered to the floor; David had again defeated Goliath. • The giant’s growl was now only a weak whimper. However, he accepted his defeat graciously, welcoming the warm wet tongue of “the enemy” that licked his wounds. Although there would be a million more battles, an unlikely pair had managed to strike up a friendship. Lovingly, Ares threw his arm around the little man standing over him and begged for mercy. • Tomorrow the energetic Rottweiler puppy will again challenge my older, wiser dachshund, for it seems he hasn’t quite come to grips with the pecking order in our family!

  41. Mood • DEF: the feeling/atmosphere the writer creates through tone; emotional response created IN the READER • EX: sympathetic, outraged, shocked, disappointed, excited, nervous, hopeful, satisfied, appreciative, energized • MY (the reader’s) feelings while reading

  42. Archetype • a perfect example of something • universal characters, situations, images and symbols that occur in the stories of all cultures • Example: Water =birth, death, resurrection, purification, redemption, fertility, growth; Hero= superior strength, integrity, and looks

  43. Tone • DEF: the writer’s attitude towards his or her subject; tone reflects the writer’s feelings • EX: matter-of-fact or straightforward, sincere, suspenseful, argumentative, sarcastic, whimsical or playful, pessimistic, reflective

  44. Analogy • DEF: comparison built on relationships between words; to complete an analogy, identify the relationship between the known elements and create the same relationship with the unknown element • EX: Fish is to swim as bird is to fly. • EX: Word:Sentence::Page:Book • EX: furious:anger::terrified:_______

  45. Euphemism • A “nicer” way of saying something- amild,indirect, or vagueexpression used in place of a more direct, offensive, harsh, or blunt. • EX: “Passed away” for “Died” • EX: Letting someone go instead of firing someone • EX: Put to sleep instead of euthanize or kill • EX: Between places instead of homeless

  46. Foil Character • a character who sets off another character by providing a sharp contrast. • Characters may be different in personalities, situations, behaviors, physical appearance and attitudes. • Dr. Jekyll and Mr. hyde • Mercutio/Romeo • Voldemort/Professsor Dumbledore

  47. Paradox • a statement that seems contradictory but actually reveals a deeper truth; an extended oxymoron of sorts • Ex. jumbo shrimp is an oxymoron (2 words) • Ex.You shouldn't go in the water until you know how to swim = paradox • Ex. In Shakespeare'sHamlet, the title character states, "I must be cruel to be kind." • You can’t win for losing.

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