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Literary Terms. By Carol Spring. Simile. A simile compares two unlike objects using the words “like” or “as” in the comparison. Example: “On the sand banks the rabbits sat as quietly as little gray, sculptured stones” (Steinbeck 2).

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literary terms

Literary Terms

By Carol Spring

  • A simile compares two unlike objects using the words “like” or “as” in the comparison.
  • Example: “On the sand banks the rabbits sat as quietly as little gray, sculptured stones” (Steinbeck 2).
  • This simile compares rabbits to stones, demonstrating how they were completely still.
  • A metaphor compares two unlike objects without using the words “like” or “as”.
  • “Suddenly he was caught from behind and whirled violently, a toy boat caught in a whirlpool” (Cormier 7).
  • This example compares the force with which Jerry was tackled to a toy boat caught in a whirlpool.
  • When writing, the author uses human qualities to describe objects or abstract ideas.
  • “It was raining, and a damp wind argued with the noisy trees” (Chekhov 7).
  • This example from “The Bet” by Anton Chekhov demonstrates personification because the wind is described as arguing, a human trait.
  • Definition: using words in writing that sound like their meaning.
  • Example: “KABOOM!” a poem by Denise Rogers



Way in the past

the miners mined for ore.

They searched for copper, iron and salt,

for that and much, much more.”

This poem demonstrates words that sound like their meanings, such as ka-blast, which sounds like an explosion.

  • Repetition of sounds at the beginning of words
  • “A man stood one winter night watching and listening, as though he waited for some beast of the woods” (Saki 159).
  • This example from the short story “The Interlopers” by Saki uses repetition of the letter “w”.
  • An object or idea that carries a deeper meaning or represents something beyond itself.
  • “The shadows of the goalposts definitely resembled a network of crosses, empty crucifixes” (Cormier 17).
  • This example from the novel The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier demonstrates symbolism because the goal posts also represent crosses.
  • A reference in a work of fiction to literature, art or history is called an allusion.
  • “But now, listening to Leon sounding as if the school was embarking on the Crusades, for crying out loud, Archie was doubtful” (Cormier 55).
  • This example from The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier contains an allusion to a famous historical event, The Crusades.
  • When two seemingly opposite items are paired together, it is called an oxymoron or a paradox.
  • “Why, then, O brawling love! O loving hate!” (Romeo and Juliet).
  • This example from Juliet shows how she pairs two opposing ideas: love that fights/love that hates.
  • Using language to add visual or sensory images in a poem or fictional work.
  • “Some say the world will end in fire,

Some say in ice.

From what I've tasted of desire

I hold with those who favor fire” (Frost Poems).

This poem “Fire and Ice” by Robert Frost demonstrates imagery with the many senses used, such as touch and taste. Also, the use of strong visual ideas such as the world’s end, either in fire or ice, add to the imagery.

  • Extreme exaggeration in literature is called hyperbole.
  • “All the time somethin’ like that—all the time. I wisht I could put you in a cage with about a million mice an’ let you have fun” (Steinbeck 11).
  • This example from Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck demonstrates hyperbole when George, in his anger, says he wishes he could cage Lennie with a million mice.
  • Irony refers to a contrast between what is expected to happen and what actually occurs.
  • At the conclusion of Saki’s short story “The Interlopers” both Ulrich and Georg have agreed to stop fighting and be friends. They await their men to come to their rescue but receive a surprise instead.
  • “They are making with all the speed they can, brave lads,” said Ulrich gladly.
  • “Are they your men?” asked Georg.
  • “No,” said Ulrich with a laugh, the idiotic chattering of a man unstrung with hideous fear.
  • “Who are they?” asked Georg quickly.
  • “Wolves” (Saki 165).
  • Tone refers to the emotional feeling of a work.
  • “Funny it seems, but by keeping its dreams,

it learned to breathe fresh air.

Long live the rose that grew from concrete

when no one else ever cared.”

In the poem “The Rose That Grew from Concrete” by Tupac Shakur, the author’s overall feeling is of hope and determination.

  • This term refers to clues or hints given by the author to future events in the story.
  • “Look Candy. This ol’ dog just suffers hisself all the time. If you was to take him out and shoot him right in the back of the head—” (Steinbeck 45).
  • This passage, where Carlson convinces Candy to let him shoot the dog out of mercy, foreshadows George and Lennie’s final moments at the book’s conclusion.
  • The five basic parts of the plot: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action and resolution.
  • The plot development in the novel Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck follows the typical pattern:
  • Exposition: basic background about George Milton and Lennie Small as they begin their new job at Tyler Ranch.
  • Rising action: they meet Curley and Curley’s wife, signals of future conflict.
  • Climax: After accidentally killing his pup, Lennie kills Curley’s wife.
  • Falling action: Lennie escapes from the barn and the men go after him.
  • Resolution: George chooses to shoot Lennie and save him from a terrible death at the hands of Curley.
  • Characterization refers to the methods employed by the author to convey information about characters to the reader.
  • “Where we goin’ George?”

The little man jerked down the brim of his hat and scowled over at Lennie. “So you forgot awready, did you? I gotta tell you again?”

“I forgot,” Lennie said softly. “I tried not to forget. Honest to God I did, George” (Steinbeck 4).

  • In chapter one of John Steinbeck’s novel Of Mice and Men, the reader learns about Lennie and his disability through Lennie’s words and actions and George’s comments.
  • Conflict refers to the type of problems in a story.
  • Conflict can occur between two or more persons, between an individual and himself or herself, between a person and society, or between a person and nature.
  • In The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier, Jerry Renault experiences several conflicts. One is between himself and The Vigils, symbolizing man v. society.
dynamic character
Dynamic Character
  • A dynamic character changes over the course of a story.
  • The young lawyer in Chekhov’s short story “The Bet” changes dramatically during the fifteen years he spends imprisoned in the old banker’s home.
  • “To show that I despise all that you live by, I give up the two million I once so desired. Can your money buy wisdom? No. I shall come out of here by my own volition five minutes before noon tomorrow. I shall thus break our agreement” (Chekhov 9).
point of view first person
Point of View: First Person
  • Stories are related to the reader from what is commonly called point of view.
  • First person POV is when the story is told through the view point of the main character using I-me-mine to explain and describe events.
  • In Chekhov’s short story “The Bet” the old banker’s thoughts are presented : “No—its too much. Too much for anyone. I must escape ruin and shame, even if he has to die!” (Chekhov 7).
  • This quote demonstrates first person as it reveals the actual thoughts of the character using first person.
  • Theme is the author’s purpose, lesson or moral in a work of fiction or poetry. There is often more than one theme.
  • “Funny it seems, but by keeping it's dreams,

it learned to breathe fresh air” (Shakur).

This excerpt from Tupac Shakur’s poem “The Rose That Grew From Concrete” demonstrates the theme of overcoming obstacles, using the concrete as a symbol of life’s difficulties and the rose as a symbol of one’s dreams.

works cited
Works Cited
  • Chekhov, Anton. “The Bet.” Moscow: Russia, 1889.
  • Saki. "The interlopers." The Toys of Peace, and Other Papers. London: England, 1914.
  • Cormier, Robert. The Chocolate War. New York: Random House, 1974.
  • Frost, Robert. "Fire and Ice." New Hampshire.. New York: Henry Holt and Co., 1923.
  • Rogers, Denise. "Ka-Boom!" Great Lakes Rhythm and Rhyme. New York: River Road publications, Inc, 2003.
  • Shakur, Tupac. The Rose That Grew From Concrete and Other Poems. 1. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1999.
  • Shakespeare, William. Romeo and Juliet. Globe Theatre Press, 1595.
  • Steinbeck, John. Of Mice and Men. New York: Penguin Group, 1937.