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  1. Splash Screen

  2. Literary Terms Menu

  3. Antithesis Aphorism Apostrophe Archetype Argument Aside Assonance Atmosphere Author’s purpose Autobiography Abstract language Absurd, Theater of the Act Allegory Alliteration Allusion Ambiguity Analogy Anecdote Antagonist Anthropomorphism A Main Menu

  4. Abstract language Language that expresses an idea or intangible reality, as opposed to a specific object or occurrence or a concrete reality. Words like dog and sky are concrete, whereas words like truth and evil are abstract. See also CONCRETE LANGUAGE. Absurd, Theater of the See THEATER OF THE ABSURD. Act A major unit of a drama, or play. Modern dramas generally have one, two, or three acts. Older dramas often have five acts. Although Shakespeare did not separate his plays into acts, each play was later divided into five acts. Acts may be divided into one or more scenes. See page 821. See also DRAMA, SCENE. A-1

  5. Alliteration The repetition of consonant sounds, generally at the beginnings of words. Alliteration can be used to emphasize words, reinforce meaning, or create a musical effect. Note the repeated s and f sounds in the following line from Mary Oliver’s poem “The Black Snake”: It is what sent the snake coiling and flowing forward . . . See pages 621, 659, and 661. See also SOUND DEVICES. Allegory A literary work in which all or most of the characters, settings, and events stand for ideas, qualities, or figures beyond themselves. The overall purpose of an allegory is to teach a moral lesson. See pages 1179 and 1184. See also SYMBOL. A-2

  6. Ambiguity The state of having more than one meaning. The richness of literary language lies in its ability to evoke multiple layers of meaning. See also CONNOTATION. Allusion A reference to a well-known character, place, or situation from history, music, art, or another work of literature. Discovering the meaning of an allusion can often be essential to understanding a work. Edna St. Vincent Millay alludes to Penelope, Odysseus’s wife in Homer’s Odyssey, in her poem “An Ancient Gesture”: I thought, as I wiped my eyes on the corner of my apron: Penelope did this too. See page 595. A-3

  7. Analogy A comparison that shows similarities between two things that are otherwise dissimilar. A writer may use an analogy to explain something unfamiliar by comparing it to something familiar. Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni makes the following analogies in these lines from her poem “My Mother Combs My Hair”: We hold the silence tight between us like a live wire, like a strip of gold torn from a wedding brocade. See also METAPHOR, RHETORICAL DEVICES, SIMILE. A-4

  8. Anecdote A short written or oral account of an event from a person’s life. Essayists often use anecdotes to support their opinions, clarify their ideas, grab the reader’s attention, or entertain. In “Field Trip,” Naomi Shihab Nye’s story about her time at camp is an anecdote. See pages 341, 348, and 398. Antagonist A person or a force in society or nature that opposes the protagonist, or central character, in a story or drama. The reader is generally meant not to sympathize with the antagonist. Polyphemus, the Cyclops, is Odysseus’s antagonist in one episode of Homer’s Odyssey. See pages 109 and 119. See also CHARACTER, CONFLICT, PROTAGONIST. A-5

  9. Anthropomorphism The assignment of human characteristics to gods, animals, or inanimate objects. It is a key element in fables and folktales, where the main characters are often animals. The animals in “Baker’s Bluejay Yarn” have human characteristics. See page 1067. See also FABLE. Antithesis The technique of putting opposite ideas side-by-side in order to point out their differences or to draw attention to the superiority of one. Antithesis is often used in logical argument. Michel de Montaigne makes frequent use of antithesis in his essay “That One Man’s Profit Is Another’s Loss,” as when he writes, “No profit can be made except at another’s expense.” See pages 447–449. See also ARGUMENT, PERSUASION. A-6

  10. Aphorism A short, pointed statement that expresses a wise or clever observation about human experience. Naomi Shihab Nye concludes her essay “Field Trip” with an aphorism: The things we worry about are never the things that happen. And the things that happen are the things we never could have dreamed. • See pages 394 and 398. • Apostrophe A literary device in which a speaker addresses an inanimate object, an idea, or an absent person. In Act 3, Scene 2, of Romeo and Juliet, Juliet addresses the night: • Spread thy close curtain, love-performing night, • That th’ runaway’s eyes may wink, and Romeo • Leap to these arms untalk’d and unseen! • See pages 575, 586, and 588. • See also PERSONIFICATION. A-7

  11. Archetype Ideas, characters, stories, or images that are common to human experience across cultures and throughout the world. In their purest form, archetypes occur in oral tradition, but they also appear in written works of literature. They can be divided into the following categories: • Character archetype: Includes familiar individuals such as the wise leader, the rebel, the damsel in distress, and the traitor. Coyote, the trickster of Native American folklore, is a character archetype. • Image archetype: Objects or places that have a universal symbolism. For example, a rose symbolizes love. Plot pattern archetype: Stories that occur in many cultures. Making the long journey home, completing the “impossible” task, or outwitting the formidable enemy are all archetypal plots. A-8

  12. Archetype (cont’d) • Theme archetype: Ideas that occur wherever people tell stories. The idea that good can overcome evil, that people can redeem themselves, or that an underworld exists are all archetypal themes. See pages 947–952 and 1054–1055. See also FOLKLORE, MYTH, ORAL TRADITION, STOCK CHARACTER, SYMBOL. A-9

  13. Argument A type of persuasive writing in which logic or reason is used to try to influence a reader’s ideas or actions. Anna Quindlen presents an argument against being perfect in “Put Down the Backpack.” See pages 436–437, 445, 451, and 1142. See also PERSUASION. Aside In a play, a comment that a character makes to the audience, which other characters onstage do not hear. The speaker turns to one side—or “aside”—away from the action onstage. Asides, which are rare in modern drama, reveal what a character is thinking or feeling. For example, in Act 2, Scene 2, of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Romeo makes two asides to the audience as he decides whether to make his presence known to Juliet, who is standing on the balcony above him. See pages 746 and 773. See also SOLILOQUY. A-10

  14. Assonance The repetition of same or similar vowel sounds within nonrhyming words. In the following lines from Rita Dove’s poem “Grape Sherbet,” the long i sound is repeated in I’ve and trying, and the short i sound is repeated in it and exist. I’ve been trying / to remember the taste, / but it doesn’t exist. See pages 621, 622, and 625. See also SOUND DEVICES. A-11

  15. Atmosphere The dominant emotional feeling of a literary work that contributes to the mood. Authors create atmosphere primarily through details of setting, such as time, place, and weather. In “The Cask of Amontillado,” Edgar Allan Poe creates atmosphere by describing the eerie setting: We had passed through walls of piled bones, with casks and puncheons intermingling into the inmost recesses of the catacombs. See pages 2–8. See also MOOD. A-12

  16. Autobiography A person’s account of his or her life. The author typically focuses on the most significant events in his or her life. Autobiographies can give insights into the author’s view or himself or herself and of the society in which he or she lived. For example, in The Story of My Life, Helen Keller traces the importance of education in her life. See pages 300–306 and 308–309. See also BIOGRAPHY, MEMOIR, NONFICTION. Author’s purpose An author’s intent in writing a literary work. For example, the author may want to persuade, inform, describe a process, entertain, or express an opinion. Anna Quindlen’s purpose in “Put Down the Backpack” is to persuade and inspire. See pages 300–306, 320, 362, and 479. See also DICTION, STYLE, THEME. A-13

  17. Ballad Bias Biography Blank verse B Main Menu

  18. Ballad A musical narrative song or poem that in most cases recounts a single exciting or dramatic episode. Folk ballads were passed down by word of mouth for generations before being written down. Literary ballads are written in imitation of folk ballads and have a known author. Many ballads include elements of plot, such as exposition, conflict, climax, and resolution. “Sweet Betsy from Pike” is a folk ballad. See pages 1090 and 1092. See also FOLKLORE, NARRATIVE POETRY, ORAL TRADITION, PLOT. Bias An inclination toward a certain opinion or position on a topic, possibly stemming from prejudice. See pages 439, 444, and 1186. See also NONFICTION. B-1

  19. Biography A nonfiction account of a person’s life written by another person. Biographies can vary in length, from brief encyclopedia entries to works that span several volumes. James Cross Giblin’s Good Brother, Bad Brother is a biography of John Wilkes Booth’s brother, Edwin. See pages 317 and 335. See also AUTOBIOGRAPHY, JOURNAL, MEMOIR. Blank verse Unrhymed poetry or dramatic verse written in a meter known as iambic pentameter. Each line of iambic pentameter has five units, or feet; each foot is made up of an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable. Much of Shakespeare’s work is written in blank verse. The following line from Romeo and Juliet, spoken by the friar, is an example of blank verse. See page 690. See also FOOT, IAMB, METER, RHYTHM. B-2

  20. Cadence Catalog Character Character archetype Characterization Climax Colloquialism Comedy Comic relief Conceit Concrete language Conflict Connotation Consonance Couplet C Main Menu

  21. Cadence The rhythmic rise and fall of language when it is spoken or read aloud. See also FREE VERSE, METER. Catalog The listing of images, details, people, or events in a literary work. In “Drums of Washington,” Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. catalogs the responses of world leaders and artists on hearing that President Kennedy had been assassinated. See page 242. C-1

  22. Character An individual in a literary work. Main characters are central to the story and are typically fully developed. Minor characters display few personality traits and are used to help develop the story. In James Hurst’s “The Scarlet Ibis,” Brother and Doodle are main characters and Mama, Daddy, and Aunt Nicey are minor characters. A character who shows varied and sometimes contradictory traits, such as Walter Mitty in James Thurber’s “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” is a round character. A character who reveals only one personality trait, such as the vengeful murderer in Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado,” is a flat character. A stock character is a flat character of a familiar and often-repeated type, such as the hard-boiled detective. A dynamic character changes during the story. A static character—such as the king in Frank R. Stockton’s “The Lady, or the Tiger?”—remains the same throughout the story. See pages 2–8 and 106–107. See also ANTAGONIST, CHARACTERIZATION, FOIL, STEREOTYPE, STOCK CHARACTER, PROTAGONIST. C-2

  23. Character archetype See ARCHETYPE. Characterization The methods a writer uses to reveal the personality of a character. In direct characterization, the writer makes explicit statements about a character. In indirect characterization, the writer reveals a character through that individual’s words, thoughts, and actions and through what other characters think and say about that character. In his play The Bear, Anton Chekhov uses indirect characterization to create Smírnoff, a bold, brazen egotist who becomes sentimental when he falls in love with Popóva. See pages 161 and 189. See also CHARACTER. C-3

  24. Climax The point of greatest emotional intensity, interest, or suspense in the plot of a literary work. Also called the turning point, the climax usually comes near the end of a story or drama. For example, in Amy Tan’s “Rules of the Game,” the climax occurs when Meimei and her mother exchange harsh words and Meimei runs away. See pages 10–11 and 2008. See CONFLICT, PLOT. Colloquialism Informal language used in everyday conversation but not in formal writing or speech. The narrator’s speech in Mark Twain’s short story “Baker’s Bluejay Yarn” is peppered with colloquialisms, as when he says: He glances up perfectly joyful, this time; winks his wings and his tail both, and says, ‘Oh, no, this ain’t no fat thing, I reckon! If I ain’t in luck!— why it’s a perfectly elegant hole.’ See pages 248 and 255. See DIALECT C-4

  25. Comedy A type of drama that is humorous and typically has a happy ending. Comedy can be divided into two categories: high and low. High comedy makes fun of human behavior in a witty, sophisticated manner. Low comedy involves physical humor and simple, often vulgar, wordplay. Eudora’s Welty’s play Bye-Bye Brevoort is an example of high comedy. See pages 683–688. See also DRAMA, FARCE, HUMOR, PARODY, SATIRE. Comic relief A humorous scene, event, or speech in an otherwise serious drama. It provides relief from emotional intensity, while at the same time highlighting the seriousness of the story. In Paddy Chayefsky’s Marty, there is a moment of comic relief when Marty’s mother uses the slang word tomatoes to describe the young women that will be at the Waverly Ballroom. MOTHER. I say, why don’t you go to the Waverly Ballroom? It’s loaded with tomatoes. C-5

  26. Conceit An elaborate figure of speech that makes a comparison between two significantly different things. The conceit draws an analogy between some object from nature or everyday life and the subject or theme of a poem. Emily Dickinson’s poem “‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers—” is a conceit. See pages 590 and 593. See also ANALOGY, EXTENDED METAPHOR. Concrete language Specific language about actual things or occurrences. Words like dog and sky are concrete, while words like truth and evil are abstract. See also ABSTRACT LANGUAGE. C-6

  27. Conflict The struggle between opposing forces in a story or drama. An external conflict exists when a character struggles against some outside force, such as another person, nature, society, or fate. In Homer’s Odyssey, for example, Odysseus is involved in external conflicts with Polyphemus, Scylla and Charbydis, and the suitors. An internal conflict is a struggle that takes place within the mind of a character who is torn between opposing feelings or goals. In W. D. Wetherell’s “The Bass, the River, and Sheila Mant,” the narrator is torn between reeling in the fish (and losing the potential affections of Sheila) and letting it go (and losing the catch of a lifetime). See pages 2–8, 42, 980. See also ANTAGONIST, PLOT, PROTAGONIST. C-7

  28. Connotation The suggested or implied meanings associated with a word beyond its dictionary definition, or denotation. A word can have a positive or negative connotation, or no connotation. See pages 475 and 1186. See also AMBIGUITY, DENOTATION, FIGURATIVE LANGUAGE. Consonance The repetition of consonant sounds, typically within or at the end of words that do not rhyme and preceded by different vowel sounds. See pages 621 and 625. See also SOUND DEVICES. C-8

  29. Couplet Two consecutive lines of rhymed verse that work together as a unit to make a point or to express an idea. Paul Laurence Dunbar’s poem “Sympathy” contains many couplets, such as: • And the faint perfume from its chalice steals— • I know what the caged bird feels! See also RHYME, SONNET, STANZA. C-9

  30. Denotation Denouement Description Descriptive essay Dialect Dialogue Diction Drama Dramatic irony Dynamic character D Main Menu

  31. Denotation The literal, or dictionary, meaning of a word. See page 1186. See also CONNOTATION. Denouement The resolution of a story. Denouement is a French word meaning “unknotting.” The denouement comes after the climax of a story and often ties in with the falling action. See pages 10–11 and 185. See also FALLING ACTION, PLOT, RESOLUTION. D-1

  32. Description A detailed portrayal of a person, a place, an object, or an event. Good descriptive writing helps readers to see, hear, smell, taste, or feel the subject. The opening paragraph of James Hurst’s “The Scarlet Ibis” contains this rich description: The last graveyard flowers were blooming, and their smell drifted across the cotton field and through every room of our house, speaking softly the names of our dead. See pages 10–11, 94, and 1138. See also FIGURATIVE LANGUAGE, IMAGERY. Descriptive essay See ESSAY. D-2

  33. Dialect A variation of a language spoken by a group of people, often within a particular region. Dialects may differ from the standard form of a language in vocabulary, pronunciation, or grammatical form. For example, the following lines from Robert Burn’s “A Red, Red Rose” make use of Scottish dialect: Till a’ the seas gang dry, my dear, And the rocks melt wi’ the sun! See pages 68, 255, and 1163. D-3

  34. Dialogue Conversation between characters in a literary work. Dialogue brings characters to life by revealing their personalities and by showing what they are thinking and feeling as they react to other characters. Dialogue can also create mood, advance the plot, and develop theme. Plays are composed almost completely of dialogue. This dialogue takes place between the Friar and Romeo in Act 3, Scene 3, of Romeo and Juliet: FRIAR. O, then I see that madmen have no ears. ROMEO. How should they, when that wise men have no eyes. FRIAR. Let me dispute with thee of thy estate. See pages 189, 427, and 682–688. See also MONOLOGUE. D-4

  35. Diction A writer’s choice of words; an important element in the writer’s voice or style. Skilled writers choose their words carefully to convey a particular meaning or feeling. See pages 209, 570, and 646. See also AUTHOR’S PURPOSE, CONNOTATION, STYLE, TONE, VOICE. Drama A story written to be performed by actors before an audience. The script of a dramatic work, or play, often includes the author’s instructions to the actors and director, known as stage directions. A drama may be divided into acts, which may also be broken up into scenes, indicating changes in location or the passage of time. See pages 680–939. See also ACT, COMEDY, DIALOGUE, SCENE, STAGE DIRECTIONS, TRAGEDY. D-5

  36. Dramatic irony See IRONY. Dynamic character See CHARACTER. D-6

  37. End rhyme End-stopped line Enjambment Epic Epic hero Epic simile Epiphany Epithet Essay Exaggeration Exposition Extended metaphor E Main Menu

  38. End rhyme The rhyming of words at the ends of lines as in William Wordsworth’s “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud.” See page 520. End-stopped line A line of poetry that ends in a punctuation mark. An end-topped line usually contains a complete thought or image. Emily Dickinson’s “I’m Nobody! Who Are You?” contains the following end-stopped lines: I’m Nobody! Who are you? Are you—Nobody—Too? See page 592. See also ENJAMBMENT. E-1

  39. Enjambment The continuation of a sentence or phrase from one line of a poem to the next, without a pause between the lines. The following lines from William Wordsworth’s “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” are an example of enjambment: The waves beside them danced; but they Outdid the sparkling waves in glee . . . See pages 557 and 559. See also END-STOPPED LINE. E-2

  40. Epic A long narrative poem that recounts, in formal language, the exploits of a larger-than-life figure. This epic hero is usually a person of high social status who embodies the ideals of his or her people. He or she is often of historical or legendary importance. Epic plots typically involve supernatural events, long time periods, distant journeys, and life and death struggles between good and evil. Folk epics have no known author and usually arise through storytelling and collective experiences of people, while literary epics are written by known authors. See pages 946–952, 959, and 979. See also FOLKLORE, HERO, MYTH, NARRATIVE POETRY, ORAL TRADITION. Epic hero See EPIC, HERO. E-3

  41. Epic simile A long, elaborate comparison that continues for several lines. It is a feature of epic poems but occurs in other poems as well. In the Odyssey, for example, Homer compares Scylla plucking her victims from Odysseus’s ship to an angler catching fish. See pages 960–1018. See also EPIC, SIMILE. Epiphany A sudden understanding of the meaning or essence of something. In William Wordsworth’s “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud,” the speaker has an epiphany when he sees a field of wild daffodils and recognizes nature’s power to bring joy. See pages 520, 629, and 631. E-4

  42. Epithet A brief phrase used to characterize a person, place, or thing. A Homeric epithet is a formulaic or stock phrase specific to epic poetry. Homeric epithets fit the meter of the poem and appear throughout. Before poems were written, these epithets functioned as mnemonic devices, helping the poet remember the lines during his or her performance. For example, in the Odyssey, Homer repeatedly uses “bleating ewes” to describe the Cyclops’ flock and “fingertips of rose” to describe the dawn. See pages 960–1018. E-5

  43. Essay A short work of nonfiction on a single topic. Descriptive essays describe a person, place, or thing. Narrative essays relate true stories. Persuasive essays promote an opinion. Reflective essays reveal an author’s observations on a subject. Essays fall into two categories, according to their style. A formal essay is serious and impersonal, often with the purpose of instructing or persuading. Typically, the author strikes a serious tone and develops a main idea, or thesis, in a logical, highly organized way. An informal, or personal essay entertains while it informs, usually in light, conversational style. See pages 301–306 and 380–381. See also NONFICTION. E-6

  44. Exaggeration See HYPERBOLE. Exposition An author’s introduction of the characters, setting, and situation at the beginning of a story, novel, or play. See pages 10, 20, and 1204. See also PLOT. Extended metaphor A metaphor that compares two unlike things in various ways throughout a paragraph, stanza, or an entire selection. Emily Dickinson uses an extended metaphor in “‘Hope’ Is the Thing with Feathers—” See pages 590 and 593. See also CONCEIT, METAPHOR. E-7

  45. Foil Folklore Folktale Foot Foreshadowing Form Formal essay Frame story Free verse Fable Falling action Fantasy Farce Fiction Figurative language Figures of speech Flashback Flat character F Main Menu

  46. Fable A short, usually simple tale that teaches a moral and sometimes uses animal characters. Themes in fables are often directly stated. Pär Lagerkvist’s “The Princess and All the Kingdom” is a modern fable. See pages 1114–1120. See also LEGEND, MORAL, PARABLE, THEME. Falling action In a play or story, the action that follows the climax. The falling action may show the results of the climax. It may also include the denouement, a French word meaning “unknotting.” The denouement, or resolution, explains the plot or unravels the mystery. See pages 10 and 185. See also CLIMAX, PLOT. F-1

  47. Fantasy A highly imaginative genre of fiction, usually set in an unfamiliar world or a distant, heroic past. Fantasy stories commonly take place in imaginary worlds and may include gnomes, elves, or other fantastical beings and forces. The use of some type of magic is common in fantasy stories. See pages 1114–1120. See also SCIENCE FICTION. Farce A type of comedy with stereotyped characters in ridiculous situations. Anton Chekhov’s play The Bear contains many farcical situations, such as when Smírnoff challenges Popóva to a duel. See pages 823 and 884. See COMEDY, HUMOR, PARODY, SATIRE. F-2

  48. Fiction Literature in which situations and characters are invented by the writer. Fiction includes both short stories, such as James Thurber’s “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” and novels, such as Willa Cather’s My Ántonia. Aspects of a fictional work may be based on fact or experience. See also DRAMA, NONFICTION, NOVEL, SHORT STORY. Figurative language Language that uses figures of speech, or expressions that are not literally true but express some truth beyond the literal level. Types of figurative language include hyperbole, metaphor, personification, simile, and understatement. See pages 508–514, 722, and 806. See also HYPERBOLE, IMAGERY, METAPHOR, OXYMORON, PERSONSIFICATION, SIMILE, SYMBOL, UNDERSTATEMENT. Figures of speech See FIGURATIVE LANGUAGE. F-3

  49. Flashback An interruption in the chronological order of a narrative to describe an event that happened earlier. A flashback gives readers information that may help explain the main events of the story. There are examples of flashback in Louise Erdrich’s “The Leap,” a story that is told from the point of view of a woman who is remembering various events in her life and her mother’s life. See pages 45 and 1204. Flat character See CHARACTER. Foil A character who provides a strong contrast to another character, usually a main character. By using a foil, a writer calls attention to the strengths or weaknesses of a character. In Romeo and Juliet, the fun-loving Mercutio is a foil to the love-struck Romeo. See pages 695 and 721. See also CHARACTER. F-4

  50. Folktale An anonymous traditional story passed down orally long before being written down. Folktales include animal stories, trickster stories, fairy tales, myths, legends, and tall tales. See also EPIC, FOLKLORE, LEGEND, MYTH, ORAL TRADITION, TALL TALE. Folklore The traditional beliefs, customs, stories, songs, and dances of a culture. Folklore is based on the concerns of ordinary people and is passed down through oral tradition. See pages 1090 and 1093. See also BALLAD, EPIC, FOLKTALE, MYTH, ORAL TRADITION, TALL TALE. Foot The basic unit in the measurement of rhythm in poetry. A foot usually contains one stressed syllable ( ́) and one or more unstressed syllables (ˇ). See also METER, RHYTHM, SCANSION. F-5