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Literary Devices. Gil Briseno. Climax. Definition: The moment in a play, novel, short story, or narrative poem in which the crisis comes to a point of greatest intensity and is often resolved.

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literary devices

Literary Devices

Gil Briseno

  • Definition: The moment in a play, novel, short story, or narrative poem in which the crisis comes to a point of greatest intensity and is often resolved.
    • Highest point of action, the “Aha!” moment when the resolution of the conflict becomes a foregone conclusion.
    • The peak of emotional response from a reader or spectator, and it usually represents the turning point in the action.
    • The climax occurs after the rising action and before the falling action.
    • The word comes from the Greek klimax, meaning “a ladder,” and klinein, meaning “to slope, or slant.”
  • Examples:
    • “The hero saw clearly the demon of the deep, the mighty mere-woman. He repaid her fierce attack with his battle-blade, not holding back his stroke, so the ring-adorned sword sang out on her head a war-song greedy for blood. Then the Geat found that the battle-flasher had lost power to bite, to slash away life, for the sword-edge failed the prince in his need. Till now it prevailed in hand-to-hand fighting, shearing through the helmet and the mail of a fated man. This was the first time the great treasure had failed to live up to its fame. Then Hygelac’s kinsman thought only one thought: not to give up his courage, be mindful of glory. The angry warrior threw down the patterned weapon, adorned with art, where it lay on the ground, strong and steel-edged: he put trust in his strength , the might of hand-grip. Thus shall a man do when he seeks to gain long-lived glory in furious combat, not caring for his life. Not flinching form the feud, the prince of the War Geats grasped hold of the shoulder of the mother of Grendel, and bulging with rage, fighting hard in the battle, he swung her around till she fell on the floor.” Beowulf, Pg. 51
    • “Now, at the death-hour, he stands up before you! He bids you look again at Hester’s scarlet letter! He tells you, that, with all its mysterious horror, it is but the shadow of what he bears on his own breast, and that even this, his own red stigma, is no more than the type of what has seared his inmost heart! Stand any here that question God’s judgment on a sinner? Behold! Behold a dreadful witness of it! With a convulsive motion he tore away the ministerial band from before his breast. It was revealed! For an instant the gaze of horror-stricken multitude was concentred on the ghastly miracle; while the minister stood with a flush of triumph in his face.” The Scarlet Letter, Pg. 404
  • Function: Serves as a turning point in a novel, short story or play. Most often revelations are made to the characters or conflicts are resolved.
  • Definition: The repetition of words derived from the same root but with different endings.
    • Polyptoton is the repeated use of the same word or word pattern as a rhetorical device.
    • Repetition of a word in a different case or inflection.
    • From the Greek, "use of the same word in different cases”
  • Examples:
    • “Love is an irresistible desire to be irresistibly desired.” - Robert Frost
    • "Absolute power corrupts absolutely."
    • “My dog dogged his way through the day.”
    • "Morality is moral only when it is voluntary.” – Lincoln Steffens
    • ". . . love is not love         Which alteration finds,         Or bends with the remover to remove . . .” – Shakespeare, Sonnet 116
    • "The things you own end up owning you.” – Fight Club
  • Function: Provides an interesting contrast of different forms of the same word. Polyptonon is also often used by speakers for dramatic or poetic effect. It helps emphasize what’s being said.


    • “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears; I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him. The evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interred with their bones; So let it be with Caesar. The noble Brutus Hath told you Caesar was ambitious: If it were so, it was a grievous fault, And grievously hath Caesar answer'd it. Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest-- For Brutus is an honourable man; So are they all, all honourable men-- Come I to speak in Caesar's funeral. He was my friend, faithful and just to me: But Brutus says he was ambitious; And Brutus is an honourable man. He hath brought many captives home to Rome Whose ransoms did the general coffers fill: Did this in Caesar seem ambitious? When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept: Ambition should be made of sterner stuff: Yet Brutus says he was ambitious; And Brutus is an honourable man. You all did see that on the LupercalI thrice presented him a kingly crown, Which he did thrice refuse: was this ambition? Yet Brutus says he was ambitious; And, sure, he is an honourable man. I speak not to disprove what Brutus spoke, But here I am to speak what I do know. You all did love him once, not without cause: What cause withholds you then, to mourn for him? O judgment! thou art fled to brutish beasts, And men have lost their reason. Bear with me; My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar, And I must pause till it come back to me.” – William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar

Definition: Mocking, contemptuous, or ironic language intended to ridicule, insult, or convey scorn.

When sarcasm is written instead of spoken, the reader must be able to tell from the context as there is no intonation to rely upon.

From the Greek noun “sarkasmo”s,, meant "a sneering or hurtful remark."

Expresses distaste.

Function: Used simply for ridicule or for humiliation.

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