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Literary Elements The foundations of literature
Literary elements: Diction and Dialect • Dialect is variation of a given language spoken in a particular place or by a particular group of people. A dialect is distinguished by its vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation. • If we’re only talking about pronunciation, we usually use the term “accent.” • Dialect is applied most often to regional speech patterns, but a dialect may also be defined by other factors, such as social class. • Diction involves a writer’s selection of language. Diction may be described as formal or informal, abstract or concrete, figurative or literal.
Literary elements: Symbolism and setting • Symbols used in literature are objects used to represent other things or ideas. Setting often serves as a symbol. • Authors include symbolism in their stories to give the stories deeper meaning: objects, people, places, or events that stand for something broader than themselves, such as an idea or emotion. • Symbols are all around us: • Heart Week: hearts symbolize love, caring, romance • The American flag symbolizes the United States of America and patriotism. • The Trojan Head downstairs symbolizes pride and strength.
Literary elements: Symbolism and setting • Setting: particular time, environment and place in which events occur. • Setting often serves as a symbol. For example, California symbolizes the “lost paradise” or Eden in Of Mice and Men. • In other contexts, California might symbolize the American Dream. • It is ironic that it can symbolize two very different concepts.
Literary elements: Irony • Irony is the contrast between what is expected and what actually exists or happens. Three types of irony include: • Situational irony: the contrast between what a character or the reader expects to happen and what actually happens. • Verbal irony: occurs when someone says one thing but means another (a common form is sarcasm). • Dramatic irony: the contrast between what a character knows and what the reader or audience knows.
Literary elements: Theme • Theme is what is revealed about human life or human nature. It reveals something that we can often relate to. • Although it is usually unstated, it gives a story meaning. • Theme can reveal an author’s whole view of life. • Theme is not a story’s plot or the story’s subject: It is an idea. • It gives us insight into some aspect of life we have never really thought about before, or it may make us understand on an emotional level.
Literary elements: Theme • General guidelines for discovering theme: • When writing about theme, we must use at least one complete sentence to state a theme, rather than just a phrase, such as “the joy of childhood.” • A theme is not the same as a moral. So ask yourself, “What does this story reveal?” rather than “What does this story teach?” • One way to determine a theme is to ask how the main character (protagonist) changes during the story. • Also, consider the story’s title. It often will hint at the meaning of the story. • A theme should not refer to specific characters or events in a story. It should be something about life or human nature that is general enough for the reader to relate to. • Theme should explain the whole story, not just a part of it.
Literary elements Suspense: The element of plot that makes the reader want to read on to find out what happens. The reader usually experiences suspense when he or she is worried about whether a character will succeed in overcoming conflict. Setting often helps establish suspense.
Literary elements Tone: The attitude the writer takes toward the subject he or she is writing about. Just as we reveal our attitude by our tone of voice when we are speaking, so writers show their attitude (tone) by their writing style. A tone can be pessimistic, optimistic, earnest, serious, bitter, humorous, joyful, melancholy, nostalgic, etc.
Literary elements Tone can often help determine mood: Mood is the climate of feeling in a literary work. The choice of setting, objects, details, images, and words all contribute toward creating a specific mood. For example, the moods evoked by the more popular short stories of Edgar Allen Poe tend to be gloomy, horrific, and desperate. An author may create a mood of mystery around a character or setting but may treat that character or setting in an ironic, serious, or humorous tone.
Literary elements: Figurative language Whenever you describe something by comparing it with something else, you are using figurative language. Any language that goes beyond the literal meaning of words in order to furnish new effects or fresh insights into an idea or a subject. Three common figures of speech are personification, simile, and metaphor.
Literary Elements: Figurative language • SimileA figure of speech which involves a direct comparison between two unlike things, usually with the words like or as. • Example: He threw baseballs as if they were bullets. The wheat field lies like liquid gold. • MetaphorA figure of speech which involves an implied comparison between two relatively unlike things. The comparison is not announced by like or as. Example: The road was a ribbon of moonlight.
Literary elements: Figurative language • PersonificationA figure of speech which gives the qualities of a person to an animal, an object, or an idea. It is a comparison which the author uses to show something in an entirely new light, to communicate a certain feeling or attitude towards it and to control the way a reader perceives it. Example: (Referring to chopping down a tree): The brave, handsome brute fell with a creaking rending cry (the author is giving a tree human qualities).
Literary elements: Plot Plot is the chain of related events that take place in a story. A plot is almost always built around conflict. Most plots include these stages of development: • Exposition: includes background about characters, conflict, and setting. • Rising action: suspense builds because complications arise that make the conflict more difficult for the main character(s) to resolve. • Climax: the turning point of the action, when the reader’s interest reaches its highest point. • Falling action and resolution: The conflict ends and loose ends are tied up.
Literary elements: Allusion • Review: • An allusion is a brief reference to a person, event, place, or phrase outside of a story that the writer assumes the reader will recognize. • An allusive reference can be real or fictional. • A literary allusion refers to another written work, art piece, book, etc.
Literary elements: Extended metaphor • Review: MetaphorA figure of speech which involves an implied comparison between two relatively unlike things. The comparison is not announced by like or as. • An extended metaphor carries the comparison another step and extends it through your writing. It often includes metaphors and similes.
Literary elements: Extended metaphor • Let’s think of one comparing writing to playing basketball. Start by listing all the basketball words you can think of to see how they could be used in a comparison: dribble jump shot three-pointer foul free throw time out referee camping in the lane net shoot bounce pass half-time warm-ups equipment rebound defense offense assist goal tending slam dunk swish pick technical steal
Literary elements: Extended metaphor Then write: For me, writing is like playing basketball. As I prepare for practice, I gather my equipment: a pencil, pad of paper, a dictionary, and a Diet Coke. My warm-ups include doodling on the edge of the paper while I contemplate what to write. When my mind is sufficiently stretched, I begin writing.
Literary elements: Extended metaphor The words start in my head and dribble down my arm, through my pencil, and onto the page. It isn’t always smooth: Sometimes, I get a fast break, and the words come faster than I can write them down. Other times, I throw the ball away, writing in a direction that doesn’t match my topic. Then I take a time-out and drink my Diet Coke.
Literary element: Point of View • The vantage point from which a story is told. • First person: told by one of the characters in his or her own words. • Third person: told by someone not in the story. A narrator who is not a character describes the events and characters. One version of third person is called third-person omniscient: the narrator is “all-knowing” and can see into the minds of all the characters, providing the most information possible.
Literary Element: Point of View • Effects of using different points of view: • First person: more limited (only view of one character); more subjective (told as one person sees it, which may not be as it really is); more personal (goes deeper into the mind and emotions of one specific character). • Third person: more complete (can look into any character’s thoughts, views, emotions); told from a variety of perspectives (truer picture); less development on one specific character (development of many characters)