Literary Devices, Elements and Terms



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Literary Devices, Elements and Terms

  • These items will be referred to regularly as we study literature this year. Please keep this list for easy reference throughout the year.

Plot Element Chart

  • Exposition
  • Rising Action
  • Climax
  • Falling Action
  • Resolution
  • Initial Conflict

Plot Elements

  • Exposition – beginning of the story, including setting and characterization
    • Setting – time and place of the story
      • The sun was at its highest point in the sky, rays of heat beating down on the runners. Heat could be seen reflecting off of the track in waves. Jenna tried to focus on the finish line and the satisfaction she’d get from winning the race.
  • **What is the setting in this short paragraph?

Plot Elements

    • Characterization – introduction to characters through what they say about themselves, what others reveal about them, their appearance, and/or their thoughts
      • Samantha’s favorite blue sweater, favored because it brought out the blue in her eyes, hung limply over the back of her computer chair. She couldn’t bring herself to wear her father’s gift so soon after his death but she couldn’t bear to hide it away in her closet. Samantha needed to be able to see it and feel it at any moment; it made her dad seem closer.
  • **What do we learn about Samantha from this short paragraph?

Plot Elements

  • Initial Conflict – the conflict that begins the story, leading right into the rising action
    • Harry Potter going to Hogwarts.
  • Rising Action – events leading up to the climax, this is the development of the major conflict(s)
    • Romeo and Juliet marry in secret.
  • Climax – turning point, which determines the outcome of the conflict
    • Odysseus and Telemachus kill all of the suitors waiting to marry Odysseus’ wife.

Plot Elements

  • Falling Action – events that take place after the climax and shows the effects of the climactic event(s)
    • In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, the falling action includes Harry, Ron and Hermione learning about the Sorcerer’s Stone.
  • Resolutionthe conclusion of the story
    • Unable to live without each other, Romeo and Juliet commit suicide in the tomb.
    • In Farewell to Manzanar, Jeanne and her family return to Manzanar in order to get closure.

Conflict - the struggle or problem between two (or more) people or forces found in fiction

  • man v. man – the struggle between two characters
  • man v. society – the struggle between the few and the majority, usually one challenges the values and customs of the majority
    • Acts of intolerance
    • Breaking the law
  • Man v. Nature – struggle between a character and an uncontrollable natural force
  • Man v. Self – internal struggle; test of a character’s values
    • Making a decision

Characters

  • Protagonist – the principle character
  • Antagonist – the character that opposes the main character
    • Voldemort
  • Foil – a character that contrasts with the main character
    • Mercutio
  • **Write down an example for each type of character.

Characters

  • Hero - A person noted for feats of courage or nobility of purpose, especially one who has risked or sacrificed his or her life
    • Firemen, nurses, soldiers
  • Greek Hero - In mythology and legend, a man or woman, often of divine ancestry, who is endowed with great courage and strength, celebrated for his or her bold exploits, and favored by the gods.
    • Perseus, Odysseus

Characters

  • Epic Hero – a historical, mythical, or legendary figure who is often of divine descent and has great strength or ability. Epic heroes go on quests where they face adversity in order to achieve a goal.
    • Gilgamesh, Aeneas
  • Tragic Hero – the main character in a tragedy who causes his own downfall, usually through a tragic flaw (e.g. hubris)
    • Oedipus

Characters

  • Byronic Hero – an antihero (a hero who lacks traditional heroic qualities: courage, idealism, etc.) who is a romanticized but wicked character. Usually a young, attractive male with a bad reputation who defies authority and conventional morality.
    • Heathcliff (Wuthering Heights)
    • James Dean (Rebel Without a Cause)

Speak! Speak!

  • Point of View - perspective from which the story is told
    • 1st person – told from the perspective of a character in the story. Narrator can only relate what he/she experiences, hears about, or sees.
    • 3rd person – telling the story from the perspective of an onlooker (narrator sounds like the author)
    • 2nd person - narrator is telling the story to another character using “you”
  • Omniscient – all knowing.
  • **Can a 1st person narrator be omniscient?

Speak! Speak!

  • Dialogue – conversation between characters
  • Monologue – long, dramatic speech by one character
  • Soliloquy – long, dramatic speech by one character when alone onstage.
  • Aside – dialogue intended for the audience and not heard by the other actors onstage
  • Idioms – an expression or figure of speech
    • “keep tabs on”
    • “flip my lid”

Literary Devices

  • Simile – comparison of two unlike things using the adverbs like or as
    • Johnny runs like a cheetah.
  • Metaphor – comparison of two unlike things using the verb "to be" and not using like or as; analogy implying that one thing is another
    • “Men’s words are bullets, that their enemies take up and make use of against them.” (George Savile, Maxims)
  • Symbol – tangible objects or images that represent abstract ideas
    • Being submerged in water (heavy rain) is symbolic of rebirth.
    • Uncle Sam is a symbol of the United States.

Literary Devices

  • Hyperbole – extreme exaggeration or overstatement
    • I’m so hungry I’d eat a horse.
  • Irony – use of words to convey the opposite of their literal meaning (verbal irony)
    • Situational Irony – incongruity between what is expected or intended and what actually occurs
    • Dramatic Irony – Audience knows more about a present or future circumstance than a character in the story
  • Paradox – a statement whose two parts seem contradictory but make sense with more thought
    • Deep down he’s really very shallow.

Literary Devices

  • Flashback – interruption of earlier events in a chronological sequence, which are necessary to better understand the story
  • Mood – how the author makes you feel
  • Tone – how the author feels
    • For example: An author who loathes consumerism may write an essay saying that teenagers are shallow because of their rampant consumerism.
      • MOOD: you may feel ashamed, embarrassed or indignant
      • TONE: the author is outraged

Literary Devices

  • Denotation – the dictionary definition of a word
  • Connotation – implied meaning of a word
    • Home – a place where one feels safe and is loved.
  • Allusion – an implied or indirect reference to a person, place, event or other passage of literature
    • Sophia’s curly hair was the bane of her existence. Every morning Medusa stared back at her from the mirror.
  • **What do you need to know in order to best understand the allusion example and what is being said?

Literary Devices

  • Foreshadowing - use of hints or clues to suggest what will happen later in a story
  • Imagery - descriptive language that evokes one or all of the five senses: sight, sound, taste, smell, touch
    • The distinct sizzle told Mary that the bacon was up before she could even smell it.
  • Personification - giving human qualities to animals or objects
    • The chair groaned in protest when Bigfoot lowered himself into it.

Literary Devices

  • Allegory – meant to be meaningful on two levels of understanding: literal and figurative
  • Epic poem – long, narrative poem recounting the deeds of an epic hero


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