Cahsee literary Terms Review

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CAHSEE Literary Terms Review
Rationale: As you prepare for the CAHSEE, there are some literary terms that you will want to review. We have been learning terms all year, and you WILL see them on the test. Studying these terms regularly is one MAJOR thing you can do to help you prepare for the test. – how will you feel you don’t pass because you forgot what a simile is? You will be required to make flashcards, and it is a good idea to review at least ½ of the cards every night. Be prepared for pop quizzes on this information for the next several weeks!

Literary Term



Dramatic Monologue

A poem or part of a drama in which a speaker addresses one or more silent listeners, often reflecting on a specific problem or situation.

Jay Leno, Dave Letterman, and Conan O’Brien all perform a monologue every night on their programs. Most SNL episodes also begin with a monologue in which the guest host speaks to the audience.


Long speech in which a character who is alone onstage expresses private thoughts or feelings.

Shakespeare’s Hamlet is one example (“To be or not to be, that is the question.”) A more modern example is when the characters in The Office speak directly to the camera during an interview – no other characters are there and we learn their private thoughts and feelings.


In a play, words spoken directly to the audience or to another character, but not overheard by others onstage.

Shakespeare is famous for his asides. A more modern example would be Malcom in the Middle, when Malcom turns to speak to the camera in the middle of a scene, but none of the other characters can hear him.


Character who serves as a contrast to another character.

A modern example would be Bart and Lisa Simpson (The Simpsons), or Michael and Dwight (The Office).

Situational irony

When what actually happens is the opposite of what is expected.

A man wins the lottery, then becomes homeless.

Dramatic irony

When the reader or the audience knows something important that a character does not know.

When Little Red Riding Hood says, “What big teeth you have, grandma!” We, as an audience, know that it is the wolf!

Verbal irony

When a speaker says one thing but intentionally means the opposite.

When you say to a person consuming an entire pizza, “Oh, having a little snack?”


When a word, phrase, action, or situation can be interpreted two or more ways, all of which can be supported by the context of the work.

The first and most prominent ambiguity in "The Cask of Amontillado" is in the "thousand injuries" that Montesor has supposedly borne from Fortunato. The narrator never discloses what those “injuries” were.


When meaning is delicate, almost undetectable.

In The Office, the characters roll their eyes at the camera when Michael does something stupid instead of saying that they don’t like him.


The use of clues to hint at what is going to happen later in the plot.

In Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Romeo’s expression of fear in Act I, Scene 4 foreshadows the catastrophe to come: “By some vile forfeit of untimely death.”


The quality in a story or play that makes the reader eager to discover what will happen next or how the story will end.

In “Contents of a Dead Man’s Pocket,” suspense is generated from Tom’s precarious position on the ledge outside his apartment – we wonder whether he will make it back safely into the apartment or fall to his death.


The time and place in which a story unfolds.

The setting in Act I, Scene 1 of Romeo and Juliet, for example, is a public square in Verona, Italy, during the summer.


The main character in a story.

The protagonist of “The Most Dangerous Gameis Rainsford.


The character or force that blocks the protagonist from achieving his or her goal.

The antagonist of “The Most Dangerous Game” is General Zaroff.

Direct characterization

When an author tells us directly what a character is like.

Jim is tall, dark, and handsome.

Indirect characterization

When readers have to put “clues” together to figure out for ourselves what a character is like.

When Jim walks into the room, all of the women smile up at him and blush when he walks in their direction.

Static character

A character who does not change over the course of a story.

In “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas,” Cindy Lou Who is a static character – she is just as nice at the beginning as at the end.

Dynamic character

A character who changes in an important way as the result of the story’s action.

In “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas,” the Grinch is a dynamic character.

Flat character

A character who only has one or two personality traits; he or she can be described in a single phrase.

In Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Augustus Gloop is a flat character – he can be described as greedy and spoiled.

Round character

A character with the three-dimensional qualities of real people, with many traits and complexities.

In Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Willy Wonka is a dynamic character – he is eccentric, but he is compassionate and creative, and we learn his back story, which explains some of his odd behavior.


The sequence of related events that makes up a story.

The plot of “Cinderella” begins when we meet the main character, includes all of the events that happen through the story, and ends with the characters living happily ever after.

External conflict

A struggle between a character and something outside himself or herself.

In Rumblefish, some of the conflicts are between Rusty James and Steve, Rusty James and his brother, and the Motorcycle Boy and society.

Internal conflicts

A struggle between a character and himself or herself.

In “On the Sidewalk, Bleeding,” Andy struggled to gain his sense of personal identity and worked to take off his purple jacket before he died.


Scene in a piece of literature that interrupts the present action of the plot to show events that happened at an earlier time.

In Holes, the story begins as Stanley Yelnats is on the bus to Camp Green Lake, then flashes back to tell the reader how he got there.


A direct opposition between two things.

You say you hate the taste of tomatoes, but you put ketchup on your French fries.


When a piece of information does not seem to fit with the rest of the information.

A person wins the lottery, then gets angry.


The use of words and phrases that appeal to the five senses.

It was a dark and stormy night as the wind rustled softly through the trees. A quiet, but eerie howl was heard in the distance as he approached the deserted mansion on the hill.


Figure of speech that makes a comparison between two unlike things using the words “like” or “as”

Her smile was like the sun.


Figure of speech that makes a comparison between two unlike things without using “like” or “as”

Her smile makes the sun seem dim.


Figure of speech in which a nonhuman thing or quality is talked about as if it were human.

Sorrow came knocking at my door.


Figure of speech that uses exaggeration to express strong emotion or create a comic effect.

The limousine is as long as an ocean liner.


A phrase or expression that means something different than what the words actually say.

“It’s raining cats and dogs!”


Person, place, thing, or event that stands both for itself and for something beyond itself.

The heart can be a symbol for love, as can red roses also.


A narrative (story) in which characters and settings stand as symbols expressing truths about human life.

The novel Animal Farm is not just a “cute” story about animals; it is an allegory for the Russian Revolution.


A reference in a literary work to a person, place, or thing in history or another work of literature (often indirect or brief references to well-known characters or events)

“That football player is a modern-day Hercules.” (allusion to the Hercules of Greek mythology, who was exceptionally strong)


A grouping of two or more lines in a poem.

A stanza in a poem is like a paragraph in an essay.


Repetition of the same or similar consonant sounds in words that are close together, especially at the beginning of words.

Sally sells seashells by the seashore.


Use of a word whose sound imitates or suggests its meaning.

Buzz, splash, hiss, and boom are all examples. Think “comic book words”


Repetition of accented vowel sounds and all sounds following them in words that are close together in a poem. End rhyme occurs at the end of the line.

I love Billy.

So does Milly.

People say it’s silly.


The attitude a writer takes toward a subject, a character, or the reader. Tone is given through the writer’s choice of words or details.

The happy ending of most fairy tales produces a romantic, positive, or hopeful tone toward life.


The emotional effect that a piece of writing evokes in the reader.

A story that takes place on a dark and stormy night creates a scary mood.


A writer’s or speaker’s choice of words. Diction is an essential element of a writer’s style.

A writer’s diction can be simple (clothing) or flowery (apparel), modern (dress) or old-fashioned (frock).


All the meanings, associations, or emotions that a word suggests. Connotations play an important part in creating diction, mood, and tone.

An expensive restaurant might advertise its delicious “cuisine” rather than its good “cooking.” The word “cuisine” would be a better choice for the restaurant to use because it has connotations of elegance and sophistication.


The literal, dictionary definition of a word.

“Cuisine” and “cooking” have the same denotation- literal meaning – “prepared food.”


The central idea or insight about human life the author wants us to obtain from reading the author’s writing. Theme is the revelation about life the writer wishes us to discover about the subject. To discover theme, two clues to consider are the way the main character has changed and the way the conflict has been resolved.

Theme must be stated in a complete sentence. It is not just enough to say that the theme of Romeo and Juliet is love; a better theme would be: Romeo and Juliet reveals that life is full of contrasts – love and hate, oy and sorrow, light and dark, youth and age, life and death – all of which have a big impact on us.


An educated guess; reading “between the lines” to make guesses about what’s left unsaid.

If a friend, who’s never late, doesn’t appear at the usual time to pick you up for school, you might infer that something’s happened: a traffic jam, she’s sick, or she’s been in an accident.


The reasons for a character’s behavior, what he/she says, or the decisions he/she makes.

In “Contents of the Dead Man’s Pocket” Tom’s motivation for going out on the ledge to retrieve the paper was money.

First –Person Point of View (POV)

The narrator is a character in the story. They use the pronoun “I” and can only reveal their own thoughts, not the thoughts of the other characters.

“I feel that my life is becoming more difficult the longer I stay in this career!”

Third-Person Limited Point of View (POV)

The narrator, who plays no part in the story, zooms in on the thoughts and feelings of one character.

We know the thoughts and feelings of the character, but the emotions of the other characters are revealed only through their words and the observations of the narrator.

Third-Person Omniscient Point of View (POV)

The narrator plays no part in the story but can tell us what more than one of the characters is thinking and feeling as well as what is happening in other places.

An omniscient narrator can understand and know the thoughts of more than one character.

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