Basic Literary Terms
Basic Literary Terms n The following literary terms are the foundation of skills for understanding literature and analyzing literature.
Elements of Plot n Plot: the sequence of events in a narrative work. n There are basically five stages of plot that you’ll have to know.
Imagery n Descriptive language that appeals to the five senses. n There are five types of imagery you need to know…
Imagery (cont. ) n Visual Imageryn n n Imagery that deals with picturing something. Example: The dark, black cloud began to block the azure, blue sky as we sat and watched on the beach. Auditory Imageryn Imagery that deals with sound and hearing. n Example: The doorbell rang and Rayna screamed, “I’ll get it!”
Imagery (cont. ) n Olfactory Imageryn n n Imagery that represents a smell. Example: The garbage can released an odor of rancid, three-week-old milk. Gustatory Imageryn n Imagery that represents a taste. Example: Mark tasted the briny, bitter salt water for the first time.
Imagery (cont. ) n Tactile Imageryn n Imagery that represents touch. Example: She dug her toes in the wet sand, but she was still sweating from the hot sun.
Elements of Plot (cont. ) n Exposition: introduces the characters, setting, and conflict. n Rising Action: The complications to the conflict and increase the reader’s interest.
Elements of Plot (cont. ) n Climax: The point of greatest emotional intensity, interest, or suspense. The turning point. n Falling Action: Follows the climax and shows the results of the climax.
Elements of Plot (cont. ) n Resolution: (Denouement) part of the plot that reveals the outcome of the conflict. The story comes to a close.
Tone n An author’s attitude toward his or her subject matter. n n We can figure out tone by an author’s word choice, punctuation, sentence structure, and figures of speech. SAMPLE TONE WORDS: sympathetic, serious, ironic, sad, bitter, humorous, angry, apologetic, critical, proud
Mood n The emotional quality of a literary work. n Mood is determined by setting, subject matter, and tone. SAMPLE MOOD WORDS: Cheerful, gloomy, bleak, eerie, tense, calm, ominous, uncertain, miserable n
Conflict n The struggle between opposing forces in a story. n External Conflict n n A character struggles against some outside force: a person, nature, society, or fate. Internal Conflict n The struggle takes place in the character’ mind as he/she is torn between opposing forces.
Theme n The main idea, message, or lesson of a story. Themes of Romeo and Juliet: One must learn to control his/her emotions. Love takes on many forms. One must be allowed to choose who they marry.
Foreshadowing and Flashback n Foreshadowing: Clues or hints to prepare readers for events that happen later in a story. n Flashback: An interruption of the chronological order of a narrative to describe an event that happened earlier.
Hyperbole n Hyperbole is an exaggeration used for effect. Examples: I’m so hungry I could eat a horse. I told you a million times! We’re never going to get out of this class!
Metaphor A comparison that does NOT use like or as. Examples: Juliet is the sun. He is a beast on the football field. Keep your meat hooks off of that food! There are three types of metaphors you need to know… n
Metaphor (cont. ) Extended Metaphor: A metaphor used throughout an entire story or poem. Example: All the world’s a stage And all the men and women merely players They have their exits and entrances; A And one man in his time plays many parts. n
Metaphor (cont. ) Implied Metaphor- A metaphor that is not direct, but implies a comparison. Examples: Tom Brady was licking his chops whenever he found out he was playing the Broncos and not the Steelers. n He really spread his wings whenever he graduated. He soared into his future.
Metaphor (cont. ) n Mixed Metaphor: When more than one metaphor is used and the metaphors imply different things. Example: He flew down the track, ate his competition up, cruised by the last runner, and blew up the finish line.
Simile and Personification n Simile: A comparison using “like” or “as. ” n n Examples: He is like a beast on the field. He whines like a baby when he has to do work. Personification: An animal, object, force of nature, or idea is given human characteristics. n Example: The house glanced darkly at him. The sun smiled down on her.
Symbolism n n n The use of any literal person, animal, place, object, or event to represent something on the figurative level. In Romeo and Juliet, the ring is a symbol of their love. In Of Mice and Men the farm house George and Lennie dream of symbolizes hope.
Irony n A contrast or discrepancy between expectation and reality, or between what is expected and what actually happens. n There are three types of irony.
Irony (cont. ) 1. Situational Irony: The outcome of a situation is the opposite of what’s expected. Example: An ambulance injuring pedestrians. 2. Verbal Irony: A person says one thing but means another. Example: Sarcasm Lennie Small
Irony (cont. ) 3. Dramatic Irony: The audience or reader knows information that the characters do not know. Example: A “kick me” sign on someone’s back.
Point of View n The position from which a story is told. n There are four types of Point of View you need to know.
Point of View (cont. ) n First Person Point of View n n n One of the characters is telling the story and we get only his/her perspective. I, me, we, us, and our will be used Third Person Limited n The narrator is not in the story, and the narrator only focuses on one character’s thoughts.
Point of View (cont. ) n Third Person Omniscient n n The narrator is not in the story, but we get the thoughts and feelings of all characters. Third Person Objective n The narrator is not in the story, but we only get the actions of the characters (no thoughts).