- Alliteration: the repetition of initial
- Allusion: the reference to something in history
- Antagonist: whoever or whatever
opposes the protagonist
- Apostrophe: a figure of speech in which
someone absent or dead or something nonhuman is addressed as if it were
alive and present and could reply.
- Assonance:; the repetition at close intervals
of the vowel sounds of accented syllables or important words.
- Cacophony: a harsh or unpleasant spoken
sound created by clashing consonants: "bifocals cracked"
- Climax: the point of greatest tension or
importance, where the decisive action of the work takes place.
Coming of age story: also called a rite
of passage story. It is a story that chronicles the passage of a
young person into adulthood, usually by portraying their reaction to a
significant event in a transitional period in a life.
- Conflict: a clash between opposing forces
- Consonance: The repetition at close intervals
of the final consonant sounds of accented syllables or important words.
- Crisis: a peak moment of tension in the action of
a work, the moment of highest indecision.
- Dilemma: a problem which has no desirable solution.
- Direct presentation: the writer tells
readers what kind of personality the character possesses rather than
allowing the character to show his or her personality and allow readers
to draw their own conclusions.
- Dramatic irony: the reader knows more
than the characters in the work do.
- Dramatic point
of view: also called objective point of view. The third person
narrator relates only what we can see and hear, without giving access to
the thoughts and feelings of any of the characters.
- Dynamic character: a character who undergoes a
fundamental personality change as a result of the conflicts he or she
- End rhyme: rhyme that occurs at the end of
- Epiphany: a sudden moment of revelation about
the deep meaning inherent in common things.
- Escape literature: literature
whose purpose is entertainment rather than any sort of deeper human
- Euphony: a pleasant spoken sound created by
smooth consonants such as "supple" or "measure."
- Exposition: the portion of a literary work
occurring at the beginning of a piece and functioning to introduce main
characters and conflicts as well as provide any necessary background
- Extended Metaphor: a sustained
comparison in which part or all of a poem consists of a series of
- Eye rhyme: words that are spelled alike,
but that do not sound alike: "catch/watch"
- Falling action: the portion of a work following
the climax where the conflicts are resolved.
- Feet: The pattern of accented and unaccented
syllables in a line of poetry. The most common feet are the iamb
(unstressed/stressed), trochee (stressed/unstressed), anapest (two
unstressed/one stressed), dactyl (one stressed/two unstressed) and
spondee (two stressed)
- Feminine rhyme: a rhyme with two or
three stressed syllables--minty/plenty
- Figurative language: language employing
figures of speech; language that cannot be taken literally or only
- First person point of view: a character in the
story is telling the story.
- Flashback: the presentation of an event or
situation that occurred before the time in which the work's action takes
- Flat character: a character who is two-dimensional
and not fully developed.
- Foreshadow: the presentation early in a work
of things that seem to have no significance at the time, but which later
are revealed to have great significance.
- Hyperbole (also called overstatement): a type
of verbal irony in which the speaker exaggerates, says more than what he
or she means.
- Imagery: the use of language to evoke sensory
impressions in the reader.
- Indeterminate ending: an ending to a
work in which the central conflict is left unresolved.
- Indirect presentation: the writer
presents the character in action, allowing the reader to draw his or her
own conclusions about the personality of that character.
- In medias res: a Latin term meaning "in the midst
of things." It refers to the fact that any literary work will
necessarily begin in the middle of an action or story, necessitating
- Imperfect rhyme (also called approximate
rhyme): a term used for words in a rhyming pattern that have some kind
of sound correspondence but are not perfect rhymes.
- Internal rhyme: a rhyme in which one or both
of the rhyme words occurs within the line.
- Irony: a literary device or situation that depends on the
existence of at least two separate and contrasting levels of meaning or
- Limited omniscient point of view: third person
narrator who gives the reader access to the thoughts and feelings of one
character, usually the protagonist.
- Masculine rhyme--a rhyme with one
- Metaphor: an implicit comparison between two
dissimilar objects. The comparison won't use any signal words,
such as like or as. It will just say that one thing
is another and expect the reader to know that the writer is making the
comparison. The purpose of metaphor is to make the unfamiliar
familiar to the reader by comparing it to something that the reader is
presumably familiar with.
- Meter: The pattern of rhythm in a poem, based on
accented and unaccented syllables with one foot per line. Meters
are defined by the characteristic pattern of stressed and unstressed
syllables in the poem's feel.
- Objective point of view: also called the
dramatic point of view. The third person narrator relates only
what we can see and hear, without giving access to the thoughts and
feelings of any of the characters.
- Omniscient point of view: third person
narrator who tells everything that everyone says and does as well as
what they think and feel.
- Onomatopoeia: a word whose sound resembles
what it describes: "growl, snap."
- Overstatement (also called hyperbole): a
type of verbal irony in which the speaker exaggerates, says more than
what he or she means.
- Oxymoron: a condensed form of paradox where
seemingly contradictory words are joined together.
- Paradox: A statement that initially appears to
be contradictory but then, on closer inspection, turns out to make
- Pastoral: Poetry idealizing the lives of
shepherds and country folk, although the term is often used loosely to
include any poems with a rural aspect. Sidelight: "Pastor" is the Latin
word for shepherd. In classical poetry, the pastoral
conventions featured a shepherd's meditations on
themes such as nature or romance. From another recurrent theme, the
expression of grief over the death of a fellow shepherd, emerged the
long-enduring conventions of the pastoral elegy.
- Perfect rhyme: Rhyme where the accented
vowel sounds are preceded by differing consonant sounds: "placate/
- Personification: a form of metaphor in
which human characteristics are attributed to nonhuman things.
Personification offers the writer a way to give the world life and
motion by assigning familiar human behaviors and emotions to animals,
inanimate objects, and abstract ideas.
- Plot: the sequence of events in a literary
work. The structure of the plot usually consists of exposition,
complication (rising action), crisis, climax, falling action, and
- Point of view: the narrative voice that the
author creates to tell the story.
- Protagonist: central character in central
- Reliable narrator: a question to consider
when the point of view is either first person or third person
limited. This narrator relates the story accurately and is a
- Resolution: the final stage in the plot where
all the loose ends are tied up.
- Rhyme: The repetition of accented vowel sound and
all succeeding sounds in important or importantly positioned
- Rhythm: refers to the pattern of stresses and
pauses in spoken language.
- Rising action: the conflicts develop in
- Round character: a character who is
three-dimensional and multi-faceted.
- Sarcasm: a form of irony where apparent praise
is used to convey strong, bitter criticism.
- Serious literature: literature whose
purpose is to enhance the reader's understanding of the human condition.
- Setting: the time and place in which a story
- Simile: a figure of speech that makes an explicit
comparison between two things by using words such as like, as, than,
appears, and seems.
- Situational irony: the situation turns out
differently than expected.
- Stanza: An arrangement or group of lines forming
a unit of division of a poem. From the Italian, "stopping
- Static character: a character who does not change
in the course of a literary work, regardless of the conflicts he or she
- Stereotype: a character who possesses one or
two easily recognized and identified traits which enable the observer to
accurately predict behavior and personality, i.e., the dumb blonde,
the town drunk: a figure differentiated by role rather than by
- Suspense: the quality of having the reading
wonder What's going to happen next?
- Symbolism: a person, object, action or idea
whose meaning transcends its literal sense.
- Theme: the general meaning or insight of a
- Tone: the speaker's attitude toward his or her
- Understatement: a type of verbal irony
whereby the speaker says less that what he or she means.
- Unreliable narrator: a question to consider
when the point of view is either first person or third person
limited. This narrator relates the story inaccurately and is not a
- Verbal irony: the speaker means the opposite of
what he or she says. Both speaker and listener must be aware of