Literary Terms

Allusion: a reference in literature to a familiar person, place, thing, or event

Antagonist: the adversary of the hero in as literary work

Autobiography: history of a person’s life written by that person

Bildungsroman: a “novel of education” that focuses on the youthful development of the central character

Character: a person who takes part in the action
Static: a character that does not change during the course of a piece of literature
Dynamic: a character that does change during the course of a piece of literature
Flat: a character that can be defined by one character trait without much detail;
Usually this is a minor character
Round: a complex character that can be defined by many character traits and is
Usually the main character

Characterization/Character Development: The method a writer uses to develop characters.
Physical appearance (direct)
Dialogue (direct)
Other character’s dialogue, thoughts, feelings about a character (indirect)
Narrator comments (direct)

Connotation: the attitude and feelings associated with a word. These associations can be negative or positive, and have importance influence on style and meaning.

Denotation: dictionary/literal meaning

Dialogue: Conversation between two/more people

Diction: the author’s word choice, including connotation (the suggested meaning of a word) and denotation (the literal meaning of the word).

Flashback: A shift in time during the course of a piece of literature, returning the reader to the past

Foreshadowing: hints/clues to indicate events that will occur in a story

Imagery: words and phrases that create a picture in the reader’s mind (can be completed through the use of figurative language)

• Alliteration: repetition of consonant sounds at the start of a word (the giggling girl gave gum)
• Assonance: repetition of vowel sounds in the middle of a word (moths cough and drop wings)
• Consonance: repetition of consonant sounds in the middle of a word
• Onomatopoeia: writing sounds as words
• Simile: a direct comparison of unlike things using like or as
• Metaphor: a direct comparison of unlike things
• Hyperbole: a deliberate exaggeration for effect (I’d die for a piece of candy)
• Understatement: represents something as less than it is
• Personification: attributing human qualities to inhuman objects
• Metonymy: words exchanged for another closely associated with it (Uncle Sam wants you!)
• Analogy: comparing two things that have at least one thing in common
• Oxymoron: use of words seemingly in contradiction to each other

Irony: contrast between expectations and reality

Mood: how the reader feels while reading a piece of literature– insulting, humorous, shocked

Narration: identification of from whose point of view the story is told
First Person: “I” is telling the story
Interior Monologue: someone speaking to him/herself–thinking–we overhear his/her thoughts
Detached Autobiography: told by main character years after the event (objective)
Subjective Narration: told by one character years after the event (subjective)

Third Person: outside narrator
Anonymous Narration/ Limited: narrator knows thoughts & feelings of one character
Anonymous Narration/Omniscient: narrator knows thoughts & feelings of all characters
Anonymous Narration: eyewitness account

Plot: action or sequence of events in a story
Exposition: introduces characters, time, scene, and situation
Rising Action: intensification of the conflict
Climax/Turning Point: emotional high point
Falling Action: conflict proceeds towards resolution
Resolution/Denouement: conclusion of the conflict

Protagonist: main character

Setting: time and place of the action

Symbol: a tangible object that represents an abstraction

Symbolism: extensive use of symbols

Symbolic Level: when multiple symbols work together to create a level of meaning beyond the plot

Syntax: the study of the patterns of formation of sentences and phrases from words

Theme: the central idea of a piece of literature–jealousy, love, betrayal, man’s eternal struggle to understand the complexities of life
• What does it add up to?
• What motif holds the happenings together?
• What does it make out of life, and, perhaps, what wisdom does it offer?

Tone: the writer’s attitude as expressed in the language chosen–sarcastic, morbid, scary, nostalgic, melancholy, urgent, silly, joyful, vibrant

Four types of conflict in literature
• Man against Himself
• Man against Nature
• Man against Society
• Man against Man