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Literary Terms for Studying a Novel: Senior Version
Transcript of Literary Terms for Studying a Novel: Senior Version
Basic Elements of Narrative
Elements of Language and Figurative Speech
Elements of Plot
The time and location of the story:
May also imply mood
A story taking place in a graveyard during the daytime may have a different mood than one taking place in the same setting at midnight, or during the funeral of someone the protagonist murdered, etc.
This is the underlying implied idea behind a story. Identifying theme is the primary focus of formalism, but is also important to other schools of thought.
Metaphor: A comparison between two things that would otherwise be thought of as different. What people often don't talk about is that metaphor is the bigger term. All similes are metaphors, but all metaphors are not necessarily similes.
All the world's a stage
as smart as a fox
time is money
the spy shadowed the woman
a blanket of snow
a sharp voice
as quiet as mice
Originally this term comes from the ancient Greek eirōneía, meaning "feigned ignorance."
These days, it has three uses:
Simple definition: when your implied meaning is not the same as the literal meaning of your words. Examples:
With a disgusted expression, someone looks down at your shoes and says, "Nice shoes!"
Your friend is taking too long to get ready. You look at your watch and say, "Don't let me rush you."
Some uses of LOL
Dramatic irony happens when characters in a story don't know things that other characters and the audience know. Examples include almost everything that ever happens to Homer Simpson.
This type of irony happens when someone's efforts to make something happen end up causing the opposite thing to happen. Examples include the story of Oedipus and almost any story in which someone tries to avoid their fate.
This is a term for a poetic or rhetorical exaggeration. Here are some examples:
The bag weighed a ton.
You've told me that a thousand times already.
I think the whole neighbourhood heard you.
In literature, this term means a subtle or casual reference to something else, usually another work of fiction: Suthan whistled when he saw Ashmeet's dress. "Wow, you look so good, I better listen for midnight when your coach turns back into a pumpkin."
A symbol is something that stands for something else. In a story, a symbol is often a repeated image or object that acquires more meaning as the story progresses
Literally from the Greek for "first competitor." This is the main character in a story
Literally from the Greek for "against competitor." This is the person the protagonist struggles against.
This is a character who contrasts with another character in order to highlight features of that character. In Shakespeare's England, a foil was a piece of thin metal placed behind a torch to reflect its light outwards. Sidekicks are often foils.
This is the event that starts a story moving. A kid gets bitten by a radioactive spider. A baby gets sent on a spaceship away from his dying planet.
A series of events that increases the tension in a story as we move towards the climax.
Any event that happens during the rising action that interferes with the protagonist's efforts to solve his or her problems.
A moment of great intensity when the conflict of a story is resolved.
This is the tying up of any loose ends after the climax of the plot.
This means the presentation in a work of literature of hints or suggestions about what is to come. When two old cowboys are sitting by a fire, and one of them says "It's quiet out there," to which the other replies, "Too quiet," that's foreshadowing.
This refers to the use of language to create vivid "mental pictures" of what is happening in a passage. This is not just visual imagery, but can also refer to a vivid sense of our other senses (auditory, tactile, olfactory, etc.)
Here's an example of situational irony from the web-comic SMBC. Note how the masked man's actions have caused exactly the opposite of their intended effects.
Here's another, also from SMBC. As you get to the end, again note how the character's actions (working for months on a death ray) achieved the opposite of his intentions, which I won't spoil.