Literary terms



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A TALE OF TWO CITIES BY CHARLES DICKENS

LITERARY TERMS




Analogy

A comparison made between two things to show how they are alike in some respects.


Extended Metaphor

A figure of speech that compares two essentially unlike things at length and in several ways.

Example:

All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women are merely players…Last scene of all, that ends this strange eventful history…” – William Shakespeare




Conceit

A metaphor that just does not work or fit very easily.

Example:

The United States is a venerable sea turtle, silently gliding through the blue depths”.




Allegory

A literary work in which characters, objects, or actions represent abstractions (the characters, objects, etc. are equated with meanings that lie outside the text); a sustained metaphor continued through whole sentences or even through a whole discourse.

Example:

Superman, Spiderman, and Batman are all allegorical representations of the everyman. The evils they fight are the temptations to greed, to violence and to behavior that will in other ways disrupt society. Superheroes stand as both the everyman and the guardian against evil.


Pathos

From the Greek, "experience, suffer;” the quality in a work that prompts the reader to feel pity; the mode of persuasion that appeals to the audience's emotions.


Bathos

Greek - "depth“; Not to be confused with pathos, bathos is a descent in literature in which a poet or writer--striving too hard to be passionate or elevated--falls into trivial or stupid imagery, phrasing, or ideas. One of the most common types of bathos is the humorous arrangement of items so that the listed items descend from grandiosity to absurdity.

Example:

"In the United States, Osama bin Laden is wanted for conspiracy, murder, terrorism, and unpaid parking tickets."


Apostrophe

A figure of speech in which one directly addresses an absent or imaginary person, or some abstraction.

Example:

"Hello darkness, my old friend… I've come to talk with you again…” – Paul Simon


Colloquialism

Informal words or expressions not usually acceptable in formal speech or writing.

Examples:

y'all,” “Gonna,” “ain't nothin‘,” “I’m fixing to _______,” “Okeydoke”




Euphemism

An indirect, less offensive way of saying something that is considered unpleasant.

Examples:

Saying “he passed” instead of “he died,” “Restroom” for “toilet room,” “Senior citizens” for “old people,” “In trouble” instead of “pregnant out of wedlock”


Litotes

A type of understatement in which an idea is expressed by negating its opposite.

Examples:

Describing a particularly horrific scene by saying, “It was not a pretty picture.”

Referring to something as good by saying, “Not bad.”


Metonymy

From meta, "change" and onoma, "name;” Substituting the name of one object for another object closely associated with it.

Examples:

The pen [WRITING] is mightier than the sword [WAR/FIGHTING].”

We await word from the crown.”

I'm told he's gone so far as to give her a diamond ring.”

The IRS is auditing me? Great. All I need is a couple of suits arriving at my door.”


Syllogism

A three-part deductive argument in which a conclusion is based on a major premise and a minor premise.

Example:

All men are mortal (major); Socrates is a man (minor); therefore, Socrates is mortal.”

Major premise: All M are P.

Minor premise: All S are M.

Conclusion: All S are P.


Paradox

An apparently contradictory statement that actually reveals some truth.

Examples:

Everyone is completely unique, just like everyone else”

Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again." -The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Each new power won by man is a power over man as well. Each advance leaves him weaker as well as stronger.-C. S. Lewis

Exception Paradox: "If there is an exception to every rule, then every rule must have at least one exception, the exception to this one being that it has no exceptio;”

Petronius’ Paradox: "Practice moderation in all things. Including moderation."


Oxymoron

A concise paradox that brings together two contradictory terms.

Examples:

jumbo shrimp,” “act naturally,” “found missing,” “genuine imitation,” “good grief”




Antithesis

A statement in which two opposing ideas are balanced

Example:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”




Parallelism

Repetition of words, phrases, or sentences that have the same grammatical structure or that state a similar idea.

Example:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, It was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness…”




Anaphora

The same expression (word or words) is repeated at the beginning of two or more successive clauses or sentences.

Example:

I have been one acquainted with the night. I have outwalked the farthest city light.”




Chiasmus

A statement consisting of two parallel parts in which the second part is structurally reversed. Think inverted parallelism.

Examples:

Susan walked in, and out rushed Mary.”



"...ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country."


Alliteration

The repetition of consonant sounds at the beginning of words.

Example:

Which circle slowly with a silken swish”



Anecdote

Very brief account of an incident.

Example:

In her essay, “Homeless” Anna Quindlen uses an anecdote about a homeless woman to introduce a discussion of homelessness.


Truism

A statement, the truth of which is obvious or well-known.


Proverb

A saying that briefly and memorably expresses some recognized wisdom or truth about life

Examples:

Still waters run deep.”

A penny saved is a penny earned.”

A friend in need is a friend indeed.”

Time and tide wait for no man.”


Sarcasm

A kind of particularly cutting irony. Generally, sarcasm is the taunting use of praise to mean its opposite – that is, to insult someone or something.

Example:

Saying, “Nice shoes” in a way that makes it clear that you believe the shoes to be hideous.


Satire

A literary technique in which ideas, customs, behaviors, or institutions are ridiculed for the purpose of improving society. It often involves the use of irony and exaggeration to force readers to see something in a critical light.

Examples:

The Daily Show” & “The Colbert Report”



The Onion”





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