for poetic effect, a repetition of the initial sounds of several words
in a group. The following line from Robert Frost's poem "Acquainted
with the Night" provides us with an example of alliteration,":
I have stood still and stopped the sound of
feet." The repetition of the s
sound creates a sense of quiet, reinforcing the meaning of the line
person or force which opposes the protagonist in a literary work.
There are four types:
Direct Antagonist - Curley Of Mice
Indirect Antagonist - Lenny Of Mice
The Protagonist Himself - Holden Catcher
in the Rye
Non-Human Forces - Leukemia as it kills Allie in Catcher
in the Rye or The Dust Bowl in The
Grapes of Wrath
literary work base don the ideas brought forth in Aristotle's Poetics, including, but not limited to,
the following basic concepts:
tragic hero - a character who brings about his own and/or others'
downfall or death. either by his own error or by fate.
hamartia - the error or weakness that brings about the character's
hubris - overwhelming pride
or human arrogance
A style of writing that requires
the writer take a position on a controversial issue.
An effective argumentative essay will make a claim, provide
evidence, and explain how and why the evidence supports the claim.
Claim - A statement that declares
the position or stance the paper will take.
Evidence - Proof that the Claim
is accurate. Evidence can take the form of quotation, analogy,
cause and effect, definition of terms, and detailed explanation.
Explanation - The piece of the
argument that makes the direct connection between the Claim and the
Evidence. The function of the explanation is to make the
convention of drama in which a character makes a short speech which
is heard by the audience but supposedly not by other characters in
the play. In William Shakespeare's Hamlet,
the Chamberlain, Polonius, confronts Hamlet. In a dialogue concerning
Polonius' daughter, Ophelia, Polonius speaks this aside:
How say you by that? Still harping on my
Yet he knew me not at first; 'a said I was a fishmonger.
'A is far gone. And truly in my youth I suffered much extremity for
very near this. I'll speak to him again.
story of a person's life written by someone other than the subject
of the work. Katherine Drinker Bowen's "Yankee from Olympus" which details the life
and work of the great jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. is an example.
A biographical work is supposed to be rigorously factual; however,
since the biographer may by biased, critics, and sometimes the subject
of the biography itself, may come forward to challenge the accuracy
of the material.
person, or any thing presented as a person, e. g., a spirit, object,
animal, or natural force, in a literary work. In a cartoon scene,
firemen may be putting out a fire which a coyote has deliberately
started, while a hydrant observes the scene fearfully. The firemen,
the coyote and the hydrant would all be considered characters in the
story. If a billowy figure complete with eyes, nose, and mouth representing
the wind thwarts the efforts of the firemen, the wind, too, qualifies
as a character. Animals who figure importantly in movies of live drama
are considered characters. Mr. Ed, Lassie, and Tarzan's monkey Cheetah
method a writer uses to reveal the personality of a character in a
literary work. Methods may include
Other's reactions to a character
- a character that is developed through several of the methods.
Flat Character - a character who is underdeveloped
or developed in a limited way using only one of the above methods
- a character that does not
undergo a significant philosophical, ideological, or personality change
in a work
- a character that does
undergo a significant philosophical, ideological, or personality change
in a work
Foil Character - a character who contrasts
the main character in thought, belief, or philosophy;
Mirror Character -a character who parallels
the main character in thought, belief, or philosophy;
Climax is the time when what the resolution
will be is revealed. It may
proceed or be concurrent with the resolution. In Shakespeare's "Julius
Caesar" the climax occurs at the end of Marc Antony's speech
to the Roman public. In the climax to the film "Star Wars,"
the empire's death star is ready to destroy the rebel base. Luke Skywalker
and rebel pilots attack the base, and after the deaths of some rebel
pilots, Skywalker successfully fires his missile into the death star's
vulnerable spot and destroys the death star, saving the rebel forces.
called the resolution, the
conclusion is the point in a drama to which the entire work has been
leading. It is the logical outcome of everything that has come before
it. The conclusion stems from the nature of the characters. Therefore,
the decision of Dr. Stockmann to remain in the town at the conclusion of An Enemy of the People is consistent with
his conviction that he is right and has been right all along.
...I'll be hanged if we are going away! We
are going to stay where we are, Katherine . . . This is the field
of battle ...this is where the fight will be. This is where I shall
the plot of a drama, conflict occurs whenever the protagonist is frustrated
in his efforts to reach his goal.
In Henry Ibsen's drama An
Enemy of the People Dr. Thomas Stockmann's
life is complicated by his finding that the public baths, a major
source of income for the community, are polluted. In trying to close
the baths, the doctor comes into conflict with those who profit from
them, significantly, his own brother, the mayor of the town.
stanza of two lines, sometimes rhyming. If, in fact, the lines do
rhyme, the couplet is called a heroic couplet (see heroic couplet). The following by Andrew Marvell is an example
of a rhymed couplet:
Had we but world enough and time,
This coyness, lady, were no crime.
Denouement (falling action)
Pronounced Day-new-ma, the denouement is
that part of a drama which follows the climax and leads to the resolution,
the wrapping up of loose ends. In
children's stories it is always: "and they lives happily ever
drama, a conversation between characters. One interesting type of
dialogue, stichomythia, occurs when the dialogue
takes the form of a rapid and heated verbal duel between characters,
as in the following between Hamlet and his mother, Gertrude. (William
Shakespeare's Hamlet - Act
3, scene 4)
Hamlet, thou hast thy father much offended.
HAMLET: Mother, you have my father much offended.
QUEEN: Come, Come, you answer with an idle tongue.
HAMLET: Go, Go, You question with a wicked tongue.
author's choice of words. Since words have specific meanings, and
since one's choice of words can affect feelings, a writer's choice
of words can have great impact in a literary work. The writer, therefore,
must choose his words carefully. Discussing his novel A
Farewell to Arms during an interview, Ernest Hemingway stated
that he had to rewrite the ending thirty-nine times. When asked what
the most difficult thing about finishing the novel was, Hemingway
answered, "Getting the words right."
language is any use of language that is not literal in language. In literature, a way of saying one thing and
meaning something else. Take, for example, this line by Robert Burns,
My love is a red, red rose. Clearly Mr.
Burns does not really mean that he has fallen in love with a red,
aromatic, many-pedaled, long, thorny-stemmed plant. He means that
his love is as sweet and as delicate as a rose. While, figurative
language provides a writer with the opportunity to write imaginatively,
it also tests the imagination of the reader, forcing the reader to
go below the surface of a literary work into deep, hidden meanings.
drama, a method used to build suspense by providing hints of what
is to come. In Shakespeare's Romeo
and Juliet, Romeo's expression of fear in Act 1, scene 4 foreshadows
the catastrophe to come:
I fear too early; for my mind misgives
Some consequence yet hanging in the stars
Shall bitterly begin his fearful date
With this night's revels and expire the
Of a despised life closed in my breast
By some vile forfeit of untimely death.
But He that hath the steerage of my course,
Direct my sail! On, lusty gentlemen.
Poetry with no specific meter. The poetry of Walt Whitman provides
us with many examples. Consider the following lines from "Song
I celebrate myself and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs
I loaf and invite my soul,
I lean and loaf at my ease observing a spear
of summer grass.
literary type or form. Drama is a genre of literature. Within drama,
genre includes tragedy, comedy and other forms.
Rhymed pairs of iambic pentameter
A metrical pattern of one unstressed syllable followed by one stressed
syllable. The following is an example:
word or group of words in a literary work which appeal to one or more
of the senses: sight, taste, touch, hearing, and smell. The use of
images serves to intensify the impact of the work. The following example
of imagery in T. S. Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,"
When the evening is spread out against the
Like a patient etherized upon a table.
images of pain and sickness to describe the evening, which as an image
itself represents society and the psychology of Prufrock,
following are types of imagery: visual, aural, tactile, olfactory,
judgment based on reasoning rather than on direct or explicit evidence.
A conclusion based on facts or circumstances. For example, advised
not to travel alone in temperatures exceeding fifty degrees below
zero, the man in Jack London's "To Build a Fire" sets out
anyway. One may infer arrogance from such an action.
takes many forms. In irony of situation, the result
of an action is the reverse of what the character or reader expected.
Macbeth murders his king hoping that in becoming king he will achieve
great happiness. Actually, Macbeth never knows another moment of peace,
and finally is beheaded for his murderous act.
figure of speech wherein a comparison is made between two unlike quantities
without the use of direct words
of comparison such as "like" or "as." Jonathan
Edwards, in his sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,"
has this to say about the moral condition of his parishioners:
There are the black clouds of God's wrath
now hanging directly over your heads, full of the dreadful storm and
big with thunder;
comparison here is between God's anger and a storm. Note that there
is no use of "like" or "as" as would be the case
in a simile
atmosphere or feeling created by a literary work, partly by a description
of the objects or by the style of the descriptions. A work may contain
a mood of horror, mystery, holiness, or childlike simplicity, to name
a few, depending on the author's treatment of the work.
fictional prose work of substantial length. The novel narrates the
actions of characters who are entirely the invention of the author
and who are placed in an imaginary setting. The fact that a so-called
historical or biographical novel uses historically real characters
in real geographical locations doing historically verifiable things
does not alter the fictional quality of the work. Nor does it qualify
a work labeled a novel by the author as a historical text.
literary device wherein the word imitates the sound it names. The
words "splash." "knock," and "roar"
are examples. The following lines end Dylan Thomas' "Fern Hill:"
Out of the whinnying green stable
On to the fields of praise.
word "whinnying" is onomatopoetic. "Whinny" is
the sound usually selected to represent that made by a horse.
repetition of sentences using the same structure. This line from Abraham
Lincoln's Gettysburg Address provides an example:
The world will little not nor long remember
what we say here,
but it can never forget what they did here.
figure of speech in which the inanimate is given life-like qualities.
Consider the following lines from Carl Sandburg's "Chicago:"
Stormy, husky, brawling,
City of the big shoulders:
Sandburg description of Chicago includes shoulders. Cities
do not have shoulders, people do. Sandburg personifies the city by
ascribing to it something human, shoulders. "Justice is blind."
is another example.
structure of a story. The sequence in which the author arranges events
in a story. The structure of a five-act play often includes the rising
action, the climax, the falling action, and the resolution. The plot
may have a protagonist who is opposed by antagonist, creating what
is called, conflict. A plot may include flashback or it may include
a subplot which is a mirror image of the main plot. For example, in
Shakespeare's, "King Lear," the relationship between the
Earl of Gloucester and his sons mirrors the relationship between Lear
and his daughters.
Point of View
piece of literature contains a speaker who is speaking either in the
first person, telling things from his or her own perspective, or in
the third person, telling things from the perspective of an onlooker.
The perspective used is called the Point of View, and is referred
to either as first person or third person. If the speaker knows everything
including the actions, motives, and thoughts of all the characters,
the speaker is referred to as omniscient (all-knowing). If the speaker
is unable to know what is in any character's mind but his or her own,
this is called limited omniscience.
central character of a literary work around whose efforts to achieve
a goal, the story is built. In accomplishing his or her objective,
the protagonist is hindered by some opposing force either human (one
of Batman's antagonists is The Joker), animal (Moby Dick is Captain
Ahab's antagonist in Herman Melville's "Moby Dick"), or
natural (the sea is the antagonist which must be overcome by Captain
Bligh in Nordhoff and Hall's "Men Against
the Sea," the second book in the trilogy which includes "Mutiny
on the Bounty").
intentional play on words wherein a word is used to convey two meanings
at the same time. The line below, spoken by Mercutio
in Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet," is an example of a
pun. Mercutio has just been stabbed, knows he is dying and says:
for me tomorrow and you shall find me a grave man.
Mercutio's use of the word "grave' renders it capable of
two meanings: a serious person or a corpse in his grave.
part of a story or drama which occurs after the climax and which establishes
a new norm, a new state of affairs-the way things are going to be
from then on. Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" climaxes
with the death of the two lovers. Their deaths resolve the feud between
the two families. In the play's resolution, Lords Capulet and Montague
swear to end their feud and build golden monuments to each other's
In the resolution of the film "Star Wars," Luke Skywalker,
Han Solo, and Chewbacca are given medals by Princess Lea for destroying
the death star and defeating the empire.
Rhyme (or Rime if you're English and very old) -
Masculine - A rhyme occurring in words of one syllable or in an
accented final syllable, such as light
and sight or arise and surprise.
Feminine - A rhyme occurring on an unaccented final syllable,
as in dining and shining or motion and ocean.
The part of a drama which begins with the
and sets the stage for the climax. In a five-act play, the exposition
provides information about the characters and the events which occurred
before the action of the play began. A conflict often develops between the protagonist and an
antagonist. The action reaches a high point
and results in a climax,
the turning point in the play.
time and place in which a story unfolds. The setting in Act 1, scene
1 of Shakespeare's Romeo and
Juliet, for example, is a public square in Verona, Italy. A drama may contain a single
setting, Or the setting may change from scene to scene.
A short fictional narrative. It is difficult
to set forth the point at which a short story becomes a short novel
(novelette), or the page number at which a novelette becomes a novel.
Here are some examples which may help in determining which is which:
Ernest Hemingway's "Big Two-Hearted River" is a short story;
John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men is a novelette; and Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter is a novel.
figure of speech which compares two unlike things using a direct word
of comparison. "Like" or "as" are the most common
words used when forming a simile, but others may be used.
Simile is used in this line from Ezra Pound's "Fan-Piece,
for Her Imperial Lord": clear as frost on the grass-blade. In this line, a fan of white silk is being
compared to frost on a blade of grass. Note the use of the word "as."
drama, a moment when a character is alone and speaks his or her thoughts
aloud. In the line "To
be, or not to be, that is the question:" which begins the
famous soliloquy from Act 3, scene 1 of Shakespeare's Hamlet,
Hamlet questions whether or not life is worth living, and speaks of
the reasons why he does not end his life.
lyric poem of fourteen lines whose ryhme
scheme is fixed. The rhyme scheme in the Italian form as typified
in the sonnets of Petrarch is ABBA ABBA
CDE CDE. The Petrarchian
or Italian sonnet has two divisions: the first is of eight lines (the
octave), and the second is of six lines (the sestet). The rhyme scheme
of the English, or Shakespearean sonnet is ABAB CDCD EFEF GG. The
change of rhyme in the English sonnet is coincidental with a change
of theme in the poem. The meter is iambic pentameter. Edmund Spenser is another sonneteer from England. A Spenserian sonnet differs from a Shakespearean
sonnet in its rhyme scheme. Traditionally
a Spenserian sonnet will follow an ABBA CDDC EFG EFG rhyming pattern.
major subdivision in a poem. The following are traditional names for
2 lines - couplet
3 lines - tercet
4 lines - quatrain
5 lines - quintet
6 lines - sestet
7 lines - septet
8 lines - octet or octave
author's method of treating a character so that the character is immediately
identified with a group. A character may be associated with a group
through accent, food choices, style of dress, or any readily identifiable
group characteristic. Examples are the rugged cowboy, the bearded
psychiatrist, and the scary villain. A criticism leveled at TV drama
is that those who produce such dramas use outdated or negative qualities
of groups to stereotype individuals. Ignoring the group's positive
qualities, they perpetuate and strengthen the group's negative image
in the minds of viewers. Some examples are: the Jewish accountant,
the corrupt politician, the Black gambler in a zoot suit, and the voice on the phone in a Middle Eastern
accent associated with a bomb threat. A well-known tobacco company
uses the stereotype of the rugged cowboy in its cigarette ads.
Many elements enter into the style of a
work: the author's use of figurative language, diction, sound effects
and other literary devices. Jonathon Swift's style is punctuated with
biting satirical jabs at England. Ernest Hemingway's style derives, in part, from
his short, powerful sentences. The style of the Declaration of Independence
can be described as elegant.
The underlying means or intent of the work
- explicating what it is about real life that the author wants us
to learn. The theme provides an answer to the question
What is the work about? There are too many
possible themes to recite them all in this document. Each literary
work carries its own theme(s). The theme of Robert Frost's "Acquainted
with the Night" is loneliness. Shakespeare's "King Lear"
contains many themes, among which are blindness and madness. Unlike
plot, which deals with the action of a work, theme concerns itself
with a work's message or contains the general idea of a work.
expresses the author's / narrator's /speaker's attitude toward his
or her subject. Since there are as many tones in literature as there
are tones of voice in real relationships, the tone of a literary work
may be one of anger or approval, pride or piety-the entire gamut of
attitudes toward life's phenomena. Here is one literary example: The
tone of John Steinbeck's short novel Cannery Row is nonjudgmental. Mr. Steinbeck
never expresses disapproval of the antics of Mack and his band of
bums. Rather, he treats them with unflagging kindness.
is "an imitation of an action that is serious, complete and of
a certain magnitude; in language embellished with each kind of artistic
ornament... in the form of drama, not of narrative, through pity and
fear effecting the proper purgation of these emotions (catharsis)."
Tragedy must tell of a person who is "highly renowned and prosperous"
and who falls as a result of some "error, or frailty," because
of external or internal forces, or both.