English 4IB Literary Devices
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a story or visual image with a second distinct meaning
partially hidden behind its literal meaning.
the repetition of beginning letters or sounds in a
sequence of words. Ex. “She sells seashells by the sea shore”.
an indirect and
unexplained remark regarding a person, place or event that is related to the
topic and requires its reader to have knowledge of the referred to topic.
the misplacing of
any person, thing, custom, or event outside its proper historical time. An
example would be modern clothes in Shakespearean plays. Intentional or unintentional.
stories that are told in a non-linear or
non-chronological order. The term
specifically deals with the recognition that the events being shown are not the
first to occur in the story. Think of
flashbacks, or flashforwards
: a grammatical term for a change of construction in a
sentence that leaves the initial construction unfinished: “Either you go–but
higher spiritual meaning derived or taken from a
text. Related to allegories, usually
dealing with ideas of humanity and not simply individuals
a method to fill
readers or viewers in to information about characters in stories that are in
media res, in the middle of action. Retrospection.
an idea by using another, more easily understandable
the same word or phrase, usually at the beginning,
repeated in successive lines, clauses or phrases.
a figure of
speech that makes a pun by repeating the same word or two words sounding alike
(homophone), but with differing senses.
a general setup
that is finished with a dissimilar resolution.
a main character lacking the qualities of a typical
a figure of speech in which a pair of words is
repeated in reverse order
a single word
that is the opposite adjective of the noun it describes. Shortest form of irony.
opposition, either rhetorical or philosophical.
proper name with an epithet (a word that characterizes a person), official or
other indirect description. A famous
proper name can also act as an antonomastic name.
Abbreviated meaning in a few wise words
another word for
a symbol, theme
setting or character-type that recurs in different times and places in myth,
literature, folklore, dreams, and rituals so frequently or prominently as to
suggest that it embodies some essential element of “universal” human
the lack of
conjunctions or connecting words between clauses. “I came, I saw, I conquered”.
artistic work that has no apparent meaning or
end. It is simply what it is.
hyperbole. Using a word of
exaggerated form in place of another to accent importance.
a story that tracks the protagonist from their early
years to adulthood, incorporating the difficulties of finding a sense of self
or identity. Also known as a
inflated and grandiloquent diction, disproportionate to its subjects.
words: hyperbole, rodomontade(negative), purple patch
incorrectly, such as mixing metaphors or using a term incorrectly.
denouement or resolution in a tragedy.
The protagonist usually dies in this type of ending.
A purge or
cleansing of the soul at the end of a tragedy or tragic drama. Also used as a term to describe redemption
for the protagonist resolving their guilty feelings.
representation of persons in narrative and dramatic works. Direct methods are
mentioned through qualities while indirect are through actions and dialogue to
be inferred. Flat, static, and
two-dimensional characters are characters that are unchanging throughout the
story. Dynamic, or round characters
change and are less predictable in the story.
two clauses that
are stated in reverse order of each other.
“Sin is pleasure, pleasure is a sin”(antimetabole) or two ideas that are
corresponding to each other and reversed, “Despised if ugly; if she’s fair
betrayed”. A “criss-cross”in
in a long, drawn out or roundabout way instead of referring to it simply and
accurately. Also known as periphrasis.
The point where
there is the most action, the peak of a build up.
point in a novel or play when a decision will greatly affect what will happens
next and, more importantly, the denouement.
a hard to
understand passage that the interpretation of the play depends on.
: the end of a complication
in a story, clearing up any problems.
Sometimes called a resolution and occurring most often at the end of the
“God from a
machine”. A denouement finding
resolution from an illogical source, such as a character introduced at the end
to solve all problems.
Deus Ex Machina
to deviate from
the main point with something that is not wholly on topic before returning to
the initial point
seeing is believing.
*The belief in observation and experience as the basis for
knowledge. This is versus logical
section of a literary work. Usually the
epilogue highlights the events that occur after the main story is finished to give
a larger sense of closure.
an adjective or
adjective phrase that is supposed to describe a person and their quality. Ex. Stan the Man
The repetition of
a word, for emphasis, with no breaks in the middle.
Ex. dirty, dirty
A term for a name
that is applied to a place or thing. Ex.
Hamlet is the eponymous character for Hamlet. But they can also be indirectly mentioned,
like Rainsford in “The Most Dangerous Game”.
ambiguous expression. Think of a pun or
Equivoque/ equivocal/ to equivocate
the attempt to analyze a literary work thoroughly,
giving full attention to its complexities of form and meaning
A term used to
substitute a more clinical or uncomfortable thing. Like using “going potty” instead of “having a
A moral story
which commonly utilizes animals or inanimate objects personified. The moral of
the story tend to be delivered
A character with
qualities or actions that highlight the characteristics of the protagonist.
Greek for error
or failure. It is the cause of a protagonist’s downfall in a tragedy through
misjudgment, ignorance or outside forces.
Our reading and
understanding of a material based on our modern preconceptions, explaining
possible differences between generational differences in interpretations.
Horizon of Expectations
Defiance of moral
standards or godly request which leads to the protagonist of a tragedy to their
fate (hamartia). Commonly referred to as the pride before the fall.
when the story begins in the middle of action
In Medias Res
Comes in verbal,
structural, dramatic, tragic and cosmic. It is a subtle inconsistency that
leads to a misunderstanding of the original intended statement or event,
created through an undermining by context.
A story or group
of stories exaggerated and passed down orally. The subjects are human, not gods
A repeated phrase, image, symbol, or situation whose
constant presence reaffirms the theme.
A figure of
speech where the negative phrase is used as a positive affirmation. (I’m not
opposed to having a drink)
emphasize a unique aspect of a region, often humorous. Customs, dialect,
manners and method of story can all fall under this.
Local color writing
A work that
utilizes fantastic events and occurrences, yet remains grounded in a realistic
setting or objective authentic conveyance of story.
The incorrect or
inaccurate use of a long word or words, often comical as a result. (Cinnamons
and Anti names instead of synonyms and antonyms)
memorable statement about a general principle. Sometimes seen as advice
to make smaller, understating or make less or
something. (A bleeding wound referred to as a scratch)
a novel that
poses as a true autobiographical writing.
fiction. A book openly recognizes its fictional status through the author’s
interruption of the continuous story.
something with another thing closely associated with it. (The bottle for
alcohol, the press for newspapers.)
A dramatized allegory with concepts of virtues and
vice personified and religious or moral overtones.
incident, idea, image, or character-type that is found in many different
literary works, folktales or myths; or any element of a work that is elaborated
into a more general theme.
A reality-based story written to highlight human
beings as being subject to nature or social environment.
punishment for wrongdoing, or the person who carries
out the punishment, typically in tragedies. Often broken down into a definition
of an enemy.
a word that is
created for a single occasion or has only occurred once.
A figure of speech that places two words of opposite
meaning together to form a paradoxical statement.
a word spelled the same, forward and back
A short tale that
is intended to be an allegory, to teach a lesson or moral.
A pattern or
model in which some quality or relation is illustrated in its purest form.
A statement that
is so contradictory that we have to assume a different meaning for it.
A restatement of
ideas in the text to create a clearer understanding of the ideas. It is the
separation or abstraction of the content from the form.
the juxtaposition of sentences or clauses without a
clear connection to each other. (I’m tired; you stay here)
An imitation of a work or writing, making fun of style
or the general school of thought by exaggeration
A work that uses
borrowed methods, usually from another time period. Sometimes used to criticize
lack of originality.
A build up of a
sentence before revealing its conclusion, usually with a balance of subordinate
a reversal of
fortune and circumstance, usually coinciding with an epiphany, revelation, or recognition (also known as an
a figure of
speech that applies human characteristics to animals, abstracts and non-human
a story that has
multiple points of view or speakers interacting on equal terms.
: a figure of speech in which a partial repetition
arises from the use in close proximity of two related words having different
forms, e.g. singular and plural forms of the same word: ‘Going, going gone’.
meaning serious or tomb)
The repeated use
of conjunctions to link together words, phrases and sentences. “The woods were
filled with bears and rabbits and sheep and frogs and bucks and…”Opposite of
an argument then answering the argument to solidify a claim.
A description or
epithet in a story that will later become true or information given about a
character prior to the event occurring. Greek for anticipation.
The battle of
virtues and vice for the soul or within the soul.
a phrase or
statement with two different interpretations created by the use of homophones
the character in
a play that most likely is a funnel for the author’s view. They tend to be
detached from the play and have a more accurate, objective view.
A method of
writing seeking to portray life accurately or reflecting an actual way of life.
A rapid and witty
response in conversation, usually turning an insult back on its originator. May
also refer to ones talent to do so.
A term for a
heroic family centric story spanning two or more generations.
A form of writing
that exposes weakness or flaws in people, institutions or societies to mock or
a brief outline
of characters, plot and scene changes in a drama.
the study of
meaning in a sentence.
two characters have a rapid fire speak and response conversation of one liners,
typically incorporating a piece of the other’s utterance.
of the continuous flow, and perception and reception of the human minds,
usually disjointed and scattered to reflect the condition.
Stream of Conscious
sequence of events occurring with minor characters.
represents more than they are. (A heart meaning love, rather than just a heart)
contraction omitting a letter in the middle of a word. (O’er for over)
Referring to a
person or people with only a part of what makes them up. (“Hands for laborers”,
“the law for a police officer”.)
Word order, and
the functions and rules related to it.
a picture formed
by people in a static pose (standing still).
abstract idea that emerges from a literary work’s treatment of its subject
manner; or a topic recurring in a number of literary works. Characterization,
motifs, language, plot are indicators of theme.
The defect in
character that leads to the downfall of the protagonist. Similar to hamartia.
a parody that is
extreme in its neglect of seriousness or its treatment of unimportant content
as highly important.
a written work
devoted to the systematic examination of a particular subject, usually
philosophical or scientific.
a figure of
speech using words in ways beyond their literal meanings. Examples are
metaphors, similes, irony, and personification. A trope often affects the
meaning of words in a more abstract way, rather than in a semantic way.
a play written
with only two speaking parts.
of emotion or attitude towards a subject
use of wording to make a larger situation seem smaller
a short, self
contained story, essay or descriptive
the more widely
accepted attitudes or ideas of a time period
figure of speech describing a sentence where one noun or verb refers to two
others in the same sentence. There are multiple versions of this term.
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