You are on page 1of 4

English 11

Literary Terms

Interpretive Literature: includes realism (character/plot) and theme; intended to

reveal something about life.

2. Escapist Literature: purpose is entertainment; often exaggerated, fantastical.

3. Plot: the events of a story or narrative with a variety of sequencing patterns. The
plot is what happens in the story.
4. Exposition: the background information of a story, the story before the story.
5. Conflict: the struggle between two forces, one generally being the protagonist of
the story. The antagonist can be the self, another person, animal, nature,
technology/machine, society, or the supernatural
6. Climax: the point in the story where the conflict is at its peak, when the conflict
has reached its crisis and one of the two forces "wins."
7. Resolution: the conclusion of the story, the unfolding of the theme, the "happy
ending," the tying together; what occurs in the resolution depends on the kind of
story and the author's purpose.
8. Foreshadowing: clues in the writing that lead the reader to predict what will happen
later in the story.
9. Suspense: the author intentionally leaves information out, or doesn't answer
questions to prompt the reader to wonder, often anxiously, about what will happen
next. Suspense is the quality of "being on the edge of our seat" as we read to see
what will happen.
10. Flashback: a strategy of plot sequencing where the author takes the reader back to
events that occurred before the present time in the story.
11. Protagonist: the main character of the story
12. Antagonist: the force that works against the protagonist; the antagonist does not
have to be a person (see types of conflicts)
13. Foil: a foil character is either one who is in most ways opposite to the main
character or nearly the same as the main character. The purpose of the foil
character is to emphasize the traits of the main character by comparison or

English 11
14. Confidant: a character with whom another character (often the protagonist) shares
or confides intimate feelings
15. Dynamic character: a dynamic character is one who changes by the end of the
story, learning something that changes him or her in a permanent way.
16. Static character: A static character does not change; he or she is the same person
at the end of the story as he was at the beginning.
17. Round character: a round character is fully developed; readers may
be able to anticipate the actions of a round character if the
characterization is well done and consistent.


18. Flat character: we know very little about a flat character; flat
characters are not meant to serve as main characters. They serve as necessary
elements in plot or as elements of the setting.
19. Stock (Stereotypical): character who conforms to expectations (self-centered
teenager; evil stepmother)
20. Direct Characterization: author reveals character traits through narration
21. Indirect Characterization: character is developed through actions and reactions
22. Narration: a person through which the story is told; factors (self interest;
inconsistency; inexperience; age; immorality; emotionality) may make the narrator
23. First person point of view: the narrator, usually the protagonist, tells the story
from his/her perspective using I, me, we, etc.
24. Second person point of view: a story told using "you," which places the reader
immediately and personally into the story
25. Third person omniscient point of view: the narrator uses third
person pronouns (he/she/they etc.) and is God-like: all knowing
(omniscient). This type of narrator is not limited by time or space.
26. Third person limited point of view: the narrator tells the story using third person
pronouns but limits herself to what one character can sense; the limitations are the
same as in first person.
27. Objective point of view: the narrator does not judge or interpret in any way;
he/she simply presents the story as if recording it on film as it happens

English 11
28. Tone: The author or poet's attitude or feeling toward a person, a thing, a place,
event or situation. It is also the emotional feeling in the poem/story.
29. Theme: The theme is what the author wants us to know about the general truth of
the story. For example, if the story is about "love," the author probably knows
something about love that he/she conveys through the story and the characters.
Theme is an idea that is true for most people over time and across cultures.
30. Imagery: Imagery is language that appeals to the senses. It is description that
makes the reader feel he or she is "in the setting." There are six basic kinds of
imagery: visual (sight), auditory (sound), olfactory (smell), gustatory (taste), tactile
(touch), and kinesthetic (movement).
31. Figurative Language: The general category of language meant to be taken
symbolically or metaphorically, including metaphor, simile, personification, etc.
32. Symbol/Symbolism: A symbol is a person, place, thing or idea that stands for
something else. Water can symbolize purity. Light (as in sun light) often is used to
symbolize knowledge or truth.
33. Dilemma: a difficult choice whether either option is undesirable
34. Epiphany: a sudden, important realization
35. Metaphor: a comparison of two generally unlike things meant to illuminate truth.
Direct metaphors use "is" to make the comparison explicit. Implied metaphors
suggest the comparison.
36. Simile: a metaphor using like, as, than, or similar comparative words to make the
connection between two generally unlike things. The intent of a simile is to illuminate
37. Allegory: an extended metaphor wherein the characters, events, and situations of
the story can be taken on two levels: the literal level and the metaphoric/symbolic
level, each thing representing something else. Ex: Animal Farm
38. Motif: a motif is a recurring image or idea. The repetition of the idea reinforces the
value of the image or idea and usually gets the reader to think about theme.
39. Verbal irony: a discrepancy between what is said and what is meant
40. Situational irony: a discrepancy between what is expected, as in action, or as
regards the situation/setting, and what one would expect to happen

English 11
41. Dramatic irony: a discrepancy between what the character knows and what the
reader knows to be true; it's when the reader knows something the character does
not know