Literary terms definitions Middlemist

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Last updated: May 9, 2019

A casual reference in literature to a person, place, event, or another passage of literature, often without explicit identification.

(T.H. white related to Hitler and the Nazis a bit)

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1. Allusion
A casual reference in literature to a person, place, event, or another passage of literature, often without explicit identification. (T.H.

white related to Hitler and the Nazis a bit).

2. Antagonist
the adversary/obstacle of the hero or protagonist of a drama or other literary work. (Not necessarily human)

3. Protagonist
the leading character, hero, or heroine of a drama or other literary work.



the principal male character in a story, play, film, etc. A hero (Google definition) sacrifice for others, virtuous, who is admired for courage or noble qualities.

5. Anti-hero
a protagonist who lacks the attributes that make a heroic figure, as nobility of mind and spirit, a life or attitude marked by action or purpose.

While a condition hero might be dashing, lucky, strong, and while an anti-hero might be ugly, dumb, incompetent, and unlucky.

6. Plot Line
dialogue that advances the plot, as in a play or motion-picture script.

• Exposition
the introduction to the characters and setting of the story. The exposition hooks the reader, providing enough interest and information to the intended audience to encourage the reader to continue reading.

• Rising Action
the rising action introduces the conflict or problem in the story. This part of the plot tells us what it is that the main character or protagonist is facing.

During the rising action, the main character struggles with this conflict or problem.

• Climax
the high point of the story where the primary conflict or problem changes or is resolved. Something happens in the climax to create a turning point for the characters in the story.

• Falling Action
This is that part of a story which follows the climax or turning point: it contains the action or dialogue necessary to lead the story to a resolution or ending.

• Resolution
The resolution (or denouement) is the conclusion of the story.

• Internal Conflict
psychological struggle within the mind of a literary or dramatic character, the resolution of which creates the plot’s suspense.

• External Conflict
struggle between a person and an outside force.

• Man vs. Man
struggle between a person and another person.

• Man vs. Nature
struggle between a person and nature.

• Man vs. Self
struggle between a person and himself/herself.

• Man vs. Technology
struggle between a person and technology.

• 3-D, Dynamic
A round character is a major character in a work of fiction who encounters conflict and is changed by it.

• 2-D, Static
Static characters are minor characters in a work of fiction who do not undergo substantial change or growth in the course of a story. Also referred to as “two-dimensional characters” or “flat characters,”

9. Connotation
An idea or meaning suggested by or associated with a word or thing

10. Denotation
Dictionary definition.



the conversation between characters in a novel, drama, etc. Sometimes used as the expository part of the story.



a figure of speech in which a term or phrase is applied to something to which it is not literally applicable in order to suggest a resemblance, as in “A mighty fortress is our God.”

13. Simile
a figure of speech in which two unlike things are explicitly compared, as in “she is like a rose.”

14. Flashback
a device in the narrative of a motion picture, novel, etc., by which an event or scene taking place before the present time in the narrative is inserted into the chronological structure of the work.

15. Foreshadowing
to show or indicate beforehand; prefigure: Political upheavals foreshadowed war.

16. Genre
a class or category of artistic endeavor having a particular form, content, technique, or the like: the genre of epic poetry; the genre of symphonic music.



the use of words to convey a meaning that is the opposite of its literal meaning: the irony of her reply, “How nice!” when I said I had to work all weekend.

• Verbal
irony in which a person says or writes one thing and means another, or uses words to convey a meaning that is the opposite of the literal meaning, sarcasm.

• Dramatic
irony that is inherent in speeches or a situation of a drama and is understood by the audience but not grasped by the characters in the play.



refers to words that do not deviate from their defined meaning

19. Figurative
Figurative language refers to words, and groups of words, that exaggerate or alter the usual meanings of the component words. Language that is not meant to be taken into literal sense, engages your imagination.

20. Euphemism
the substitution of a mild, indirect, or vague expression for one thought to be offensive, harsh, or blunt.

21. Paradox
a statement or proposition that seems self-contradictory or absurd but in reality expresses a possible truth.

22. Personification
the attribution of a personal nature or character to inanimate objects or abstract notions, especially as a rhetorical figure.

23. Point of View
The narrator’s position in relation to the story being told.

• 1st person
the speaker is a character in the story or poem and tells it from his/her perspective (uses “I”).

• 2nd person
(use of you) not usually seen in narration – sometimes a technique used in essays. Not very common.

• 3rd person limited
the speaker is not part of the story, but tells about the other characters but limits information about what one character sees and feels. Short stories: good knowledge of one character.

• 3rd omniscient
the speaker is not part of the story, but is able to “know” and describe what all characters are thinking.

24. Setting
the locale, period, social circumstance in which the action of a novel, play, film, etc., takes place. Short stories: knowing more than one character.

25. Symbol
A word, place, character, or object that means something beyond what it is on a literal level. For instance, consider the stop sign. It is literally a metal octagon painted red with white streaks.

26. Theme
A central idea or statement that unifies and controls an entire literary work.

27. Tone
The means of creating a relationship or conveying an attitude or mood. The tone might be formal or informal, playful, ironic, optimistic, pessimistic, or sensual.

28. Imagery
A common term of variable meaning, imagery includes the “mental pictures” that readers experience with a passage of literature. The five senses must be engaged.

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