Rhetorical Terms and Literary Devices in Literature–Part B

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Last updated: May 11, 2019
Imperative sentence
Issues a command (example: Kick the ball now!)

When the opposite of what you expect to happen does. Verbal irony–When you say something and mean the opposite/something different. For example, if your gym teacher wants you to run a mile in eight minutes or faster, but calls it a “walk in the park” it would be verbal irony. If your voice tone is bitter, it’s called sarcasm.Dramatic irony–is when the audience of a drama, play, movie, etc.

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knows something that the character doesn’t and would be surprised to find out. For example, in many horror movies, we (the audience) know who the killer is, which the victim-to-be has no idea who is doing the slaying. Sometimes the character trusts the killer completely when (ironically) he/she shouldn’t.Situational irony–is found in the plot (or story line) of a book, story, or movie.

Sometimes it makes you laugh because it’s funny how things turn out. (example: Johnny spent two hours planning on sneaking into the movie theater and missed the movie. When he finally did manage to sneak inside he found out that kids were admitted free that day).

Placing things side by side for the purposes of comparison. Comparison of things or ideas. Authors often use juxtaposition or examples in order to make a point. (For example, an author might juxtapose the average day of a typical American with that of someone in the third world in order to make a point of social commentary).

Logical Reasoning–Logos
Reasoning based on logic or reasoning; reasoning based on Theoretical, abstract language; Denotative meanings/reasons; literal and historical analogies; definitions; factual data and statistics; quotations; citations from experts and authorities; informed opinions.

Loose Sentence
A complex sentence in which the main clause comes first and the subordinate clause follows. Example: I do not wish to go to school, even though I might learn something interesting.

A figure of speech using implied comparison of seemingly unlike things or the substitution of one for another, suggesting some similarity. Usually identified by comparing objects directly, using words like “was” or “is” (example: The wicked stepmother was evil. She was a cold-hearted snake.)

The atmostphere created by the literature and accomplished through word choice (diction). Syntax is often a creator of mood since word order, sentence length and strength and complexity also affect pacing and therefore mood. Setting, tone, and events can all affect the mood.

Statement that does not logically follow another.

An author’s stance that distances himself from personal involvement.

A figure of speech in which natural sounds are imitated in the sounds of the words. When the word sounds like the idea it communicates: “murmur”, “gurgle”, “roar”, “buzz”.

If you identify this in a passage, make sure to explain WHY the author chose to use it…how does it impact the passage?

When the writer denies the complexity of an idea.

A rhetorical antithesis–“Wise fool” “eloquent silence”, “jumbo shrimp”. Apparently contradictory terms are grouped together and suggest a paradox.

A seemingly contradictory statement which is actually true. An idea which embeds a contradiction.

(example: “You can’t get a job without experience, and you can’t get experience without getting a job.”)

Also known as parallel construction. Sentence construction which places equal grammatical constructions near each other or repeats patterns two or more times. IT IS THE REPETITION OF STRUCTURE NOT THE REPETITION OF IDEAS IN DIFFERENT WORDS. It may involve two or three modifiers in a row or repeated beginnings of longer sentences.

The author might repeat a preposition, or verbal phrase. Charles Dickens’ novel A Tale of Two Cities begins with “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…etc…etc”.

Parallelism is used to add emphasis, organization, or sometimes pacing to a persuasive speech. Julius Caesar “I came, I saw, I conquered.”Another example of parallel construction: She looked tired, frustrated, and disgusted.

Yet another example (notice the parallel construction of each part, as they are laid out in each new line): A new generation of Americans born in this century tempered by war disciplined by a hard and bitter peace proud of their ancient heritage.

An exaggerated imitation of a serious work for humorous purposes. It borrows words or phrases from an original, and pokes fun at it. This is also a form of allusion, since it is referencing a previous text, event, etc. The Simpsons often do parodies fo Shakespeare plays. Saturday Night Live also does parodies of famous persons and events.

Passive Voice
The subject of the sentence receives the action. The passive voice is often overused, leaving writing to seem lifeless.

When possible, focus on using active voice. (example: The books wer grabbed by the boy on his way out the door.) See also, Active Voice

adj. observing strict adherence to formal rules or literal meaning at the expense of a wider view. This can also refer to the author’s tone, as overly scholarly and academic.

Periodic Sentence
A sentence in which the main clause (or the main idea) comes last. (notice this sentence is also parallel in construction). Example: If students are absorbed in their own limited worlds, if they are disdainful of the work of their teachers, if they are scornful of the lessons of the past, then the great cultural heritage which must be transmitted from generation to generation will be lost.

The fictional mask or narrator that tells a story.

A type of figurative language which attributes human qualities to non-human subjects. (example: The ocean roared in anger at the ship and its crew.)

Persuasive Writing
is a type of argumentation having the additional aim of urging some form of action.

Predicate Adjective
An adjective, group of adjectives, or adjective clause that follows a linking verb. It is in the predicate of the sentence, and modifies the subject.

(Example: “My dog is fat, slow, and shaggy.” the group of predicate adjectives (fat, slow, and shaggy) describe my dog.)

Predicate Nominative
A noun, group of nouns, or noun clause that renames the subject. It follows a linking verb and is located in the predicate of the sentence. (example: “My dog is a mutt with character.

” IN this case “mutt with character” is the predicate nominative since it renames “my dog”.

Redefining your argument so that it no longer conflicts with the valid claim of an opposing viewpoint (see Concession). This is known as qualifying your argument.

When the writer musters relevant opposing arguments.

Reinforcing a point by repeating the point. Repetition can also involve simply repeating a word or series of words which are fundamental to the author’s point.

The art of effective communication.

Rhetorical Question
Question not asked for information but for effect (example: The angry parent asked the child, “Are you done interrupting me?” In this case, the parent does not expect a reply, but simply wants to draw the child’s attention to the rudeness of interrupting.)

A generally bitter comment that is ironically worded. However, not all ironic statements are sarcastic. Sarcasm is usually a way to mock or ridicule something, while irony isn’t.

A work that reveals a critical attitude toward some element of life to a humorous effect. It targets human vices and follies, or social institutions and conventions. It usually uses wit, irony, parody, caricature, hyperbole, sarcasm. Good satire is not only funny, but thought provoking.

(Kurt Vonnegut has written many great satires).

A group of words (including a subject and verb) that expresses a complete thought.

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