Literary and Rhetoric Terms

Finn Dalum Larsen

København, feb 2009, 2. udgave

Introduktion: Dette er min sammenbringning og redigering af 5 forskellige hjemmesider om litterære og retoriske termer. Jeg har også benyttet mig af The Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory by J.A. Cuddon, 4th edition, 1998. (god side). (meget, meget flot side). (god side)

Meningen er, at vi så i bedste fald kan øve os i at bruge det samme ordforråd om litteratur, som vi er opøvede til på dansk. Mange af begreberne er enslydende på de to sprog. Dette skulle gøre det muligt at hæve vores engelske samtale, om de i året læste tekster, op på et nyt, et andet og mere interessant niveau. Dette støtter også danskundervisningen, da der blive mere tid til at indøve analysefærdigheder, når også engelsk inddrages.


Literary and Rhetoric Terms


Allegory. A story in which persons, places, and things form a system of clearly labeled

equivalents, standing for other definite meanings, which are often abstractions.

Characters may be given names such as "Hope" or "Everyman" because they have

few personal qualities beyond their abstract meanings.


Alliteration: repetition of the same sound beginning several words in sequence.

*Let us go forth to lead the land we love. J. F. Kennedy, Inaugural


Allusion. A brief reference to some person, place, or thing in history, in other literature,

or in actutality. An implied or indirect reference to something assumed to be known,

such as an historical event or personage, a well-known quotation from literature, or a famous work of art, such as Keats' allusion to Titian's painting of Bacchus in "Ode to a Nightingale."

Sidelight: An allusion can be used by the poet as a means of imagery, since, like a symbol, it can suggest ideas by connotation; its effectiveness, of course, depends upon the reader's acquaintance with the reference alluded to.


Anachronism. The assignment of something to a time when it was not inexistence.


Anticlimax. The intentional use of elevated language to describe the trivial or

commonplace, or a sudden transition from a significant thought to a trivial one in order to achieve a humorous or satiric effect, as in Pope's

The Rape of the Lock:

Here thou, great Anna! whom three realms obey,

Dost sometimes counsel take -- and sometimes tea.

An anticlimax also occurs in a series in which the ideas or events ascend toward a climactic conclusion but terminate instead in a thought of lesser importance. Bathos is an anticlimax which is unintentional.


Antithesis. Opposition, or contrast of ideas or words in a balanced or parallel construction.

*Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice, moderation in the pursuit of justice is no

virtue. Barry Goldwater

*Brutus: Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more. Shakespeare, Julius


*The vases of the classical period are but the reflection of classical beauty; the vases of the

archaic period are beauty itself." Sir John Beazley.

A figure of speech in which a thought is balanced with a contrasting thought in parallel arrangements of words and phrases, such as "He promised wealth and provided poverty," or "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. . . , " or from Pope's An Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot:

Willing to wound, and yet afraid to strike,

Also, an antithesis is the second of two contrasting or opposing constituents, following the thesis.


Antonym. One of two or more words that have opposite meanings.


Archaism: use of an older or obsolete form.

*Pipit sate upright in her chair. Some distance from where I was sitting; T. S. Eliot, "A Cooking Egg"


Aside. A brief speech in which a character turns from the person he is addressing to

speak directly to the audience, a dramatic device for letting the audience know what

he is really thinking or feeling as opposed to what he pretends to think or feel.

Assonance: The repetition at close intervals of the vowel sounds of accented syllables

or important words (hat-ran-amber, vein-made). Repetition of the same sound in words close to each other.

*Thy kingdom come, thy will be done.

*O fortunatam natam me consule Romam! Cicero, de consulatu


Bildungsroman. (German) A novel or tale of growth or development, usually from

adolescence to maturity.


Cacophony. A harsh, discordant, unpleasant-sounding choice and arrangement of


Canon. The works generally considered by scholars, critics, and teachers to be the

most important to study or read, which collectively constitute the "masterpieces" or

"classics" of literature.

Carpe diem. (Latin--"sieze the day") A theme, especially common in lyric potery, that

emphasize that life is short, time is fleeting, and that one should make the most of

present pleasures.

Character. (1) Any of the persons involved in a story. (2) The distinguishing moral

qualities and personal traits of a character.

Developing (or dynamic) character. A character who during the course of

a story undergoes a permanent change in some aspect of his personality

or outlook.

Flat character. A character who has only one outstanding trait or feature,

or at the most a few distinguishing marks.

Round character. A character who is complex, multi-dimensional, and


Stock character. A stereotyped character: one whose nature is familiar

from prototypes in previous fiction.

Static character. A character who is the same sort of person at the end of

a story as s/he was at the beginning.

Chorus. A group of actors speaking or chanting in unison, often while going through

the steps of an elaborate formalized dance; a characteristic device of Greek drama

for conveying communal or group emotion.

Cliché. Cliche' (F 'stereotype plate') A trite, over-used expression which is lifeless. A very large number of idioms have become cliche's through excessive use. The following sentence contains eight common ones:

"When the grocer, who was as fit as a fiddle, had taken stock of the situation he saw the writing on the wall, but decided to turn over a new leaf and put his house in order by taking a long shot at eliminating his rival in the street who was also an old hand at making the best of a bad job."

Eric Partridge's A Dictionary of Cliches is one of the best guides to these literary tares.(Penguin).

Climax: The turning point or high point in a plot. Arrangement of words, phrases, or clauses in an order of ascending power. Often the last emphatic word in one phrase or clause is repeated as the first emphatic word of the next.

*One equal temper of heroic hearts,

Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will

To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield. Tennyson, Ulysses

Comedy. A type of drama, opposed to tragedy, usually havinga happy ending, and

emphasizing human limitation rather than human greatness.

Scornful comedy. A type of comedy whose main purpose is to expose

and ridicule human folly, vanity, or hypocrisy.

Romantic comedy. A type of comedy whose likable and sensible main

characters are placed in difficulties from which they are rescued at the end

of the play, either attaining their ends or having their good fortunes

restored. Oftentimes, romantic comedies conclude with marriages.

Conceit. An extendedand elaborate metaphoric comparison that may form the

framework of an entire powm.

See! how she leans her cheek upon her hand:

0! that I were a glove upon that hand,

That I might touch that cheek.

(Romeo and Juliet, II, i)

Conflict. A clash of actions, desires, ideas, or goals in the plot of a story. Conflict may

exist between the main character and some other person or persons (woman against

woman), between the main character and some external force--physical nature,

society, or "fate" (woman against environment), or between the main character and

some destructive element in his own nature (wo/man against her/himself).

Connotation. Implied, associated, or suggested meaning(s), usually derived in

context. For example the word "eagle" connotes liberty and freedom, which has little to

with its dictionary definition. The word, home, for example, means the place where one lives, but by connotation, also suggests security, family, love and comfort.

See Denotation.


Denotation. Literal or dictionary meanings of words.

See Connotation.

Drama. (Greek--"to do" or "to perform") Drama is designed to be performed, as

opposed to plays, which is a term for a work of dramatic literature.

Drama of the Absurd. A type of drama, allied to comedy, radically nonrealistic in both

content and presentation, that emphasizes the absurdity, emptiness, or

meaninglessness of life.


Editorializing. Writing that departs from the narrative or dramatic mode and instructs

the reader how to think or feel about the events of a story or the behavior of a


Epic. A long narrative poem, told in a formal elevated style, that focuses on a serious

subject and chronicles heroic deeds and events important to a culture or nation.

Epiphany. Some moment of insight, discovery, or revelation by which a character's life

of view of life is greatly altered.

Euphemism: substitution of an agreeable or at least non-offensive expression for one whose

plainer meaning might be harsh or unpleasant.


*When the final news came, there would be a ring at the front door -- a wife in this situation finds herself staring at the front door as if she no longer owns it or controls it--and outside the door would be a man... come to inform her that unfortunately something has happened out there, and her husband's body now lies incinerated in the swamps or the pines or the palmetto grass, "burned beyond recognition," which anyone who had been around an air base very long (fortunately Jane had not) realized was quite an artful euphemism to describe a human body that now looked like an enormous fowl that has burned up in a stove, burned a blackish brown all over, greasy and blistered, fried, in a word, with not only the entire face and all the hair and the ears burned off, not to mention all the clothing, but also the hands and feet, with what remains of the arms and legs bent at the knees and elbows and burned into absolutely rigid angles, burned a greasy blackish brown like the bursting body itself, so that this husband, father, officer, gentleman, this ornamentum of some mother's eye, His Majesty the Baby of just twenty-odd years back, has been reduced to a charred hulk with wings and shanks sticking out of it. Tom Wolfe, The Right Stuff

Exposition. A narrative device, often at the beginning of a work, that provides

necessary background information about the characters and their circumstances.


Fable. A poetic story that illustrates a moral or teaches a lesson, usually in which animals or inanimate objects are represented as characters.

Fairy tale. The fairy tale belongs to folk litterature and is a part of the oral tradition. The orgins of the fairy tale is obscure. (Penguin)

Falling action. That segment of the plot that comes between the climax and the

conclusion. See Denoument.

Farce. A type of drama related to comedy but emphasizing improbable situations,

violent conflicts, physical action, and coarse wit over characterization or articulated


Fiction: Any narrative which has not actually occurred in the historical or real world, usually

written in prose. Stylistically, the description or narration of fictional events usually has some

noteworthy linguistic manifestations in the literary work. Fiction is often associated with the novel.

Figurative language. Language employing figures of speech; language that cannot be

taken literally or only literally.

Figure of speech. Broadly, any way of saying something other than the ordinary way,

more narrowly a way of saying one thing and meaning another.

Flashback. A reference to an event which took place prior to the beginning of a story or play.

In Ernest Hemingway's "The Snows of Kilamanjaro," the protagonist, Harry

Street, has been injured on a hunt in Africa. Dying, his mind becomes

preoccupied with incidents in his past. In a flashback Street remembers one of his

wartime comrades dying painfully on barbed wire on a battlefield in Spain.

Folk ballad/ folksong. A narrative poem designed to be sung, composed by an anonymous

author, and transmitted orally for years or generations before being written down. It

has usually undergone modification through the process of oral transmission.

Foreshadowing. An indication or hint of (usually unpleasant) future events.

Four levels of meaning. The origins of the four levels of meaning are not certain, but an awareness of them is manifest in the Middle Ages. It was Dante who explained most clearly (in the Epistle to his patron Can Grande della Scala) what they consisted of. He was introducing the matter of the Divina Commedia and he distinguished: (a) the literal or historical meaning; (b) the moral meaning; (c) the allegorical meaning; (d) the anagogical.

Such criteria applied to, for instance, Orwell's Animal Farm, might suggest the following: (a) the story is about the revolt of the animals against their human overlords, and the outcome of that revolt; (b) 'power tends to corrupt'; (c) Major = Lenin; Napoleon = Stalin; Snowball = Trotsky; Jones = corrupt capitalist landowners and so forth; (d) human (and ammal) nature does not change. See ALLEGORY. (Penguin).

Four meanings In Practical Criticism (1929) I. A. Richards distinguishes four different meanings in a poem: (a) the sense - what is actually said; (b) feeling - the writer's emotional attitude towards it; (c) tone - the writer's attitude towards his reader; (d) intention - the writer's purpose, the effect he is aiming at. (Penguin).


Hubris. (Greek) Extreme pride, leading to overconfidence, that results in the

misfortune of a tragic hero. Hubris leads the hero to break a moral law, vainly attempt

to transcend human limits, or ignore a divine warning with disastrous results.

Hymn. Song or praise of God.

Hyperbole: exaggeration for emphasis or for rhetorical effect. A figure of speech in which exaggeration is used in the service of truth.

*My vegetable love should grow

Vaster than empires, and more slow;


An hundred years should got to praise

Thine eyes and on thine forehead gaze;

Two hundred to adore each breast,

But thirty thousand to the rest. Andrew Marvell, "To His Coy Mistress"

Hyperstatization. A form of personification in which an abstract quality is spoken of as something human. For example: "Truth insist I tell the story." Decency compells me to admit the truth."(Penguin).


Indirect presentation of character. That method of characterization in which the author

shows us a character in action, compelling us to infer what he is like from what he says

or does.

Intentional Fallacy. The judging of the meaning of succes or a work of art by the

auhtor's expressed or ostensible intention in producing it.

Irony. Expression of something which is contrary to the intended meaning; the words say one thing but mean another. A situation, or a use of language, involving some kind of incongruity or discrepancy. Three kinds of irony are distinguished:

Verbal irony. A figure of speech in which what is said is the opposite of

what is meant.

*Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;

And Brutus is an honourable man. Shakespeare, Julius Caesar

Dramatic irony. An incongruity or discrepancy between what a character

says or thinks and what the reader knows to be true (or between what a

character perceives and what the author intends the reader to perceive).

Irony of situation. A situation in which there is an incongruity between

appearance and reality, or between expectation and fulfillment, or between

the actual situation and what would seem appropriate.


Litotes: understatement, for intensification, by denying the contrary of the thing being affirmed. (Sometimes used synonymously with meiosis.)

*A few unannounced quizzes are not inconceivable.

*War is not healthy for children and other living things.

*One nuclear bomb can ruin your whole day. (meiosis)


Meiosis. (Geek "lessening"). A figure of speech which contains an understatement for emphasis: often used ironically, and also for dramatic effect, in the attainment of simplicity. In everyday speech it is sometimes used in gentle irony, especially when describing something very spectacular or impressive as "rather good", or words to that effect. In King Lear, the old king, having suffered the most dreadful disasters, says "Pray you undo this button.'´" Meiosis may even pervade the tone and a manner of a work. (Penguin).

Melodrama. A type of drama related to tragedy but featuring sensational incidents,

emphasizing plot at the expense of characterization, relying on cruder conflicts

(virtuous protagonist versus villainous antagonist), and having a happy ending in which

good triumphs over evil.

Metaphor. Implied comparison achieved through a figurative use of words; the word is used

not in its literal sense, but in one analogous to it. A figure of speech in which an implicit comparison is made between two things essentially unlike. An analogy identifying one object with another ans ascribing to the first object one or more of the qualities of hte second. It may take one of four forms:

(1) that in which the literal term and the figurative term are both named;

(2) that in which the literal term is named and the figurative term implied;

(3) that in which the literal term is implied and the figurative term named,

(4) that in which both the literal and the figurative terms are implied.

*Life's but a walking shadow; a poor player, That struts and frets his hour upon the

stage. Shakespeare, Macbeth

*. . . while he learned the language (that meager and fragile thread . . . by which the

little surface corners and edges of men's secret and solitary lives may be joined for an instant now and then before sinking back into the darkness. . . ) Faulkner, Absalom, Absalom!

*From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended

across the continent. W. Churchill

The Leaves of Life keep falling one by one.

--- Edward Fitzgerald, The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám

I fall upon the thorns of life! I bleed!

--- Percy Bysshe Shelley, "Ode to the West Wind"

. . . The cherished fields

Put on their winter robe of purest white.

--- James Thomson, The Seasons

Moral. A rule of conduct or maxim for living expressed or implied as the "point" of a

literary work. Compare to Theme.

Motif. One of the dominant ideas in a work of litterature; a part of the main theme. It may consist of a character, a recurrent image. A recurrent device, formula, or situation that deliberately connects a literary work with common patterns of existing thought.

It is what have motivated the author to write, certain common human problems.

Motivation. The incentives or goals that, in combination with the inherent natures of

characters, cause them to behave as they do. In poor fiction actions may be

unmotivated, insufficiently motivated, or implausibly motivated.

Myth. Like allegory, myth usually is symbolic and extensive, including an entire work or story. Though it no longer is necessarily specific to or pervasive in a single culture--individual authors may now be said to create myths--there is still a sense that myth is communal or cultural, while the symbolic can often be private or personal.

Myths. Stories that are more or less universally shared within a culture to explain its history and traditions are frequently called myths.


Narrator. In drama a character who speaks directly to the audience, introduces the

action, and provides a string of commentary between the dramatic scenes. She may

or may not be a major character in the action itself.

Reliable narrator: everything this narrator says is true, and the narrator knows

everything that is necessary to the story.

Unreliable narrator: may not know all the relevant information; may be

intoxicated or mentally ill; may lie to the audience. Example: Edgar Allan Poe's

narrators are frequently unreliable. Think of the delusions that the narrator of The

Tell-Tale Heart has about the old man, or consider the lying narrator in Poe's

Black Cat.

The type of narrator telling the story can be vitally important to you as the reader

or interpreter, especially if the narrator is unreliable. Not every unreliable narrator

is as easy to spot as Poe's in The Tell-Tale Heart; there may be a lot of scholarly

debate about whether a given narrator is reliable or not, and obviously you need

to know how much of the narration you can trust. If you cannot trust the narrator

to tell you what happened, then just summarizing the events of the story can be

very challenging. A first-person narrator may easily be a little unreliable, since

everyone wants to tell his/her own story in a way which shows himself or herself

in a good light. If the narration is limited, why has the author chosen to show

readers only this person's thoughts? If the narrator addresses the reader directly,

does that draw you in or alienate you? All these issues and more arise when discussing the

narrators. (See also Point of View.)

Nonrealistic drama. Drama that, in content, presentation, or both, departs markedly

from fidelity to the outward appearances of life.


Paradox. A statement or situation containing apparently contradictory or incompatible

elements, a figure of speech in which an apparently self-contradictory statement is

nevertheless found to be true. An assertion seemingly opposed to common sense, but that may yet have some truth in it.

*What a pity that youth must be wasted on the young. George Bernard Shaw

Paraphrase. A restatement of the content of a poem designed to make its prose

meaning as clear as possible.

Parody. A ludicrous imitation, usually for comic effect but sometimes for ridicule, of the style and content of another work. The humor depends upon the reader's familiarity with the original.

Personification. A figure of speech in which human attributes are given to an animal,

an object, or a concept. Attribution of personality to an impersonal thing. A type of metaphor in which distinctive human characteristics, e.g., honesty, emotion, volition, etc., are attributed to an animal, object or idea, as "The haughty lion surveyed his realm" or "My car was happy

to be washed" or "'Fate frowned on his endeavors." Personification is commonly used in allegory. Sidelight: "The Cloud" is personified in Shelley's magnificent poem.

*England expects every man to do his duty. Lord Nelson

Plot. The sequence of incidents or events of which a story is composed; the

meaningful manipulation of action.

Point of view (narrator). The angle of vision from which a story is told. The four basic points of

view are as follows:

First person point of view. The story is told by one of its characters, using

the first person.

Second Person Point of View. The story is tols by one of its charcters

using second-person pronouns.

Third Person Omniscient Point of view. The author tells the story, using

the third person; she knows all and is free to tell anything, including what

the characters are thinking or feeling and why they act as they do.

Third Person Limited Omniscient Point of View. The author tells the story,

using the third person, but limits her/himself to a complete knowledge of

one character in the story and tells only what that one character thinks,

feels, sees, or hears.

Third Person Objective (or Dramatic) Point of View. The author tells the

story, using the third person, but limits her/himself to reporting what his

characters say or do; she does not interpret their behavior or tell their

private thoughts or feelings.

draw you in or alienate you? All these issues and more arise when discussing the

narrators. (See also Point of View.)

Prose. Non-metrical language, the opposite of verse.


Prose poem. Usually a short composition having the intentions of poetry but written in

prose rather than verse.

Protagonist. The central character in a story.

Proverb. A brief, pithy popular saying or epigram embodying some familiar truth, practical interpretation of experience, or useful thought.


Refrain. A repeated word, phrase, line, or group of lines, normally at some fixed

position in a poem written in stanzaic form.

Repetition. An essential unifying element in nearly all poetry and much prose. It may consist of sounds, particular syllables and words, phrases, stanzas, metrical patterns, ideas, allusions and shapes.Hoarding by Roger McGough contains some ordinary repetitive elements (Penguin):

all too busy boarding

thirty year old numbskull

with a change of dirty coats

every single day gets porridge

but never gets his oats

all too busy boarding

the xmas merry-go-round

Rhyme (or rime). The repetition of the accented vowel sound and all succeeding


Double Rhyme. A rhyme in which the repeated vowel is in the second last

syllable of the words involved (politely-rightly-spritely); one form of feminine


End Rhyme. Rhymes are end-rhymed when both rhyming words are at the

end of the lines.

Feminine Rhyme. Rhymes are feminine when the sounds involve more

than one syllable (turtle-fertile, spitefully-delightfully). A rhyme in which the

repeated accented vowel is in either the second or third last syllable of the

words involved (ceiling-appealing or hurrying-scurrying).

Identical Rhyme. If the preceding consonant sound is the same (for

example, manse-romance, style-stile), or if there is no preceding

consonant sound in either word (for example, aisle-isle, alter-altar), or if the

same word is repeated in the rhyming position (for example, hill-hill).

Internal Rhyme. An internal rhyme occurs when one or both rhyming

words are within the line.

Masculine (or Single) Rhyme. Rhymes are masculine when the sounds

involve only one syllable (decks-sex or support-retort). A rhyme in which

the repeated accented vowel sound is in the final syllable of the words

involved (dance-pants, scald-recalled).

Triple rhyme. A rhyme in which the repeated accented vowel sound is in

the third last syllable of the words involved (gainfully-disdainfully); one form

of feminine rhyme.

Near (also Approximate, imperfect, Oblique, or Slant) Rhyme. A term

used for words in a rhyming pattern that have some kind of sound

correspondence but are not perfect rhymes. Approximate rhymes occur

occasionally in patterns where most of the rhymes are perfect and

sometimes are used systematically in place of perfect rhyme.

Rhythm. Any wavelike recurrence of motion or sound.

Rising action. That development of plot in a story that precedes and leadsup to the



Sarcasm. Bitter or cutting speech; speech intended by its speaker to give pain to the

person addressed.

Satire. A kind of literature that ridicules human folly or vice with the purpose of bringing

about reform or of keeping others from falling into similar folly or vice.

Setting. The context in time and place in which the action of a story occurs.

Simile. A figure of speech in which an explicit comparison is made between two

things essentially unlike. The comparison is made explicit by the use of some such

word or phrase as like, as, than, similar to, resembles, or seems. Burns', "O, my luve's like A Red, Red Rose," or Shelley's "As still as a brooding dove," in "The Cloud."

Soliloquy. [s ´lil kwi] A speech in which a character, alone on the stage, addresses himself; a

soliloquy is a "thinking out loud," a dramatic means of letting an audience know a

character's thoughts and feelings.

Stage directions. Notes incorporated in or added to the script of a play to indicate the moment of a character's appearance, character and manner, the stile of delivery, the actor's movements, details of location, scenery and effects. (Penguin).

Stream of consciousness

A narrative technique in which action and external events are conveyed indirectly through a fictional character's mental soliloquy of thoughts and associations.

A term coined by William James in Principels of Psychology (1890) to denote the flow of inner experiences. Now an almost indispensable term in literary criticism, it refers to that technique which seeks to depict the multitudinous thoughts and feelings which pass through the mind. Another phrase for it is 'interior monologue' (q.v.). Something resembling it is discernible in Sterne's Tristram Shandy (I 76~7), and long self-communing passages to be found in some i9th c. novels (e.g., those of Dostoievski) are also kin to interior monologue (q.v.). In 1901 the German playwright and novelist Arthur Schnitzler published a Novell' called Leutnant Gustl, a satire on the official code of military honour. In this the interior monologue technique is highly developed. However; it seems that it was a minor French novelist, Edouard Dujardin, who first used the technique (in a way which was to prove immensely influential) in Les Lauriers sont coupe~ (1888). James Joyce, who is believed to have known this work, exploited the possibilities and took the technique almost to a point neplus ultra in Ulysses (1922), which purports to be an account of the experiences (the actions, thoughts, feelings) of two men, Leopold Bloom and Stephen Daedalus, during the twenty-four hours of 16 June 1904, in Dublin. The following lines give some idea of the method (Penguin):

Yes. Thought so. Sloping into the Empire. Gone. Plain soda would do him good. Where Pat Kinsella had his Harp theatre before Whitbread ran the Queen's. Broth of a boy. Dion Boucicault business with his harvestmoon face in a poky bonnet. Three Purty Maids from School. How time flies eh? Showing long red pantaloons under his skirts. Drinkers, drinking, laughed spluttering, their drink against their breath. More power, Pat. Coarse red: fun for drunkards: guffaw and smoke. Take off that white hat. His parboiled eyes. Where is he now? Beggar somewhere. The harp that once did starve us all.

Structure. The internal organization of a poem's content.

Symbol. A figure of speech in which something (object, person, situation, or action)

means more than what it is. A symbol, in other words, may be read both literally and


An image transferred by something that stands for or represents something else, like flag for country, or autumn for maturity. Symbols can transfer the ideas embodied in the image without stating them, as in Robert Frost's "Acquainted With the Night," in which night is symbolic of death or depression, or Sara Teasdale's "The Long Hill," in which the climb up the hill symbolizes life and the brambles are symbolic of life's adversities.


Theme. The central idea or unifying generalization implied or stated by a literary


Tone. The writer's or speaker's attitude toward subject matter, audience, or

her/himself; the emotional coloring, or emotional meaning, of a work.

Tragedy. A type of drama, opposed to comedy, in which the protagonist, a person of

unusual moral or intellectual stature or outstanding abilities, suffers a fall in fortune

because of some error of judgment, excessive virtue, or flaw in her/his nature.


Understatement (see litot). A figure of speech that consists of saying less than one means, or of saying what one means with less force than the occasion warrants.