Literary Devices

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English

39 Terms

1

motif

a recurring or consistent element/image/set of images used repeatedly in a text to emphasize or underscore a key theme. NOT a symbol or a topic-- _______ is something that can be visualized or seen but does not always take the same form.

ex: in "of mice and men," animals are a commonly used _______ (the mice, the puppies, comparing lennie to a bear or a horse).

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2

archetype

a recognizable character/setting/plot trope or type seen across many genres and cultures in literature; used or subverted in order to highlight a story's key themes.

ex: in Hercules, Hercules fits the "hero" _______, Hades the "villain" _______, and Pain and Panic fit the "loyal helpers" _______. The setting is the "underworld" _______.

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3

symbol

a thing that stands for or represents something else, especially, a physical, material object that represents an idea or something abstract.

ex: in the United States, the bald eagle represents freedom and prosperity. Similarly, the Statue of Liberty is a represents a new, free life.

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4

polysyndeton

when conjunctions (FANBOYs) are repeated more times than is necessary (rather than using commas) in order to achieve a certain effect or emphasize a point.

ex: Every day he would eat eggs and pancakes and bacon and toast and potatoes and Poptarts and waffles. That was just breakfast!

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5

asyndeton

the absence of a conjunction between two words. could be used in-between words in a sentence or between sentences or clauses.

ex: reduce, reuse, recycle

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6

connotation

the abstract meaning of the word, the meaning of the word outside the exact definition of it.

ex: the words "acceptable" and "exceptional" have the same dictionary definition, but their _______ makes exceptional generally more favorable than acceptable, even though they are synonyms

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7

oxymoron

a figure of speech that combines contradictory/opposite terms to create emphasis

ex: "big baby" The words big and baby are contradictory, which places emphasis on the large size of the baby.

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8

paradox

a statement or group of sentences that seem to logically contradict themselves. they can be both true or false. ex: As they died, their life began.

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9

allusion

a way of indirectly referencing something without ever actually saying it.

ex: In Shrek, Duloc (where Shrek and Donkey go after the swamp is overrun with magical creatures) is an _____ to Disneyland.

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10

personification

attributing human traits/qualities to something that is not human, or the representation of and abstract thing/quality in human form

ex: the trees danced along the horizon line

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11

epistrophe

the repetition of the same word(s) at the end of a phrase, clause, or sentence.

ex: Government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

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12

aposiopesis

figure of speech when a sentence is purposefully cut off or left unfinished. The unfinished ending allows the reader to use their imagination for what the sentence could be meaning. It's used for a dramatic effect and can be effective at translating strong emotions, making the text more realistic.

ex: "Before I go, you should know that-". The sentence is cut off on purpose to indicate that there are things left unsaid, leaving a mystery for the reader. Also, "Do what I say, or else-". This indicates that the speaker has a strong passion for what they are saying to the point where they use a threat that is cut off for dramatic effect.

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13

anaphora

The repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of successive clauses. Used to create a sense of rhythm.

ex: I can fix this. I can fix you. I can't, however, fix me.

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14

extended metaphor

a metaphor that extends over multiple lines, paragraphs, or stanzas of a prose or poetry. They can build upon simple metaphors using figurative language and more descriptive comparisons.

ex: You're a snake! Everything you hiss out of your mouth is a lie.

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15

metaphor

a figure of speech that describes an item or person by referring it to something else that shares some similarities (without using "like" or "as").

ex: This city is a jungle of skyscrapers.

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16

alliteration

the repetition of a sound at the beginning of words that run in conjunction or adjacent to one another

ex: Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers. Sally sells seashells by the sea shore. How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

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17

syntax

the way words and punctuation are arranged to make a sentence in a way that has an intentional effect on the reader.

ex: I can't believe you did this to me. vs "How could you do this to me? You broke my heart!"

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18

understatement

presentation of something as being smaller, worse, or less important than it actually is.

ex: If there was a hurricane, one would be "It rained a bit last night"

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19

ambiguity

uncertainty; something that is open to interpretation

ex: "the chicken is ready to eat" - It can be interpreted in two ways. One way is that the chicken (animal) was ready for some food. The second way is the chicken (food) was cooked and ready to be eaten

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20

parallelism

the repetition of similar or identical grammatical forms to create a melodic pattern

ex: "I came, I saw, I left."

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21

simile

the comparison of two objects/subjects with the use of "like" or "as"

ex: he was as cute as a button

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22

consonance

the repetition of similar or identical consonants in neighboring words that have differing vowel sounds (regarded as the counter part to assonance)

ex: The serpent slithered towards the pedestal

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23

assonance

the repetition of vowel sounds in a sentence (regarded as the counter part to consonance)

ex: "How many wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?" repetition of the "o" sounds

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24

hyperbole

exaggerated statements or claims that are not meant to be taken seriously. It emphasizes and evokes strong feelings and emotions.

ex: "I'm so hungry I could eat a horse" or "I've told you this a million times"

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25

metonymy

a figure of speech in which one object/idea takes the place of another where it has an association. It means "change of name." It is a way of replacing an object/idea with something related to it instead of stating what is actually meant.

ex 1) The suits were at a conference meeting. ex 2) After leading to victory, he seized the throne.

The word "suits" represents business people. The word "throne" represents absolute power or kingship.

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26

euphony

smoothness of phrasing; pleasing to the ear to the combination of harmonious words; good flow

ex: "So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see, / So long lives this, and this gives life to thee."

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27

irony

use of words to convey a meaning that is usually opposite of what is actually said, sometimes to add a humorous effect

ex: "my vacation was an educational experience" or "the fire station burnt down"

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28

imagery

sensory and figurative word choice that helps the reader visualize text.

ex: the apple pie glistened in steaming hot liquid gold honey.

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29

satire

exaggerating or speaking in a joking manner to insult or poke fun at someone's/something's intelligence or behavior

ex: the office uses ______ to ridicule office life

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30

juxtaposition

when two things are placed close together to emphasize contrast or comparisons between the two things.

example: "as they walked, she held her granddaughter's soft hand in her own wrinkled one." The _____ of the textured hand of the old woman and her granddaughter highlights these two people of the same family at different stages in their life.

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31

analogy

a comparison to show similarity between two things or based on the way they are alike.

ex: " finding my keys is going to be like finding a needle in a haystack"

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32

tone

a way an author uses their writing to evoke certain emotions or feelings. It is usually developed throughout the writing and focuses on the subject of the text. It is the atmosphere the author has set for the story.

ex: the rush of the crowd squeezed the air out of me. People were swarming like bees in and out of the subway as I stumbled through them.

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33

synecdoche

a form of metonymy. It is a figure of speech where only a part of something is used to refer to the whole, or the other way around.

ex: "to ask for someone's hand" refers to proposing marriage.

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34

allegory

a piece of media in which each aspect of the story has a symbolic meaning outside the tale itself.

ex: the main conflict in The Lorax between the titular protagonist and the antagonist, the Onceler, is an _______ for how the manufacturing industry is gradually killing the environment.

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35

point-of-view (POV)

the perspective in which a story is being told. Who is telling the story is determined by perspective. There are multiple different _____ that can be used in a book.

ex: First Person: I study long and hard for the AP Literature exam. I want to get a good grade. Second Person: You study long and hard for the AP Literature exam. You want to get a good grade. Third Person: I studied long and hard for the AP Literature exam. I wanted to get a good grade.

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36

hamartia

a flaw or weakness of a character leading to their eventual downfall

ex: Marty McFly and his inability to walk away when someone calls him afraid or labels him "chicken." From "Back to the Future."

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37

colloquial language

informal, conversational language. They are phrases or sayings that are indicative of a specific region.

ex: "I'm dead 💀.", "That's sick bro!", "That's a dodgy individual."

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38

cacophony

A loud and harsh collection of overlapping noises.

ex: "ticked off at her bracket results, kaitlyn screeched around the corner in her corolla, blocking traffic immediately."

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39

diction

the word choice made by a writer to tell their story or convey an idea/point of view *There are different types. When saying that someone used it as a literary device you have to specify the type they used. The four common types of diction are formal, informal, colloquial, and slang.

ex: in a business setting, saying "this plan is pathetic" vs "this plan is suboptimal"

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