Literary Elements, Devices and Techniques at a Glance Literary Element: A fundamental part of a literary work.
Literary Device/Technique: Any specific, deliberate construction or choice of language that an author uses to convey meaning.
Allegory:A symbolic representation. Ex: The blindfolded figure with scales is an allegory of justice.
Alliteration: The repetition of initial sounds in neighboring words. Ex: Annie’s apples.
Allusion: A reference within a literary work to a historical, literary, or biblical character, place, or event. For example, the title of William Faulkner’s novel The Sound and the Fury alludes to a line from Shakespeare’s Macbeth.
Aside: Another character (behind the screen or a third person or a person expressing thoughts of the character). Aside is specifically meant for audience and actors involved are unable to hear aside.
Analogy:the comparison of two pairs which have the same relationship. Ex: Shoe is to foot as tire is to wheel.
Anaphora: The deliberate repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of several successive verses, clauses, or paragraphs; one of the devices of repetition, in which the same phrase is repeated at the beginning of two or more lines.
Antithesis: The direct or exact opposite: Ex: Hope is the antithesis of despair.
Aphorism: a brief saying embodying a moral, a concise statement of a principle or precept given in pointed words. Ex: Emerson: Imitation is suicide.
Assonance: The repetition of vowel sounds in a sequence of nearby words. For example, the line “The monster spoke in a low mellow tone” (from Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s poem “The Lotos-Eaters”) contains assonance in its repetition of the “o” sound.
Characterization:The author’s way of conveying to the reader a person in the novel’s personality.
Chiasmus: (ki-Az-mus) A rhetorical inversion of the second of two parallel structures, as in “Each throat/Was parched, and glazed each eye.”
Conflict:A struggle between opposing forces which is the driving force of the story.
Dialect: The language of a particular, class, or group of persons. It encompasses the sounds, spelling, grammar, and diction used by specific people as distinguished by other people either geographically or socially.
Dialogue:The lines spoken by a character or characters in a play, essay, story, or novel.
Doppelganger: A ghostly double of another character, especially if it haunts its counterpart - a doppelganger, in German, means "double walker" - it's like a carbon copy of a character with a different soul. However, one of the criteria for a doppelganger isn't that it looks like its counterpart. Frankenstein and his monster are considered to be doppelgangers.
Epiphany: A profound spiritual realization, often called as life changing event in the life of the character. Epiphany has been used in many plays when a character realizes truth that is different that what he or she accepts.
Euphemism: A substitution for an expression that may offend or suggest something unpleasant to the receiver, using instead an agreeable or less offensive expression.
Flashback:Action that interrupts to show an event that happened at an earlier time which is necessary to better understanding.
Foil: A character that serves by contrast to highlight or emphasize opposing traits in another character.
Foreshadowing: The use of hints or clues to suggest what will happen later in literature.
Hyperbole:Exaggeration used to create emphasis or effect.
Idiom: A common expression that has acquired a meaning that differs from its literal meaning, such as “It’s raining cats and dogs” or “That cost me an arm and a leg.”
Imagery: Language which describes something in detail; it appeals to the senses.
Dramatic: When an audience knows something that a character in literature does not.
Verbal: When an author says one thing and means another.
Litotes: (Li – ta – teez)A form of understatement, always deliberate and with the intention of emphasis. However, the interpretation of negation may depend on context, including cultural context. In speech, it may also depend on intonation and emphasis; for example, the phrase "not bad" can be said in such a way as to mean anything from "mediocre" to "excellent."
Metaphor: A comparison of two things without using “like” or “as”. A figure of speech in which a word or phrase that ordinarily designates one thing is used to designate another, thus making an implicit comparison. Ex: A sea of troubles
Metonymy: substituting a word for another word closely associated with it. Ex: Using the word “crown” for “loyalty”.
Motif: A recurring structure, contrast, or other device that develops a literary work’s major themes (see below). Ex: Shadows and darkness are a motif in Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities, a novel that contains many gloomy scenes and settings.
Onomatopoeia: The formation or use of words such as buzz or murmur that imitate the sounds associated with the objects or actions to which they refer.
Paradox: A seemingly contradictory statement that can be proven true.
Personification: When an author gives inanimate objects or abstractions human qualities.
Plot: The sequence of events in a literary work
Point-of View:The vantage point or perspective from which a story is told.
Pun: A play on words that uses the similarity in sound between two words with distinctly different meanings. Ex: The title of Oscar Wilde’s play The Importance of Being Earnest is a pun on the word earnest, which means serious or sober, and the name “Ernest.”
Rhetorical question: A question asked not to elicit an actual response but to make an impact or call attention to something. “Will the world ever see the end of war?” is an example of a rhetorical question.
Sarcasm: A form of verbal irony (see above) in which it is obvious from context and tone that the speaker means the opposite of what he or she says. Saying “That was graceful” when someone trips and falls is an example of sarcasm.
Satire:A literary term used to ridicule or make fun of human vice or weakness, often with the intent of correcting, or changing, the subject of the satiric attack.
Setting: The time and place where a story occurs (it can also refer to the social conditions explored.)
Simile:A comparison of two things using “like” or “as”.
Stream of Consciousness: The point-of-view in which an author describes the unspoken thoughts and feelings of his or her characters.
Symbolism: The use of objects or images to represent abstract ideas. A symbol means something more than its literal meaning.
Synecdoche: (si NEK de kee) a figure of speech in which a part is used for the whole (as hand for sailor), the whole for a part (as the law for police officer), the specific for the general (as cutthroat for assassin), the general for the specific (as thief for pickpocket), or the material for the thing made from it (as steel for sword).
Theme:The universal idea explored in a literary work.
Tone—is the attitude that an author takes towards a subject or character. It may be serious, humorous, sarcastic, ironic, satirical, tongue-in-cheek, solemn, or objective.
Understatement: A form of irony in which something is represented as less than it really is.