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Literary Elements

Every work of literature is made up of a combination of elements. What makes each work unique is
the creative way in which the author handles and blends these elements. Careful readers of
literary texts are able to identify these elements and to discuss how they influence the meaning of
the literary work.

What Is It What Does It Mean? What Does it Look Like?


Called?
Characterization Refers to the creation and Description by the narrator, dialogue &
development of characters, thoughts, and character actions are all
the people who carry on the methods of characterization.
action in a literary work
Setting The time and place in which Can include descriptions of locations, dates,
events occur times of year, etc.
Plot The sequence of events that Major and minor events or conflicts that
take place involve the characters.
Diction The word choice of the Words that help to convey different attitudes
author or tones. Adjectives & adverbs (describing
words) and verbs (action words) are helpful in
considering the author’s diction.
Tone The attitude or viewpoint The tone may be serious, sympathetic, angry,
that an author shows toward etc. You can usually determine the narrator’s
his or her subject tone by studying the author’s diction (or word
choice).
Mood The atmosphere or feeling of The mood may be joyful, gloomy, suspenseful,
a literary work etc.
Point of view The perspective from which a In the first-person point of view, the narrator
story is told tells the story using “I” and “me” and may
participate in events. In the omniscient point
of view, the narrator is an all-knowing
impersonal observer who does not take part in
events but can describe the thoughts and
actions of all the characters.
Structure How the parts of a literary The structure of a novel may be based on
work are organized and chronological order with occasional flashbacks.
arranged The structure of poetry includes the number,
form, pattern of lines, and stanzas.
Theme The central idea of a literary Themes often have to do with widely held
work human concerns such as love, death, justice,
dignity, happiness, etc.

Great Sentence Starters


“The author uses dialogue as a method of characterization to show…”
“The narrator’s use of diction helps to express a tone of…”
“The first person point of view of the narrator helps the reader to understand…”
Literary Techniques
Authors and poets use many different techniques when they write. These techniques help to
convey ideas and feelings and create memorable works of literature. Skillful readers interpret
these techniques to explain how they contribute to the meaning of the text.

What Is It What Does It Mean? What Does it Look Like?


Called?
Allegory The representation of ideas or moral Arthur Milller’s Crucible uses the Salem Witch Trial as an
principles by means of symbolic allegory for the hunt for Communists in America during the
characters, events, or objects 1950s.
Alliteration The repetition of a consonant sound The falling flakes fluttered to the ground.
The swift, silent serpent slithered along.
Simile A type of figurative language that Her eyes gleamed like stars.
makes a comparison using “like” or “as” The house was a large as a castle.

Metaphor A type of figurative language that The girls were tigers on the playing field, devouring the
makes a comparison but does not use competition.
“like” or “as” All the world is a stage.
Personification A type of figurative language that The sun smiled down on the village.
applies human qualities to objects, The leaves danced in the wind.
ideas, or animals
Hyperbole A type of figurative language that His ears were so sharp he could hear dogs bark in the next
makes an overstatement for the county.
purpose of emphasis I’m so tired I could sleep for years.
Onomatopoeia A type of figurative language in which bang, buzz, crackle, sizzle, hiss, murmur, and roar
words sound like the things they name
Flashback Insertion of a scene or event that took A novelist may include a flashback to reveal a childhood
place in the past, often appearing as a incident in the life of an adult character.
memory
Foreshadowing The suggestion or hint of events to Gray clouds at the beginning of a story may foreshadow a
come later in a literary work storm or conflict that occurs later.
Imagery The use of descriptive words or The tree roots clutched the ground like gnarled fingers.
phrases to create vivid mental pictures The frightened screech of an unseen animal tore through
in the minds of the reader, often the night.
appealing to sight, sound, taste, or
smell
Situational Irony A situation or event that is the It would be ironic if a lifeguard had to be saved from
opposite of what is or might be drowning.
expected
Verbal Irony The expression of an attitude or When a late-comer is told sarcastically, “Thanks for joining
intention that is the opposite of what us.”
is actually meant
Repetition Repeating a word or group of words There in the sudden blackness, the black pall of nothing,
for emphasis or effect nothing, nothing – nothing at all.

Rhetorical A question asked only for effect or to How much longer will we put up with this injustice? Isn’t it
make a statement, but not to get an time that we took action?
question
answer
Satire A type of writing that uses humor, At this rate we might as well dump garbage straight into
irony, or wit to make a point the ocean if we’re not going to increase the penalty for
polluting the environment.
Symbolism A symbol is something that stands for A rose symbolizes beauty.
something larger than itself The flag symbolizes the country.
Darkness symbolizes evil.

Great Sentence Starters


“The author uses flashback in this scene to show…”
“The writer’s use of imagery conveys a sense of…”
“The examples of repetition and alliteration help to emphasize…”