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  • Sarah Stook

A-Z of Literary Terms

A is for Allegory- An allegory is when a character. place or event is a metaphor for something else, usually a real life event. Example: Animal Farm is an allegory for Stalinist Russia.

B is for Bildungsroman- A coming of age tale, where the protagonist grows not only in age, but in moral character. Example: Jane Eyre.

C is for Cliché- A common story trope, often overused and associated with that particular body of work. Example: The dystopian protagonist teenager like Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games.

D is for Deuteragonist- The second most important in a story who is not the antagonist. Example: Dr. John Watson in the Sherlock Holmes stories.

E is for Epilogue- The ending of a story or series, giving it closure. Example: 19 Years Later in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

F is for Foreshadowing- When a future event is alluded to earlier in the story. Example: George killing the dog in Of Mice and Men foreshadows the ending of the book.

G is for Greek Tragedy- A common form of theatre in Ancient Greece, usually based on oral stories. They have influenced many contemporary works. Examples: Oedipus Rex.

H is for Heptameter- A line of verse consisting of seven metrical feet. Example: The George Chapman translation of Homer's The Iliad.

I is for Imagery- When vivid language is used by the author to portray an event. Example: The sacking of Atlanta by General Sherman in Gone With the Wind.

J is for Juggernaut- Something that is unstoppable and often destructive in its path. Example: Frankenstein's monster.

K is for Kafakaesque- A nightmarish and often unrealistic story in which the characters fight against greater powers in a depressing situation, based on Franz Kafka's stories. Example: The Metamorphosis is the original example of this work.

L is for Legend- A semi-true story that has been edited to the point where the truth is distorted, especially when the legend is very old. Example: The legend of King Arthur.

M is for Malapropism- When an incorrect word or term is used in a phrase, with the mistaken word sounding similar to the correct one. Example: Mrs. Malaprop in The Rivals often uses the wrong words- such as 'he is the very pineapple of politeness' instead of pinnacle.

N is for Novella- A written work that is too long for a short story but too short for a novel. Example: Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote.

O is for Oxymoron- When two words put together create a contradiction. Example: 'O loving hate', spoken by Romeo Montague.

P is for Post-Colonialism- A work that deals with the end of colonialism and its connotations. Example: The titular characters in Midnight's Children are all born on the exact moment India becomes independent from Great Britain.

Q is for Quintain- A poem which is made up of five lines. Example: The Man from Nantucket

R is for Red Herring- In a work of fiction, a clue that misleads the reader from the correct information or conclusion. Example: The use of the brown sweater in The Watchmen leads the reader to the wrong conclusion.

S is for Stereotype- A commonly held belief about a certain group or type of person. Example: Cinderella is a docile and kind woman waiting for a man to help her.

T is for Tragic Hero- A hero who makes mistakes that lead to their downfall, though it is not always their fault. Example: Ned Stark in Game of Thrones.

U is for Unreliable Narrator- A narrator whose characteristics make it hard for their view to be taken seriously. Example: Because of her age, Scout Finch of To Kill a Mockingbird is often considered an unreliable narrator.

V is for Verb Displacement- When a verb is changed or moved in a sentence in order to create a more lyrical effect. Example: 'He is dead since April' in For Whom the Bell Tolls.

W is for Word Play- When a play on words becomes the main source of amusement or thinking in a noel. Example: 'They were yung and easily freudened' in Finnegan's Wake is a play on two famous philosophers.

X is for help me find an eXample please.

Y is for Yarn- A long, rambling story often told orally and without script. Example: The Russian Skaz of The Overcoat.

Z is for Zeitgiest- The characteristics of a historical tie period. Example: Jack Kerouac's On the Road exemplifies the counterculture of post-WW2 America.

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