DIRECTIONSCarefully read the following passage. Use context clues to help define any words with which you are unfamiliar. Pay close attention to the use of figurative language, argument, and tone. Then, on a separate sheet of paper, answer the questions that follow.
from “The New Railway” from “Dombey and Son” by Charles Dickens
The first shock of a great earthquake had, just at that period, rent the whole neighborhood to its center. Traces of its course were visible on every side. Houses were knocked down; streets broken through and stopped; deep pits and trenches dug in the ground; enormous heaps of earth and clay thrown up; buildings that were undermined and shaking, propped by great beams of wood. …
Everywhere were bridges that led nowhere; thoroughfares that were wholly impassable; Babel towers of chimneys, wanting half their height; temporary wooden houses and enclosures, in the most unlikely situations; carcasses of ragged tenements, and fragments of unfinished walls and arches, and piles of scaffolding, and wildernesses of bricks, and giant forms of cranes, and tripods straddling above nothing. There were a hundred thousand shapes and substances of incompleteness, wildly mingled out of their places, upside down, burrowing in the earth, aspiring in the air, moldering in the water, and unintelligible as any dream. …
In short, the yet unfinished and unopened railroad was in progress; and from the very core of all this dire disorder, trailed smoothly away, upon its mighty course of civilization and improvement.
But as yet, the neighborhood was shy to own the railroad. … Nothing was the better for it, or thought of being so. If the miserable waste ground lying near it could have laughed, it would have laughed it to scorn, like many of the miserable neighbors.
Staggs’s Gardens was uncommonly incredulous. It was a little row of houses, with little squalid patches of ground before them, fenced off with old doors, barrel staves … and dead bushes; with bottomless tin kettles and exhausted iron fenders, thrust into the gaps. Here, the Staggs’s Gardeners trained scarlet beans, kept fowls and rabbits, erected rotten summer-houses (one was an old boat), dried clothes, and smoked pipes. … Staggs’s Gardens was regarded by its population as a sacred grove not to be withered by railroads; and so confident were they generally of its long outliving any such ridiculous inventions, that the master chimney-sweeper at the corner, who was understood to take the lead in the local politics of the Gardens, had publicly declared that on the occasion of the railroad opening, if ever it did open, two of his boys should ascend the flues of his dwelling, with instructions to hail the failure with derisive jeers from the chimney-pots.
There was no such place as Staggs’s Gardens. It had vanished from the earth. Where the old rotten summer-houses once had stood, palaces now reared their heads, and granite columns of gigantic girth opened a vista to the railway world beyond. … The old by-streets now swarmed with passengers and vehicles of every kind. …
As to the neighborhood which had hesitated to acknowledge the railroad in its struggling days, that had grown wise and penitent … and now boasted of its powerful and prosperous relation. There were railway patterns in its drapers’ shops, and railway journals in the windows of its newsmen. There were railway hotels, coffee-houses, lodging-houses, boarding-houses; railway plans, maps, views, wrappers, bottles, sandwich-boxes, and timetables. … There was even railway time observed in clocks, as if the sun itself had given in. Among the vanquished was the master chimney-sweeper … who now lived in a stuccoed house three stories high, and gave himself out, with golden flourishes upon a varnished board, as contractor for the cleansing of railway chimneys by machinery.
Directions Answer these questions about the extract
1.From the context, what do you conclude that the word rent, in line 1, means?
2.Which of the following literary elements is Dickens using in the phrase Babel towers of chimneys, in lines 6–7?
3.Which of the following literary elements is Dickens using in There were a hundred thousand shapes and substances of incompleteness, in line 10?
4.Which of the following literary elements is Dickens using in the phrase unintelligible as any dream, in line 13?
5.According to the second paragraph, to what does the word earthquake, in line 1, refer?
A the effects of the unfinished railroad
B the effects of long-term neglect
C the poverty in this particular urban area
D the destruction of a prosperous urban area
E the destruction of a civilization
6.To what does the pronoun its in line 15 refer?
B the railway
D the neighborhood
E Staggs’s Gardens
7.In lines 26–30, how does Dickens reveal the master chimney-sweeper’s personality?
A by direct characterization
B by indirect characterization
C in metaphors
D as a symbol
E by personification
8.What can you infer from the master chimneysweeper’s actions in lines 26–30?
A He believes that the railroad will help improve commerce in Staggs’s Gardens.
B He is unaware of the railroad’s existence.
C He is in favor of the destruction of Staggs’s Gardens.
D He has never seen a railroad before.
E He assumes that the railroad will fail.
9.Which of the following literary elements is Dickens using in the phrase palaces now reared their heads, in line 32?
10.From the context, what do you conclude that the word penitent, in line 36, means?
11.Which of the following literary elements is Dickens using in the phrase as if the sun itself had given in, in line 40?
12.What is the tone of the last sentence in this passage?
13.From what point of view is this passage written?
A first person
B second person
C third-person omniscient
D third-person limited
14.On the basis of this passage, which of the following ideas do you think Dickens would most likely agree with?
A It was a terrible crime for Staggs’s Gardens to have been destroyed.
B The risks associated with progress far outweigh any potential benefits.
C Technological progress can bring many social and economic benefits.
D There is no such thing as progress.
E The railroads are a destructive force and have little merit.
15.What is the overall tone of this passage?
DIRECTIONSCarefully read the following passages. Use context clues to help define any words with which you are unfamiliar. Pay close attention to the use of figurative language, argument, and tone. Then, on a separate sheet of paper, answer the questions that follow.
Neutral Tones by Thomas Hardy
We stood by a pond that winter day,
And the sun was white, as though chidden of God,
And a few leaves lay on the starving sod;
—They had fallen from an ash, and were gray.
Your eyes on me were as eyes that rove
Over tedious riddles of years ago;
And some words played between us to and fro
On which lost the more by our love.
The smile on your mouth was the deadest thing
Alive enough to have strength to die;
And a grin of bitterness swept thereby
Like an ominous bird a-wing. . .
Since then, keen lessons that love deceives,
And wrings with wrong, have shaped to me
Your face, and the God-curst sun, and a tree,
And a pond edged with grayish leaves.
from “Adam Bede” by George Eliot
It was about three o’clock when Adam entered the farmyard and roused Alick and the dogs from their Sunday dozing. Alick said everybody was gone to church but “th’ young missis”—so he called Dinah; but this did not disappoint Adam, although the “everybody” was so liberal as to include Nancy, the dairymaid, whose works of necessity were not unfrequently incompatible with church-going.
There was perfect stillness about the house: the doors were all closed, and the very stones and tubs seemed quieter than usual. Adam heard the water gently dripping from the pump—that was the only sound; and he knocked at the house door rather softly, as was suitable in that stillness.
The door opened and Dinah stood before him, coloring deeply with the great surprise of seeing Adam at this hour, when she knew it was his regular practice to be at church. Yesterday he would have said to her without any difficulty, “I came to see you, Dinah: I knew the rest were not at home.” But today something prevented him from saying that, and he put out his hand to her in silence. Neither of them spoke, and yet both wished they could speak, as Adam entered, and they sat down. Dinah took the chair she had just left; it was at the corner of the table near the window, and there was a book lying on the table, but it was not open: she had been sitting perfectly still, looking at the small bit of clear fire in the bright grate. Adam sat down opposite her, in Mr Poyser’s three-cornered chair.
“Your mother is not ill again, I hope, Adam,” Dinah said, recovering herself. “Seth said she was well this morning.”
“No, she’s very hearty today,” said Adam, happy in the signs of Dinah’s feeling at the sight of him, but shy.
“There’s nobody at home, you see,” Dinah said; “but you’ll wait. You’ve been hindered from going to church today, doubtless.”
“Yes,” Adam said, and then paused, before he added, “I was thinking about you: that was the reason.”
This confession was very awkward and sudden, Adam felt; for he thought Dinah must understand all he meant. But the frankness of the words caused her immediately to interpret them into a renewal of his brotherly regrets that she was going away, and she answered calmly,
“Do not be careful and troubled for me, Adam. I have all things and abound at Snowfield. And my mind is at rest, for I am not seeking my own will in going.”
“But if things were different, Dinah,” said Adam, hesitatingly—“if you knew things that perhaps you don’t know now . . .”
Dinah looked at him inquiringly, but instead of going on, he reached a chair and brought it near the corner of the table where she was sitting. She wondered, and was afraid—and the next moment her thoughts flew to the past: was it something about those distant unhappy ones that she didn’t know?
Adam looked at her: it was so sweet to look at her eyes, which had now a self-forgetful questioning in them,—for a moment he forgot that he wanted to say anything, or that it was necessary to tell her what he meant.
“Dinah,” he said suddenly, taking both her hands between his, “I love you with my whole heart and soul.”
Directions Answer these questions about the poem “Neutral Tones.”
1.Which word best describes the overall tone of this poem?
2.Which words from the poem best convey its tone?
Apond, leaves, winter
Bstarving, gray, ominous
Calive, keen, tedious
Dstrength, wrong, white
3.Reread lines 5 and 15. The speaker in the poem is addressing a
4.The speaker of “Neutral Tones” is a
Adistant observer of events in the poem
Bvoice that talks to the reader
Csymbol of the forces of nature
Dperson who is involved in the experience
5.The speaker is reflecting on
Aa failed relationship
Ba newfound love
Dthe difficulties of marriage
6.You can infer from lines 13–16 that the speaker
Abelieves that love is strengthened through separation
Bhas had other experiences that confirm a pessimistic view of love
Cplans to reconcile with the beloved
Dhas found happiness in a current relationship
Directions: Answer these questions about the excerpt from “Adam Bede”.
7.Lines 6–9 illustrate which characteristic of realism?
Aa detailed setting that is drawn from real life
Bthe exposing of society’s ills in order to help the oppressed
Ca focus on characters’ feelings rather than on action
Ddialogue that sounds like everyday speech
8.Adam and Dinah are realistic characters because they are
Acertain of what the future holds for them
Bsymbolic of popular ideas of the era
Ccomplex people shown in everyday circumstances
Dtwo young people who are deeply in love
9.Reread lines 10–23. What can you infer about Adam’s and Dinah’s feelings from this encounter?
AThey are angry at each other.
BThey are attracted to each other.
CThey are confused about their plans.
DThey are happy about their upcoming marriage.
10.From the information the narrator reveals about Dinah, you can infer that she is
11.Alick’s expression “‘th’ young missis” adds realism to the excerpt because it
Ainjects humor into a serious scene
Bdeals with issues of youth and old age
Creflects feelings of social discontent
Dcaptures the sound of everyday speech
12.You can tell that this excerpt is written from an omniscient point of view because the narrator is
Aa main character who addresses the reader directly
Ban outside voice who reveals the thoughts and feelings of multiple characters
Can observer who relays the emotions of just one character
Da minor character who refers to himself or herself in the first person
13.The omniscient point of view helps the author create
Ainteresting and complex characters
Ba world of fantasy and reality
Cexciting and suspenseful action
Dsympathy for one character over another
Directions: Answer these questions both selections.
14.Which statement accurately compares the themes presented in both selections?
A“Neutral Tones” offers a lighthearted message about love, while Adam Bede suggests that love is a somber experience.
BBoth selections use nature imagery to convey a message about the fragile beauty of young love.
C“Neutral Tones” contemplates a romantic breakup, while Adam Bede describes the hopeful beginning of a romance.
D“Neutral Tones” implies that love grows over time, while Adam Bede implies that love fades over time.
Short Response Write three or four sentences to answer this question.
15.Omniscient narrators of the Victorian era are often described as “intrusive”; they frequently air their own opinions. Is the narrator of Adam Bede intrusive? Explain your answer.
Extended ResponseWrite two or three paragraphs to answer this question.
16.What words and images allow each writer’s tone to emerge? Support your answer with examples from each selection.
GLOSSARY OF TERMS
ActAn act is a major unit of action in a play, similar to a chapter in a book. Depending on their lengths, plays can have as many as five acts.
See also Drama; Scene.
AlexandrineSee Spenserian Stanza.
AllegoryAn allegory is a work with two levels of meaning, a literal one and a symbolic one. In such a work, most of the characters, objects, settings, and events represent abstract qualities. Personification is often used in traditional allegories. As in a fable or parable, the purpose of an allegory may be to convey truths about life, to teach religious or moral lessons, or to criticize social institutions.
Example: The best-known allegory in the English language is John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. Christian, the hero of Bunyan’s work, represents all people. Other allegorical characters include Mr. Worldly Wiseman, Faithful, and Hopeful. The allegory traces Christian’s efforts to achieve a godly life.
AlliterationAlliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds at the beginnings of words. Poets use alliteration to impart a musical quality to their poems, to create mood, to reinforce meaning, to emphasize particular words, and to unify lines or stanzas. Note the examples of alliteration in
the following lines:
AllusionAn allusion is an indirect reference to a person, place, event, or literary work with which the author believes the reader will be familiar.
Example: In Thomas Gray’s Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard, the speaker alludes to Milton, the famous English poet, and Cromwell, the leader of the Puritan revolt in the 17th c. These allusions to two of the best-known figures in English life emphasize the poet’s ideas about what the lives of the obscure people buried in the churchyard might have been like had they had different opportunities.
AmbiguityAmbiguity is a technique in which a word, phrase, or event has more than one meaning or can be interpreted in more than one way. Some writers deliberately create this effect to give richness and depth of meaning.
AnalogyAn analogy is a point-by-point comparison between two things for the purpose of clarifying the less familiar of the two subjects.
AnecdoteAn anecdote is a brief story that focuses on a single episode or event in a person’s life and that is used to illustrate a particular point.
Anglo-Saxon PoetryAnglo-Saxon poetry, which was written between the 7th and 12th centuries, is characterized by a strong rhythm, or cadence, that makes it easily chanted or sung. It was originally recited by scops,poet-singers who traveled from place to place. Lines of Anglo-Saxon poetry are unified through alliteration and through use of the same number of accented syllables in each line. Typically, a line is divided by a caesura,or pause, into two parts, with each part having two accented syllables. Usually, one or both of the accented syllables in the first part alliterate with an accented syllable in the second part. This passage illustrates some of these characteristics:
Another characteristic of Anglo-Saxon poetry is the use of kennings,metaphorical compound words or phrases substituted for simple nouns.
Examples: Kennings from The Seafarer include “whales’ home” for the sea and “givers of gold” for rulers or emperors. Examples from Beowulf include “shepherd of evil” for Grendel, and “folk-king” for Beowulf.
AntagonistAn antagonist is usually the principal character in opposition to the protagonist,or hero of a narrative or drama. The antagonist can also be a force of nature.
See also Character; Protagonist.
AntithesisAntithesis is a figure of speech in which sharply contrasting words, phrases, clauses, or sentences are juxtaposed to emphasize a point. In a true antithesis, both the ideas and the grammatical structures are balanced.
AphorismAn aphorism is a brief statement that expresses a general observation about life in a witty, pointed way. Unlike proverbs, which may stem from oral folk tradition, aphorisms originate with specific authors. “Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested,” from Francis Bacon’s essay Of Studies, is an example of an aphorism.
ApostropheApostrophe is a figure of speech in which an object, an abstract quality, or an absent or imaginary person is addressed directly, as if present and able to understand. Writers use apostrophe to express powerful emotions, as in this apostrophe to the ocean:
ArchetypeAn archetype is a pattern in literature that is found in a variety of works from different cultures throughout the ages. An archetype can be a plot, a character, an image, or a setting. For example, the association of death and rebirth with winter and spring is an archetype common to many cultures.
AsideIn drama, an aside is a short speech directed to the audience, or another character, that is not heard by the other characters on stage.
See also Soliloquy.
AssonanceAssonance is the repetition of a vowel sound in two or more stressed syllables that do not end with the same consonant. Poets use assonance to emphasize certain words, to impart a musical quality, to create a mood, or to unify a passage. An example of assonance is the repetition of the long e sound in the following lines. Note that the repeated sounds are not always spelled the same.
See also Alliteration; Consonance; Rhyme.
AudienceAudience is the person or persons who are intended to read a piece of writing. The intended audience of a work determines its form, style, tone, and the details included.
Author’s PurposeA writer usually writes for one or more of these purposes: to inform, to entertain, to express himself or herself, or to persuade readers to believe or do something. For example, the purpose of a news report is to inform; the purpose of an editorial is to persuade the readers or audience to do or believe something.
Author’s PerspectiveAn author’s perspective is a unique combination of ideas, values, feelings, and beliefs that influences the way the writer looks at a topic. Tone,or attitude, often reveals an author’s perspective. For example, in An Encounter with King George III, Fanny Burney reveals her relationship with and sentiments toward the royal family, all of which feeds into the perspective she brings to her subject.
See also Author’s Purpose; Tone.
Autobiographical EssaySee Essay.
AutobiographyAn autobiography is a writer’s account of his or her own life. Autobiographies often convey profound insights as writers recount past events from the perspective of greater understanding and distance. A formal autobiography involves a sustained, lengthy narrative of a person’s history, but other autobiographical narratives may be less formal and briefer. Under the general category of autobiography fall such writings as diaries, journals, memoirs, and letters. Both formal and informal autobiographies provide revealing insights into the writer’s character, attitudes, and motivations, as well as some understanding of the society in which the writer lived. The Book of Margery Kempe is an autobiography.
See also Diary; Memoir.
BalladA ballad is a narrative poem that was originally intended to be sung. Traditional folk ballads, written by unknown authors and handed down orally, usually depict ordinary people in the midst of tragic events and adventures of love and bravery. They tend to begin abruptly, focus on a single incident, use dialogue and repetition, and suggest more than they actually state. They often contain supernatural elements.
Typically, a ballad consists of four-line stanzas, or quatrains, with the second and fourth lines of each stanza rhyming. Each stanza has a strong rhythmic pattern, usually with four stressed syllables in the first and third lines and three stressed syllables in the second and fourth lines. The rhyme scheme is usually abcb or aabb. Barbara Allan, and Get Up and Bar the Door are ballads. Notice the rhythmic pattern in the following stanza:
A literary balladis a ballad with a single author. Modeled on the early English and Scottish folk ballads, literary ballads became popular during the romantic period. Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is a romantic literary ballad.
See also Narrative Poem; Rhyme; Rhythm.
BiographyA biography is a type of nonfiction in which a writer gives a factual account of someone else’s life. Written in the third person, a biography may cover a person’s entire life or focus on only an important part of it. An outstanding example of a biography is James Boswell’s The Life of Samuel Johnson. Modern biography includes a popular form called fictionalized biography,in which writers use their imaginations to re-create past conversations and to elaborate on some incidents.
Blank VerseBlank verse is unrhymed poetry written in iambic pentameter. Because iambic pentameter resembles the natural rhythm of spoken English, it has been considered the most suitable meter for dramatic verse in English. Shakespeare’s plays are written largely in blank verse, as is Milton’s epic Paradise Lost. Blank verse has also been used frequently for long poems, as in the following:
See also Iambic Pentameter; Meter; Rhythm.
CaesuraA caesura is a pause or a break in a line of poetry. Poets use a caesura to emphasize the word or phrase that precedes it or to vary the rhythmical effects.
See also Anglo-Saxon Poetry.
Carpe DiemThe term carpe diem is a Latin phrase meaning “seize the day.” This “live for the moment” theme characterizes the work of the 17th-century Cavalier poets, including Andrew Marvell, Robert Herrick, and Richard Lovelace.
Cast of CharactersThe cast of characters is a list of all the characters in a play, usually in the order of appearance. This list is found at the beginning of a script.
CharacterCharacters are the people, and sometimes animals or other beings, who take part in the action of a story or novel. Events center on the lives of one or more characters, referred to as main characters.The other characters, called minor characters,interact with the main characters and help move the story along.
Characters may also be classified as either static or dynamic.
Static characterstend to stay in a fixed position over the course of the story. They do not experience life-altering moments and seem to act the same, even though their situations may change. In contrast, dynamic characters evolve as individuals, learning from their experiences and growing emotionally.
See also Antagonist; Characterization; Foil; Motivation; Protagonist.
CharacterizationCharacterization refers to the techniques that writers use to develop characters. There are four basic methods of characterization:
1.A writer may use physical description. In William Trevor’s The Distant Past, the narrator describes the Middletons. “They had always been thin, silent with one another, and similar in appearance: a brother and sister who shared a family face. It was a bony countenance, with pale blue eyes and a sharp, well-shaped nose and high cheekbones.”
2.A character’s nature may be revealed through his or her own speech, thoughts, feelings, or actions. In Trevor’s story, the reader learns about the kind of life the Middletons lead: “Together they roved the vast lofts of their house, placing old paint tins and flowerpot saucers beneath the drips from the roof. At night they sat over their thin chops in a dining-room that had once been gracious. ...”
3.The speech, thoughts, feelings, and actions of other characters can be used to develop a character. The attitudes of the townspeople to the Middletons help the reader understand the old couple better: “‘An upright couple,’ was the Canon’s public opinion of the Middletons, and he had been known to add that eccentric views would hurt you less than malice.”
4.The narrator can make direct comments about the character’s nature. The narrator in Trevor’s story comments, “The Middletons were in their middle-sixties now and were reconciled to a life that became more uncomfortable with every passing year.”
See also Character; Narrator.
ChorusIn the theater of ancient Greece, the chorus was a group of actors who commented on the action of the play. Between scenes, the chorus sang and danced to musical accompaniment, giving insights into the message of the play. The chorus is often considered a kind of ideal spectator, representing the response of ordinary citizens to the tragic events that unfold. Certain dramatists have continued to employ this classical convention as a way of representing the views of the society being depicted.
See also Drama.
ClichéA cliché is an overused expression that has lost its freshness, force, and appeal. The phrase “happy as a lark” is an example of a cliché.
ClimaxIn a plot structure, the climax, or turning point, is the moment when the reader’s interest and emotional intensity reach a peak. The climax usually occurs toward the end of a story and often results in a change in the characters or a solution to the conflict.
See also Plot; Resolution.
ComedyA comedy is a dramatic work that is light and often humorous in tone, usually ending happily with a peaceful resolution of the main conflict. A comedy differs from a farceby having a more believable plot, more realistic characters, and less boisterous behavior.
See also Drama; Farce.
Comic ReliefComic relief consists of humorous scenes, incidents, or speeches that are included in a serious drama to provide a reduction in emotional intensity. Because it breaks the tension, comic relief allows an audience to prepare emotionally for events to come.
Example: Comic relief in Macbeth is provided by Macbeth’s garrulous, vulgar porter at the beginning of Act II, Scene 3, just after Duncan’s murder. This scene is needed to relax the tension built up in the preceding scenes.
ComplicationA complication is an additional factor or problem introduced into the rising action of a story to make the conflict more difficult. Often, a plot complication makes it seem as though the main character is getting farther away from the thing he or she wants.
ConceitSee Extended Metaphor.
ConflictA conflict is a struggle between opposing forces that is the basis of a story’s plot. An external conflictpits a character against nature, society, or another character. An internal conflictis a conflict between opposing forces within a character.
Example: In Elizabeth Gaskell’s Christmas Storms and Sunshine, Mrs. Hodgson is in a running conflict with Mrs. Jenkins.
See also Antagonist; Plot.
ConnotationConnotation is the emotional response evoked by a word, in contrast to its denotation,which is its literal meaning. Kitten, for example, is defined as “a young cat.” However, the word also suggests, or connotes, images of softness, warmth, and playfulness.
ConsonanceConsonance is the repetition of consonant sounds within and at the ends of words, as in the following example:
See also Alliteration; Assonance.
Controlling ImageSee Extended Metaphor; Imagery.
CoupletA couplet is a rhymed pair of lines. A simple couplet may be written in any rhythmic pattern. The following couplet is written in iambic tetrameter (lines of four iambs each):
A heroic coupletconsists of two rhyming lines written in iambic pentameter. The term heroic comes from the fact that English poems having heroic themes and elevated style have often been written in iambic pentameter. Alexander Pope’s masterful use of the heroic couplet made it a popular verse form during the neoclassical period.
Creation MythSee Myth.
Critical EssaySee Essay.
DescriptionDescription is writing that helps a reader to picture scenes, events, and characters. It helps the reader understand exactly what someone or something is like. To create description, writers often use sensory images—words and phrases that enable the reader to see, hear, smell, taste, or feel the subject described—and figurative language. Effective description also relies on precise nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs, as well as carefully selected details. The following passage contains clear details and images:
See also Diction; Figurative Language; Imagery.
DialectDialect is a particular variety of language spoken in one place by a distinct group of people. A dialect reflects the colloquialisms, grammatical constructions, distinctive vocabulary, and pronunciations that are typical of a region. At times writers use dialect to establish or emphasize settings, as well as to develop characters.
DialogueDialogue is conversation between two or more characters in either fiction or nonfiction. In drama, the story is told almost exclusively through dialogue, which moves the plot forward and reveals characters’ motives.
See also Drama.
DiaryA diary is a writer’s personal day-to-day account of his or her experiences and impressions. Most diaries are private and not intended to be shared. Some, however, have been published because they are well written and provide useful perspectives on historical events or on the everyday life of particular eras. Samuel Pepys’s diary is one of the most famous diaries in British literature.
DictionA writer’s or speaker’s choice of words is called diction. Diction includes both vocabulary (individual words) and syntax (the order or arrangement of words). Diction can be formal or informal, technical or common, abstract or concrete. In the following complex sentence, the diction is formal:
Examples: Much of the diction in Aldous Huxley’s essay Words and Behavior is formal, which is appropriate to the seriousness of his subject. The lofty, elevated diction in John Milton’s Paradise Lost befits the poem’s exalted subject and themes. By contrast, the blandness of the diction in W.H. Auden’s The Unknown Citizen—for example, the words employers, advertisements, advantages, and population—helps establish the detached, ironic tone of the poem.
See also Connotation; Style.
DramaDrama is literature in which plot and character are developed through dialogue and action; in other words, drama is literature in play form. It is performed on stage and radio and in films and television. Most plays are divided into acts, with each act having an emotional peak, or climax, of its own. The acts sometimes are divided into scenes; each scene is limited to a single time and place. Most contemporary plays have two or three acts, although some have only one act.
See also Act; Dialogue; Scene; Stage Directions.
Dramatic IronySee Irony.
Dramatic MonologueA dramatic monologue is a lyric poem in which a speaker addresses a silent or absent listener in a moment of high intensity or deep emotion, as if engaged in private conversation. The speaker proceeds without interruption or argument, and the effect on the reader is that of hearing just one side of a conversation. This technique allows the poet to focus on the feelings, personality, and motivations of the speaker.
See also Lyric Poetry; Soliloquy.
Dynamic CharacterSee Character.
ElegyAn elegy is an extended meditative poem in which the speaker reflects upon death—often in tribute to a person who has died recently—or on an equally serious subject. Most elegies are written in formal, dignified language and are serious in tone. Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s In Memoriam, written in memory of his friend Arthur Henry Hallam, is a famous elegy.
Elizabethan (Shakespearean) SonnetSee Sonnet.
End RhymeSee Rhyme.
English (Shakespearean) SonnetSee Sonnet.
Epic PoemAn epic is a long narrative poem on a serious subject presented in an elevated or formal style. An epic traces the adventures of a hero whose actions consist of courageous, even superhuman, deeds, which often represent the ideals and values of a nation or race. Epics typically address universal issues, such as good and evil, life and death, and sin and redemption. Beowulf is an enduring epic of the Anglo-Saxon period.
Epic HeroAn epic hero is a larger-than-life figure who often embodies the ideals of a nation or race. Epic heroes take part in dangerous adventures and accomplish great deeds. Many undertake long, difficult journeys and display great courage and superhuman strength.
Epic SimileSee Simile.
EpigramThe epigram is a literary form that originated in ancient Greece. It developed from simple inscriptions on monuments into a literary genre—short poems or sayings characterized by conciseness, balance, clarity, and wit. A classic epigram is written in two parts, the first establishing the occasion or setting the tone and the second stating the main point. A few lines taken from a longer poem can also be an epigram. Epigrams are used for many purposes, including the expression of friendship, grief, criticism, praise, and philosophy.
EpitaphAn epitaph is an inscription on a tomb or monument to honor the memory of a deceased person. The term epitaph is also used to describe any verse commemorating someone who has died. Although a few humorous epitaphs have been composed, most are serious in tone. Ben Jonson’s On My First Son is sometimes called an epitaph.
EpithetAn epithet is a brief phrase that points out traits associated with a particular person or thing. Homer’s Iliad contains many examples of epithets, such as the references to Achilles as “the great runner” and to Hector as “killer of men.”
EssayAn essay is a brief work of nonfiction that offers an opinion on a subject. The purpose of an essay may be to express ideas and feelings, to analyze, to inform, to entertain, or to persuade. In a persuasive essay,a writer attempts to convince readers to adopt a particular opinion or to perform a certain action. Most persuasive essays present a series of facts, reasons, or examples in support of an opinion or proposal. Sir Francis Bacon’s Of Studies and Of Marriage and Single Life are good examples of the persuasive essay.
Essays can be formal or informal. A formal essayexamines a topic in a thorough, serious, and highly organized manner. An informal essaypresents an opinion on a subject, but not in a completely serious or formal tone. Characteristics of this type of essay include humor, a personal or confidential approach, a loose and sometimes rambling style, and often a surprising or unconventional topic. Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman is a formal essay, meant to analyze and persuade. Joseph Addison’s essays from The Spectator are informal, meant to express observations, ideas, and feelings and to entertain with gentle humor and wit.
A personal essayis a type of informal essay. Personal essays allow writers to express their viewpoints on subjects by reflecting on events or incidents in their own lives. George Orwell’s Shooting an Elephant is an example of a personal essay.
ExemplumAn exemplum is a short anecdote or story that helps illustrate a particular moral point. Developed in the Middle Ages, this form was widely used by Geoffrey Chaucer in The Canterbury Tales.
Expository EssaySee Essay.
Extended MetaphorLike any metaphor, an extended metaphor is a comparison between two essentially unlike things that nevertheless have something in common. It does not contain the word like or as. In an extended metaphor, two things are compared at length and in various ways—perhaps throughout a stanza, a paragraph, or even an entire work. The likening of God to a shepherd in Psalm 23 is an example of an extended metaphor.
Like an extended metaphor, a conceitparallels two essentially dissimilar things on several points. A conceit, though, is a more elaborate, formal, and ingenious comparison than the ordinary extended metaphor. Sometimes a conceit forms the framework of an entire poem, as in John Donne’s A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning, in which the poet describes his own and his lover’s souls as the two legs of a mathematician’s compass.
See also Figurative Language; Metaphor; Simile.
External ConflictSee Conflict.
Falling ActionSee Plot.
FantasyFantasy is a term applied to works of fiction that display a disregard for the restraints of reality. The aim of a fantasy may be purely to delight or may be to make a serious comment. Some fantasies include extreme or grotesque characters. Others portray realistic characters in a realistic world who only marginally overstep the bounds of reality.
Example: In Gulliver’s Travels, Jonathan Swift creates imaginary worlds to present his satire of 18th-century England.
FarceA farce is a type of exaggerated comedy that features an absurd plot, ridiculous situations, and humorous dialogue. The main purpose of a farce is to keep an audience laughing. The characters are usually stereotypes,or simplified examples of different traits or qualities. Comic devices typically used in farces include mistaken identity, deception, wordplay—such as puns and double meanings—and exaggeration.
See also Comedy; Stereotype.
FictionFiction refers to works of prose that contain imaginary elements. Although fiction, like nonfiction, may be based on actual events and real people, it differs from nonfiction in that it is shaped primarily by the writer’s imagination. The two major types of fiction are novels and short stories. The four basic elements of a work of fiction are character, setting, plot,and theme.
See also Novel; Short Story.
Figurative LanguageFigurative language is language that communicates ideas beyond the literal meaning of words. Figurative language can make descriptions and unfamiliar or difficult ideas easier to understand. Special types of figurative language, called figures of speech,include simile, metaphor, personification, hyperbole,and apostrophe.
Figures of SpeechSee Figurative Language.
First-Person Point of ViewSee Point of View.
FlashbackA flashback is a scene that interrupts the action of a narrative to describe events that took place at an earlier time. It provides background helpful in understanding a character’s present situation.
Examples: The use of flashback in Virginia Woolf’s The Duchess and the Jeweller helps to reveal the conflicting emotions and motivations of the jeweller. The use of flashback in William Trevor’s The Distant Past provides important background for understanding the relationship of the Middletons to the townspeople.
FoilA foil is a character whose traits contrast with those of another character. A writer might use a minor character as a foil to emphasize the positive traits of the main character.
See also Character.
Folk BalladSee Ballad.
Folk TaleA folk tale is a short, simple story that is handed down, usually by word of mouth, from generation to generation. Folk tales include legends, fairy tales, myths, and fables. Folk tales often teach family obligations or societal values.
See also Legend; Myth; Fable.
ForeshadowingForeshadowing is a writer’s use of hints or clues to indicate events that will occur later in a story. Foreshadowing creates suspense and at the same time prepares the reader for what is to come.
Example: In The Rocking-Horse Winner, the strange mad frenzy with which Paul rides his rocking horse early in the story foreshadows the tragedy of his final ride.
FormAt its simplest, form refers to the physical arrangement of words in a poem—the length and placement of the lines and the grouping of lines into stanzas. The term can also refer to other types of patterning in poetry—anything from rhythm and other sound patterns to the design of a traditional poetic type, such as a sonnet or dramatic monologue.
See also Genre; Stanza.
Frame StoryA frame story exists when a story is told within a narrative setting or frame—hence creating a story within a story.
Examples: The collection of tales in Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, including The Pardoner’s Tale and The Wife of Bath’s Tale, are set within a frame story. The frame is introduced in The Prologue, in which 30 characters on a pilgrimage to Canterbury agree to tell stories to pass the time. Federigo’s Falcon” and the other tales in Boccaccio’s Decameron are set within a similar framework. The frame, or outer story, is about ten characters fleeing plague-ravaged Florence, Italy, who decide to amuse themselves by telling stories.
Free VerseFree verse is poetry that does not have regular patterns of rhyme and meter. The lines in free verse often flow more naturally than do rhymed, metrical lines and thus achieve a rhythm more like that of everyday human speech. Much 20th-century poetry, such as T.S. Eliot’s The Hollow Men, is written in free verse.
See also Meter; Rhyme.
GenreGenre refers to the distinct types into which literary works can be grouped. The four main literary genres are fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and drama.
Gothic LiteratureGothic literature is characterized by grotesque characters, bizarre situations, and violent events. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein can be considered Gothic literature.
HaikuHaiku is a form of Japanese poetry in which 17 syllables are arranged in three lines of 5, 7, and 5 syllables. The rules of haiku are strict. In addition to the syllabic count, he poet must create a clear picture that will evoke a strong emotional response in the reader. Nature is a particularly important source of inspiration for Japanese haiku poets, and details from nature are often the subjects of their poems.
HeroA hero, or protagonist,is a central character in a work of fiction, drama, or epic poetry. A traditional hero possesses good qualities that enable him or her to triumph over an antagonist who is bad or evil in some way.
The term tragic hero, first used by the Greek philosopher Aristotle, refers to a central character in a drama who is dignified or noble. According to Aristotle, a tragic hero possesses a defect, or tragic flaw, that brings about or contributes to his or her downfall. This flaw may be poor judgment, pride, weakness, or an excess of an admirable quality. The tragic hero, Aristotle noted, recognizes his or her flaw and its consequences, but only after it is too late to change the course of events. The characters Macbeth and Hamlet in Shakespeare‘s tragedies are tragic heroes.
A cultural herois a hero who represents the values of his or her culture. Such a hero ranks somewhere between ordinary human beings and the gods. The role of a cultural hero is to provide a noble image that will inspire and guide the actions of mortals. Beowulf is a cultural hero.
In more recent literature, heroes do not necessarily command the attention and admiration of an entire culture. They tend to be individuals whose actions and decisions reflect personal courage. The conflicts they face are not on an epic scale but instead involve moral dilemmas presented in the course of living. Such heroes are often in a struggle with established authority because their actions challenge accepted beliefs.
See also Epic; Protagonist; Tragedy.
Heroic CoupletSee Couplet.
Historical ContextThe historical context of a literary work refers to the social conditions that inspired or influenced its creation. To understand and appreciate some works, the reader must relate them to events in history.
Historical WritingHistorical writing is the systematic telling, often in narrative form, of the past of a nation or group of people. Historical writing generally has the following characteristics: (1) it is concerned with real events; (2) it uses chronological order; and (3) it is usually an objective retelling of facts rather than a personal interpretation. The Venerable Bede’s A History of the English Church and People is an example of historical writing.
See also Primary Sources; Secondary Sources.
HumorIn literature there are three basic types of humor, all of which may involve exaggeration or irony. Humor of situationis derived from the plot of a work. It usually involves exaggerated events or situational irony, which occurs when something happens that is different from what was expected. Humor of characteris often based on exaggerated personalities or on characters who fail to recognize their own flaws, a form of dramatic irony. Humor of languagemay include sarcasm, exaggeration, puns, or verbal irony, which occurs when what is said is not what is meant. In Candide, Voltaire uses all three kinds of humor, including absurd situations, ridiculous characters, and ironic descriptions.
See also Comedy; Farce; Irony.
HyperboleHyperbole is a figure of speech in which the truth is exaggerated for emphasis or for humorous effect. Notice the jarring effect created by this hyperbole:
Iambic PentameterIambic pentameter is a metrical pattern of five feet, or units, each of which is made up of two syllables, the first unstressed and the second stressed. Iambic pentameter is the most common meter used in English poetry; it is the meter used in blank verse and in the sonnet. The following line is an example of iambic pentameter:
See also Blank Verse; Meter; Sonnet.
IdiomAn idiom is a common figure of speech whose meaning is different from the literal meaning of its words. For example, the phrase “raining cats and dogs” does not literally mean that cats and dogs are falling from the sky; the expression means “raining heavily.”
ImageryThe term imagery refers to words and phrases that create vivid sensory experiences for the reader. The majority of images are visual, but imagery may also appeal to the senses of smell, hearing, taste, and touch. In addition, images may re-create sensations of heat (thermal), movement (kinetic), or bodily tension (kinesthetic). Effective writers of both prose and poetry frequently use imagery that appeals to more than one sense simultaneously. For example, in John Keats’s ode To Autumn, the image “Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind” appeals to two senses—sight and touch.
When an image describes one sensation in terms of another, the technique is called synesthesia.For example, the phrase “cold smell of potato mold” from Seamus Heaney’s poem Digging is an image appealing to smell described in terms of touch (temperature).
A poet may use a controlling imageto convey thoughts or feelings. A controlling image is a single image or comparison that extends throughout a literary work and shapes its meaning. A controlling image is sometimes an extended metaphor.The image of the Greek vase in Keats’s Ode on a Grecian Urn and the image of digging in Heaney’s poem Digging are controlling images.
See also Description; Kinesthetic Imagery.
Informal EssaySee Essay.
Interior MonologueSee Monologue; Stream of Consciousness.
Internal ConflictSee Conflict.
Internal RhymeSee Rhyme.
InterviewAn interview is a conversation conducted by a writer or reporter in which facts or statements are elicited from another person, recorded, and then broadcast or published.
IronyIrony is a contrast between expectation and reality. This incongruity often has the effect of surprising the reader or viewer. The techniques of irony include hyperbole, understatement, and sarcasm. Irony is often subtle and easily overlooked or misinterpreted.
There are three main types of irony. Situational ironyoccurs when a character or the reader expects one thing to happen but something else actually happens. In Thomas Hardy’s poem Ah, Are You Digging on My Grave? The speaker questions who is digging on her grave and why. The responses to her questions and the final revelation shock the speaker and create a shattering irony in the poem. Verbal ironyoccurs when a writer or character says one thing but means another. An example of verbal irony is the title of Jonathan Swift’s essay A Modest Proposal. The reader soon discovers that the narrator’s proposal is outrageous rather than modest and unassuming. Dramatic ironyoccurs when the reader or viewer knows something that a character does not know. For example, in Act One of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the audience knows that Macbeth is thinking of killing Duncan, but Duncan does not.
Italian (Petrarchan) SonnetSee Sonnet.
KenningSee Anglo-Saxon Poetry.
Kinesthetic ImageryKinesthetic imagery re-creates the tension felt through muscles, tendons, or joints in the body. In the following passage, Seamus Heaney uses kinesthetic imagery to describe his father’s potato digging:
See also Imagery.
LegendA legend is a story passed down orally from generation to generation and popularly believed to have a historical basis. While some legends may be based on real people or situations, most of the events are either greatly exaggerated or fictitious. Like myths, legends may incorporate supernatural elements and magical deeds. But legends differ from myths in that they claim to be stories about real human beings and are often set in a particular time and place.
LettersLetters refers to the written correspondence exchanged between acquaintances, friends, or family members. Most letters are private and not designed for publication. However, some are published and read by a wider audience because they are written by well-known public figures or provide important information about the period in which they were written.
Examples: The Paston Letters, the correspondence of a family in 15th-century England, is a famous collection of letters. John Keats’s collected letters provide an excellent portrait of the poet’s intellect, imagination, and relationships with others.
Limited Point of ViewSee Point of View.
LineThe line is the core unit of a poem. In poetry, line length is an essential element of the poem’s meaning and rhythm. There are a variety of terms to describe the way a line of poetry ends or is connected to the next line. Line breaks, where a line of poetry ends, may coincide with grammatical units. However, a line break may also occur in the middle of a grammatical or syntactical unit, creating a pause or emphasis. Poets use a variety of line breaks to play with meaning, thereby creating a wide range of effects.
Literary BalladSee Ballad.
Literary CriticismLiterary criticism refers to writing that focuses on a literary work or a genre, describing some aspect of it, such as its origin, its characteristics, or its effects.
Literary NonfictionLiterary nonfiction is nonfiction that is recognized as being of artistic value or that is about literature. Autobiographies, biographies, essays, and eloquent speeches typically fall into this category.
LyricA lyric is a short poem in which a single speaker expresses personal thoughts and feelings. Most poems other than dramatic and narrative poems are lyrics. In ancient Greece, lyrics were meant to be sung—the word lyric comes from the word lyre, the name of a musical instrument that was used to accompany songs. Modern lyrics are not usually intended for singing, but they are characterized by strong, melodic rhythms. Lyrics can be in a variety of forms and cover many subjects, from love and death to everyday experiences. They are marked by imagination and create for the reader a strong, unified impression. The following lines from John Keats’s famous poem exemplify the emotional intensity of lyric poetry:
See also Poetry.
Major CharacterSee Character.
Main CharacterSee Character.
MaximA maxim is a brief and memorable statement of general truth, one that often imparts guidance or advice. This type of writing is common in the Book of Ecclesiastes of the Bible.
MemoirA memoir is a form of autobiographical writing in which a person recalls significant events and people in his or her life. Most memoirs share the following characteristics: (1) they usually are structured as narratives told by the writers themselves, using the first-person point of view; (2) although some names may be changed to protect privacy, memoirs are true accounts of actual events; (3) although basically personal, memoirs may deal with newsworthy events having a significance beyond the confines of the writer’s life; (4) unlike strictly historical accounts, memoirs often include the writers’ feelings and opinions ab