Essential Literary Terms

Essential Literary Terms
the repetition of sounds in nearby words or stressed syllables. Usually the term
applies to consonants that appear at the beginnings of words: We/ Lurk late. We /
Strike straight.
the repetition of identical or similar vowel sounds in nearby words or stressed
syllables: right / time, sad / fact, seven / elves.It differs from rhyme, in which
both the vowels and the consonants of nearby words match.
the repetition of consonant sounds in two or more successive words or stressed
syllables that contain different vowel sounds: has / hid, wonder / wander, haven
/ heaven.
the repetition in two or more nearby words of the last stressed vowel and all the
syllables that follow it. Rhyme may be used to create unity, link or contrast
ideas, or rhyme may be used to lighten the tone, especially if the rhymes are
exaggerated or ingenious.
its most common definition is using a word or phrase that seems to imitate the
sound it denotes: bang, creak, murmur, ding-dong, plop. The effect cannot come
from the sound of the word alone: its meaning is involved as well. For example
the words bank, creek, and plot, although similar in sound to those above are
not onomatopoeic.
For each of the following passages
 Name the predominant sound pattern: alliteration, assonance,
consonance, or onomatopoeia
 Underline the letters or words that display that sound pattern
 Describe the effects of the sound pattern(s) on the meaning and the tone
of the passage
 NOTE : Some passages may contain more than one sound pattern; in
those cases, identify each kind and describe its effects
He clasps the crags with crooked hands,
Close to the sun in lonely lands.
--- Tennyson, “The Eagle”
A tap at the pane, the quick sharp scratch
And blue spurt of a lighted match . . .
--- Robert Browning, “Meeting at Night”
In me thou see’st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west;
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
--- Shakespeare, Sonnet 73
The hum of multitudes was there, but multitudes of lambs,
Thousands of little boys & girls raising their innocent hands.
--- William Blake, “Holy Thursday [1]”
And the silken, sad, uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me – filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before.
--- Edgar Allan Poe, “The Raven”
an address to a dead or absent person or to an inanimate object or abstract
concept: “Milton! Thou shouldst be living at this hour: / England hath need of
thee.” In this example William Wordsworth bemoans the lack of spirituality in
England. He calls on the author of Paradise Lost for guidance.
a figure of thought in which one kind of thing is compared to a markedly
different object, concept, or experience; the comparison is made explicit by the
word “like” or “as”: “Jen’s room is like a pig sty.”
In a metaphor, a word or phrase that in literal use designates one kind of thing is
applied to a conspicuously different object, concept, or experience, without
exerting an explicit comparison. . In the last point, it differs from a simile. For
example, In “Jen’s room is a pig sty,” the metaphorical word “sty” is applied to
the literal subject, “room,” without using “like” or “as.”
a figure of thought in which the term for part of something is used to represent
the whole, or, less commonly, the term for the whole is used to represent the
part. For example, manual laborers are called “blue-collar” workers; food
needed for sustenance as “daily bread.”
substitutes the name of an entity with something else that is closely associated
with it. For example, “the throne” is a metynomic synonym for “the king”;
“Shakespeare” for the works of the playwright; “the Kremlin” for the ruling
body of modern Russia.
a compressed paradox that closely links two seemingly contrary elements in a
way that, on further consideration, turns out to make good sense. For example,
“bittersweet,’ “a living death,” and “passive aggressive.”
a statement that appears on the surface to be contradictory or impossible turns
out to express an often striking truth. For example, the paradoxical slogan of
the Bauhaus School of art and architecture, “Less is more,” suggests that
spareness and selectivity are more important in achieving aesthetic beauty than
expansiveness and inclusiveness.
a figure of thought in which an abstract concept, animal, or inanimate object is
treated as though it were alive or had human attributes. For example in Romeo
and Juliet, Lord Capulet uses personification to express despair at finding Juliet
supposedly dead on the morning of her wedding day: “Death is my son-in-law,
Death is my heir; / My daughter he has wedded.”
a figure of thought that plays on words that have the same sound (homonyms),
or closely similar sounds, but have sharply contrasted meanings. For example, in
Hamlet, when the prince answers his despised uncle’s public enquiry about his
continued melancholy – “How is it that the clouds still hang on you?” with a
pun: “Not so, my lord. I am too much in the sun.” Hamlet’s use of sun/son is
both ingenious and ominous.