Literary Devices & Figures of Speech 101 (+ PDF)

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FIGURES OF SPEECH AND OTHER LITERARY TERMS

Figures of Speech or Literary devices refer to the use of language (constructions, statements etc.) in ways that are unusual or special.

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These expressions are different from  the way we ordinarily use language.

Example: 1. A: Ordinary Usage:

I fell asleep at 10:00 pm

2. B: Special/Unusual Usage:

Sleep visited me at 10:00 pm.

‘B’ therefore contains a figure of speech. Can you name it? The collective term used for them is Imagery.

Speakers or writers use figures of speech or literary devices to make the ideas they want to put across more striking and effective.

METAPHOR: A figure of speech in which a direct comparison is made between two unlike things without the use of ‘like’ or ‘as’

Example 1: They looked at us with stony eyes. 2. The memory of my blood

3. The necklaces of laughter 4. Beyond the snows of yesterday

5. Days sparkling with ever-new joys

 SETTING: The place, time or atmosphere within which a story or play occurs

PLOT: The sequence of causes and effects of events in a novel or play

IRONY (VERBAL IRONY): where there is a difference between what is said and what is really meant. Example: 1. My enemies shall continue to prosper.

BALLAD: Definition: Refer to page 16.

Example: The owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea

In a beautiful pea-green boat

They took some honey, and plenty of money

Wrapped in a five-pound note

The owl looked up to the stars above,

And sang to a small guitar

“O lovely Pussy! O Pussy my love

What a beautiful Pussy you are

You are You are

What a beautiful Pussy you are!”

  • SATIRE: A literary work which reveals, ridicules and criticizes bad things in society in order to reform the society for the better.

Example: i. A Man of the People

ii. The Beautiful Ones are Not Yet Born

iii. Anthills of the Savannah

iv. Money Galore

RHYTHM: The musical movement of the lines of poetry found in its metre, stress pattern, punctuation and rhyme.

SONNET: The poem of fourteen lines usually with a predetermined rhyme scheme of abab, cdcd, efef, and gg. The first eight lines are called Octave and the last six lines, Sestet. Where the last two lines rhyme, they are called a Couplet.

DIDACTIC LITERATURE: A work of art which teaches a moral lesson

ALLITERATION: The repetition of similar initial consonants in a work of art.

Example: i. The cane cracked on the caked khaki

ii. Stand silent

iii. Bitter bile

iv. Drawn drips

EPILOGUE: The final statement (coming at the end) in a work of art.

PROLOGUE: The introductory statement (coming at the beginning) in a work of art. In drama, the prologue is usually played by a CHORUS

ROMANCE: A work of art filled with intense feelings of excitement, intrigue and suspense.

Example: Don Quixote

COMIC RELIEF: A point of humour in a tragedy

CONFLICT: the struggle between opposing forces in a work of art. Conflict is an important ingredient in any piece of good literature.

POETIC JUSTICE: When bad or evil is punished and good triumphs (is rewarded)

OXYMORON: The use of two usually opposite terms, close to each other in a brief expression.

Example: i. Most foul, most fair

ii. Pure impiety

iii. Impious purity

iv. Friendly enemy

v. Bittersweet

vi. Harmless lion

vii. Pregnant virgin

  1. KINESTHETIC IMAGERY: Imagery depicting movement or action.

Example: i. The water crawled feebly into the next hole

ii. She grabbed it with the speed of lightning.

  1. AUDITORY IMAGERY: Imagery associated with hearing.

Example: i. They booed us every time we performed

ii. There was a loud silence in the room.

VISUAL IMAGERY: Imagery appealing to the reader’s or listener’s sense of sight.

TACTILE IMAGERY: Imagery appealing to our sense of touch

Example: i. This kind of news can only pierce a man’s heart like a spear.

  • OLFACTORY IMAGERY: Imagery evoking the reader’s sense of smell.

Example: i. Her beauty filled the room like the fragrance of French lavender.

EPIC: A long narrative poem recounting the great deeds of heroic or supernatural figures of history.

TRAGIC FLAW (HARMATIA): The weakness or failing in an otherwise great character which causes his downfall.

REVERSAL: A change in the fortunes of tragic hero from happiness to sadness.

HYPERBOLE: An exaggerated statement or an over statement.

Example: At his birth, the earth stood still.

  • LITOTES: Making a point in the affirmative by using two negative terms. It is also called an understatement

Example: i. It is not uncommon to find facts strange.

ii. I am a member of no unimportant family

  • EUPHEMISM: Speaking of a whole by using just a part of it to represent it. (Part to represent a whole). Synecdoche is used mostly with parts of the human body.

Example: i. Senior citizen FOR Very Old Person

ii. Pass away FOR: Die

  • SYNECDOCHE: Speaking of a whole by using just a part of it to represent it. (Part to represent a whole). Synecdoche is used mostly with parts of the human body.

Example: i. All hands on deck (Everybody must work).

ii. She has many mouths to feed (many people)

  • METHONYMY: Speaking of something by using the name of something closely associated with it. (Usually objects)

Example: i. The crown = The king/queen or monarch

ii. The bottle = Alcoholic drinks

ii. The rod = Punishment or discipline

  • FARCE: An extremely funny, hilarious play with elements of absurdity or abnormality

BURLESQUE is another term used to describe such plays.

  • REVELLERS: A group of unruly, usually drunk characters engaged in acts of immorality and extreme joy.
  • ORGY: A sense of excessive bloodshed or sexual acts involving many people.
  • ALTERNATE RHYME: A rhyming pattern (scheme) with first line rhyming with the third, the second with the fourth etc. i.e. abab etc.

Example: Those who live through pain

      And have their blood shed

     Shall have so much gain

     When their victories are read.

  • SECONDARY TEXT: The part of a play usually written in italics or parentheses and directing the actions of characters or describing the setting.
  • FICTION: An imaginary long narrative story. It is also called PROSE or NOVEL.

Example: i. The Ancestral Sacrifice

ii. Anthills of the Savannah

  • AUTOBIOGRAPHY: A life story written by the person himself and usually in the first person narrative voice.
  • BIOGRAPHY: The life story of a person written by another person.
  • TRAGIC HERO:  The main character in a tragedy. He is usually a person of a high social status who uses lofty, poetic language but has a human failing (tragic flaw).
  • SYLLABLE: The linguistic unit on which stress is put or not put in poetry and other forms of expression.

Example: today(2 syllables) “to” is unstressed and “day” is stressed.

  • FOOT: A metrical unit in poetry. It may consist of one stressed and one unstressed syllable, two stressed and one unstressed syllable etc

Example: I vow\ to thee\ my country = 3 feet

  • PARODY: An exaggerated imitation, which ridicules another work in a harsh manner.
  • PERSONA: The speaking voice in a poem. Usually, the persona is considered as distinct from the poet\writer.
  • ROUND CHARACTER: A character who changes and develops as the story progresses. He or she is also called a multi-dimensional character.
  • FLAT CHARACTER: A character who does not change or develop much in a story. – a mono-dimensional character. Such a character may also be referred to a stereotype. 
  • SIMILE: It is comparison between two things or persons that are similar in one point and otherwise dissimilar. It is usually introduced by such words as ‘like’, ‘as’, ‘so’, e.g.
  • “A room without books is like a body without a soul”
  • “Great men stand like a solitary tower
  • “Baaba ran as fast as a horse in the race.
  • MIXED METAPHOR/CONFUSED METAPHOR: Two or more different metaphors used in the same sentence with reference to the same subject. e.g. He was fishing for his heart and a long search reached his goal.
  • ANTITHESIS: This results when opposites or contrasts are employed in the same sentence usually to emphasize a point.

Example

  • Man proposes, God disposes
  • Speech is silver but silence is Gold
  • They speak like saints and act like devils.
  • PARADOX: It is a statement, which seems absurd at first sight and yet proves to be true on second thought. Example
  • The child is the father of the man
  • Cowards die many times before their death
  • The greeter the fool, the better the dancer.
  • ANTI-CLIMAX OR BATHOS: It is the opposite of climax consisting in a descent from a higher level to lesser heights, the intensity or importance weakening instead of increasing toward the end e.g. He lost his wife, his child, his household, goods and his dog at one swoop of fate”
  • TRANSFERRED EPITHET: An epithet sometimes transferred from its proper words, to another that is closely associated with it. In the sentence the qualifying adjective is transferred from a person to things e.g.
  • The ploughman homeward ploughs his weary way
  • He lay all night on a sleepless pillow
  • PUN OR PARONOMASIA: The use of words of the same sound with different meaning for the sake of humour.

Sample WASSCE English Summary Answers

Nov/Dec WASSCE Registration Fees and Facts

Example:

Dreamers often lie

Yes, they lie in bed as they dream

ECHOISM/ONOMATOPOEIA: It is the use of words whose sounds naturally suggest their meaning. e.g.

I bring fresh showers for the thirsty flowers

The arrow whizzed through the air

ALLITERATION/CONSONANCE: It is the repetition of the same initial consonant in several words near one another e.g.

Full fathom five their father lies

After life, fitful fever he sleeps well

Peter piper picked a peck of pickle pepper

INVERSION: It is a change in the natural or usual order of words for the sake of effect or emphasis. Compare the two statements below:

“I will go to Akatsi tomorrow”

To Akatsi tomorrow will I go (inversion)

  • SETTING: It refers to the place (location) where an actions and events in the story come. It is the sequence of events in a play or Novel.
  • IAMBUS (LIMBIC METRE): One unstressed syllable followed by a stressed one in poetry.

Example: – / – / – / –

  1. I vow to thee my country
  2. To you we owe the sea
  3. THEME: The underlying message in a work of art.  Love, hate, materialism, corruption, politics, etc

Example: Chume: Forgive us all

Congregation: Amen

Chume: Forgive us all

(And the, punctuated regularly with Amens)

Yes Father, make you forgive us all. Make you save us from palaver.

Save us from trouble at home. Tell our wives not to give us trouble …..

(The penitent has become placid. She is stretched out flat on the ground)

… Give us money to satisfy our daily necessities. Make you no forget those of

us who dey struggle daily.  Those who be clerk today, make them chief clerk  tomorrow. Those who are messengers today, make them senior service tomorrow …….

(The Amens grew more and more ecstatic)

Those who are petty trader today, make them big contractor tomorrow. Those who dey sweep street today, give them their own big office tomorrow. It we de walka today, give us our own bicycle tomorrow. I say those who dey walka today, give them their own bicycle tomorrow. Those who have bicycle today, they will ride their own car tomorrow.

(The enthusiasm of the response becomes, at this point quite overpowering) I say those who day push bicycle; give them big car big car tomorrow. Give them big car tomorrow. Give them big car tomorrow, give them big car tomorrow.

One theme of this extract is materialism.

“My people, I have been somewhere

If I turn here, the rain beats me

If I turn there the sun burns me

The firewood of this world

Is for only those who can take heart

That is why not all can gather it ……”

The theme of this extract is suffering

  • SOLILOQUY: A character’s speech to himself, which reveals his motives, and state of mind.
  • PERSONIFICATION (PROSOPOPEIA): giving human attributes or characteristics to inanimate, lifeless objects or animals or abstract ideas.

Example:

  1. Cruel wishes entered him, departed and entered again
  2. The sun rose from his bed
  3. The engine coughed twice
  4. PASTORAL POETRY: It is about simple, rural life (life in the countryside) especially of shepherds.

Example: “Michael” by William Wordsworth

  • SUSPENSE: When a reader is kept in a state of high expectancy, eager to know what will happen next.

Example: In English, my name means hope. In Spanish, it means too many letters. It means sadness, it means waiting. It is like the number nine. A muddy color. It is the Mexican records my father plays on Sunday mornings when his shaving, songs like sobbing.

By delaying the disclosure of the narrator’s name, the writer has used the literary technique known as suspense  

  • ALLUSION: The reference to issues that re outside the literary work being studied.

Example: A Daniel has come into judgment i.e. Biblical Allusion by Shylock in The MERCHANT OF VENICE by William Shakespeare.

  • CLIMAX: The crisis stage in a series of events in a story or play.
  • APOSTROPHE: An address to an imaginary person or object as if they were present, usually in poetry.

Example: You my ancestors, come to my aid

  • ELEGY: Poetry meant to praise somebody or something.
  • DIRGE: A song meant for mourning the dead.
  • TRAGEDY: A play in which there occurs a sudden change (reversal) in the hero’s fortunes from  happiness to disaster. It ends sadly

Example: Shakespeare’s Hamlet, King Lear, Macbeth and Romeo and Juliet, The Gods Are Not To Blame By Ola Rotimi.

  • COMEDY: A play whose characters are usually low or middle class citizens, bringing out their follies and weaknesses in an amusing but educative manner.

Example: Our Husband Has Gone Mad Again by Ola Rotimi And The Trials Of Brother Jero.

  • MIME: acting without speech but demonstrating with gesture, bodily movement and facial expression.
  • MIMICRY: imitating gestures, speech of others especially in drama.
  • ASSONANCE: A type of rhyme pattern in which there is repetition of similar middle vowels.

Example: i. Your name remains in frames of gold

ii. Tall walls fall mightily

  • RHYME:  sameness of sounds especially in the last syllable of words in line endings of poetry Example:  time/clime keep/reap
  • STANZA: A division of a poem of song.
  • CHAPTER: major division of prose.
  • PARAGRAPH: A sub-division of chapter.
  • FREE VERSE: A poem of irregular and unpredictable line – lengths.

Example: A plea for Mercy by Kwesi Brew.

  • BLANK VERSE: Unrhymed five-foot iambic poetry
  • HEROIC COUPLETS: Successive five –foot iambic lines rhyming in pairs
  • ASIDE: A statement made by an actor on stage but not meant to be heard by the other actors but which may be heard by the audience.
  • EPITAPH: An inscription on a tombstone

Example: Your Life Was A blessing To Us

  • POLY-SYLLABIC WORD: A word containing only one syllable.

Example: argument, examination.

  • MONO-SYLLABIC WORD: A word containing only one syllable.

go, bed, sun

  • POINT OF VIEW: The angle from which the narrator sees and narrates events.
  • FIRST PERSON NARRATOR: A person who narrates a story in which he takes an active part. He uses the pronoun, “I” a lot. He may be biased and subjective.
  • THIRD PERSON (OMNISCIENT) NARRATOR: A narrator who is not part of the story but narrates as an outsider. He uses the third person pronouns – He, She, It, They.
  • SECOND PERSON NARRATOR: The narrator who uses the second person pronouns and appears to be addressing the reader directly i.e. “You”.
  • EPISODE: An important event or incident in a literary work.

Example: The Outbreak of an epidemic in the Gods Are Not To Blame.

  • ORAL LITERATURE: unwritten literature (i) involving the active participation of the performance and the audient (ii) which is communally owned (iii) which tells much about the history and culture of the people (iv) influenced by the environment of the people.

Example: Myth, proverbs, praise songs, dirge, riddles, war songs, folktales, fables.

  • PRIMAL MYTH: A piece of oral literature which tells a story about how the world was created.
  • DRAMA: A piece of literature meant to be performed. Its key elements include (i) imitation or impersonation (ii) disguise (iii) dance (iv) mime (v) dialogue

Example: The Gods Are Not To Blame, As You Like It, THE TRIALS OF BROTHER JERO, ROMEO AND JULIET, THE MARRIAGE OF ANANSEWA.

  • ATTITUDE: The feeling of a writer or one character towards a character. Words used to describe attitude include;
  • Positive Attitude: Admiration, like, approval, sympathy
  • Negative Attitude: disgust, contempt, disapproval, unsympathetic, dislike

Example:

Attitude

Msimangu opened the book, and read to them first from the book. And Kumalo had not known that his friend had such a voice. For the voice was of gold, and the voice had such love for the words it was reading. The voice shook and beat and trembled, not as the voice of an old man shakes and beats and trembles, or as a leaf shakes and eats and trembles but as a deep bell when it is struck. For it was not only a voice of gold but it was the voice of a man whose heart was golden, reading from a book of golden words.

(Alan Patton –Cry The Beloved Country P 78)

Kumalo’s attitude towards Msimagu is one of admiration.

  • CONTRAST: Presenting two opposing sides of an issues in order to emphasize a point about one side.
  • FABLE: A story involving animal characters.  Example: The Tortoise and the Birds.
  • LANGUAGE OR DICTION: The kind of words and sentence construction (syntax) used in a work of art. It could be: formal or pedantic, archaic or old fashioned, humorous or funny, simple, complex, informal.
  • ONOMATOPOEIA: Use of words whose sounds echo their meaning.

Example: i. The bomb boomed

ii. Tooting of horns.

iii. The bells are tolling

iv. Bells are chiming

  • ELEMENTS IN THE PLOT OF TRAGEDY: Conflict, reversal, denouement.
  • ELEMENTS OF COMEDY: Caricature, humour, wit, parody, absurdity
  • NEGRITUDE: Literature, especially poetry meant to celebrate Africa and its black people. Its main proponent is Leopold Sedar Senghor. Example: i) Long long have you held (ii) Black woman (iii) I will pronounce your name, Naett.
  • EPITHET: The use of descriptive words especially when added to names, titles etc.

Example: i. Sango, the thunder lion

  1. FOIL: A minor character in a work of art used to expose and emphasize the attributes of a main character
  2. STAGE: The platform on which actors perform a play
  3. THEATRE: A building in which dramatic performance are staged.
  4. COSTUME: The attire or clothing worn by actors
  5. CHARACTERIZATION: The techniques an author uses to build a character into what he wants him/her to be. These techniques include:
  6. what the character says
  7. What the character does
  8. What other characters say about him
  9. Authorial comments (what the author says about him)
  10. FORM: The shape or appearance of a poem defined by the sound and rhythm of the words, line lights, stanza, structure as well as the use of such poetic devices as rhyme, imagery, metaphor etc.
  11. EPIC HERO: A strong, adventurous, legendary figure.
  12. SCANSION: The process of counting the stressed and unstressed syllables in a poem to determine its rhythm.
  13. A RELIABLE NARRATOR: A narrator (persona), usually a third person narrator, who is detached and objective.
  14. PARALLELISM: The repetition of grammatical structures or patterns especially phrases and clauses in a literary work. (Pattern repetition)

Example: i. No past, no present, no future.

  1. CONCEIT: A comparison, in a metaphor, of things which seem extremely unlike but which can be developed into striking parallels. It is common in metaphysical poetry.
  2. FANTASY: An idea, which is very much unreal and unlikely to materialize
  3. CLICHÉ: An expression or idea which through repeated use has become commonplace and tiresome.

Example: i. Its importance cannot be overemphasized

ii. He who fails to plan, plans to fail

  1. JARGON: An expression, which is unnecessarily specialized to a group or people and therefore unavailable to outsiders. When it is a short-lived fashionable expression within a select group it is known as ARGOT
  2. CANT: The mindless use of a jargon
  3. TENOR AND VEHICLE: The two terms used respectively to distinguish the primary object of attention (TENOR) from the thing being used to clary that object. (VEHICLE)

Example: She rose like a star

Tenor = she

Vehicle = star

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  1. PATHETIC FALLACY: ascribing to nature, emotions which reflect human attributes. It is an extreme form of personification.

Example: The trees cried as the rain fell on them.

  1. ALLEGORY: consistent and systematic description of another order of things beyond the obvious one. Example: John Bunyan’s Pilgrim Progress.
  2. RHYTHM: It is the musical flow of poetic lines produced among other things, by the alternation of long and short words, stressed and unstressed syllables, rhyme etc.
  3. METRE: It is the pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables in poetry.
  4. RHETORICAL QUESTION: It is a statement made more effective by being put in the form of question. No answer is given or expected; it is understood from the context. e.g.
  5. Hath not a few eyes?
  6. Who cares for Alexander the Great who chose not to bow down to his tutor Aristotle?
  7. TONE: The manner in which a writer puts across his feelings in his work. The tone of a writer shows his mood and attitude.
  8. MOOD: The feeling or emotion of a writer. The mood of a writer can be seen in the words he uses since a writer’s mood reflects his tone.
  9. STYLE: It is the writer’s manner of writing. His deliberate method of expression and construction: that is one in which we are aware of the process of selection and arrangement intended to produce a special effect 
  10. A STATED THEME: It is one that the author expresses directly in the work
  11. AN IMPLIED THEME: It is one that is not stated directly in the work but is suggested by the work’s other elements.
  12. ATMOSPHERE: It is the general feeling that a passage or poem creates. it could be that of sadness, dullness, gaity, frenzy, tension, calmness etc. atmosphere and mood are interrelated.

Example: An atmosphere of frenzy or excitement:

Chume: Forgive us all

Congregation: Amen

Chume: Forgive us all

(And the, punctuated regularly with Amens)

Yes Father, make you forgive us all. Make you save us from palaver.

Save us from trouble at home. Tell our wives not to give us trouble …..

(The penitent has become placid. She is stretched out flat on the ground)

… Give us money to satisfy our daily necessities. Make you no forget those of

us who dey struggle daily.  Those who be clerk today, make them chief clerk  tomorrow. Those who are messengers today, make them senior service tomorrow …….

(The Amens grew more and more ecstatic)

Those who are petty trader today, make them big contractor tomorrow. Those who dey sweep street today, give them their own big office tomorrow. It we de walka today, give us our own bicycle tomorrow. I say those who dey walka today, give them their own bicycle tomorrow. Those who have bicycle today, they will ride their own car tomorrow.

(The enthusiasm of the response becomes, at this point quite overpowering) I say those who day push bicycle; give them big car big car tomorrow. Give them big car tomorrow. Give them big car tomorrow, give them big car tomorrow.

  1. SUBJECT MATTER: It is the content of a piece of writing. It deals with all what the writer has described or narrated in a literary work. It is from the subject matter that the theme is derived.
  2. STRUCTURE: The way the work has been built. It shows how the various elements or components are combined together to form a particular piece of work. In poetry it is the stanzas into which the poem is divided as well as the number of lines that each stanza consists of.
  3. MORAL: The lesson that the writer wants to share with the reader. It is that which a story, event or experience teaches. Morals were very much used in the olden days where public morality was expected to be the main objective of literature and they were the main ingredients of fables and tales like Aesop’s Tales, Ananse Stories etc.
  4. PARABLE: A short narrative, illustrating some moral truth. It is briefer than Allegory.
  5. EPIGRAM: It is a brief and pointed expression often implying an apparent contradiction of meaning which at once calls our attention. e.g.
  6. Clever men are good but they are not the best.
  7. To look is much less easy than to overlook.
  8. ODE: It is any poetic composition written in honour of a person or object to extol a special idea. It is usually in irregular metre and expressing noble feelings.

Example: Ode To A Nightingale

  1. BALLAD: It is a narrative poem which is usually sung, written in short stanzas and usually centered on love, battle, death etc. The subjects of ballad are always communal and impersonal in nature, and they include legends, tribal wars, group catastrophes, the supernatural, and hero – stories treated to show a collective or communal concern

TRAGI-COMEDY: It is a kind of play with both sad and happy events. It is a blend of tragedy and comedy usually ending with mixed feelings. e.g. Shakespeare’s, Much Ado about Nothing.

NON – FICTION: Any story or vent, which is true and has actually occurred and written by some one. Examples are biographies, autobiographies and historical accounts.

DRAMATIC IRONY: A situation in a play in which the audience and the writer know something that the character doesn’t know or is unaware of. It is also a situation where a character says something, which later comes true in a way the speaker had not expected or envisaged at the time he made the statement.

Example: In The Gods Are Not To Blame. Odewale is unaware that he has married his own mother but the reader or audience is aware

  1. RIDDLE: It is a short statement that does not identify its subject but provides enough for the reader to recognize the subject

Example: Riddle: Have I invited you to follow me?

Solution: The human shadow.

  1. FOLKTALE: A popular story handed down orally from past generations. It deals with traditional beliefs, customs, taboos, etc. It is normally used to entertain or educate.
  2. MELODRAMA: A type of play, which is full of exaggeration and incredible actions. There are a lot of exciting and tragic, incidents. The emotions of characters are exaggerated and usually with a happy ending.
  3. STAGE DIRECTION: The printed direction in a play to actors about their position movements etc. It is normally written in italics or put in brackets and not party of the dialogue. Stage directions have greater significance for actors than for readers as they show them how to act in a play. It is also referred to as SECONDARY TEXT
  4. DIALOGUE: A piece of writing in the form of conversation or talk. Plays are written in dialogue. It is a direct conversation between two people.
  5. REPETITION: A device in which a particular word, phrase, question or statement is made to reoccur in a piece of writing for the sake of emphasis e.g.

Example:  Work, -Work – Work,

Till the brain begins to swim

work – work – work

  1. THE CHORUS: A band of singers and dancers whose words and actions are commentary on the events of the play.
  2. NEMESIS: A situation in which a character is punished for his bad deeds or misdeeds. Thus the person’s misfortune (nemesis) comes as a fitting reward for his misdeeds and as a result we are not made to sympathize with them.
  3. DICTION: A writer’s choice and use of words or his style or manner of writing.
  4. CLIMAX: The highest point in the plot of a story where the audience or reader gets their curiosity satisfied as something they have been expecting happens.
  5. OMNISCIENT NARRATION: The writer narrates his story in such a way that he takes the position of an all-knowing being. The writer is able to tell what goes on even in the mind of his characters, their privacy, their ambition, their secret plans and what they say to themselves. He is also called third person narrator
  6. INTERLUDE: It is an exposition done by a writer in the middle of the story. It is not a necessary part of the story. It is usually the interval between two events or interval between acts of a play.
  7. CARICATURE: It is meant to ridicule or make fun of the person by exaggerating that person’s peculiar characteristics. It has the effect of making readers laugh at the person being so ridiculed.
  8. PROLOGUE: An exposition or explanation done by a writer at the beginning of a story, play or poem. It may also be called PERLUDE
  9. DENOUEMENT: A device or method through which problems or complications which occur in the plot are unraveled or solved before the play ends. It is the final stage where things are made clear in the development of the plot of TRAGEDY,  a story, play, etc. It is also called RESOLUTION.
  10. DRAMATIS PERSONAE: The list of characters in a play. It is also known as CAST
  11. EXPOSITION: The explanation that a writer does usually at the beginning of his play or story.
  12. SYMBOLISM: The representation of ideas by the use of symbols in prose, drama or poetry. A symbol may be created from anything that can be made to stand for some aspects of life. Some writers use light to represent bliss and darkness for gloom, white for peace or safety and red for danger.
  13. ANACHRONISM: A mistake in dating something. It is a device through which a writer speaks of something which had not been invented or created at the time the story took place. In the sentence “Julius Caesar looked at his wrist-watch and telephone receiver were not invented at the time of Julius Caesar.
  14. PLAGIARISM: A sort of parody in which a writer copies another person’s work and passes it off as his own. It is the illegal copying of a work belonging to others.
  15. COPYRIGHT: The legal right to the exclusive mistakenly for another that resembles it, causing amusement e.g. “come girls, this gentleman will exhort (for escort) us”. It usually involves long, complex or difficult words.
  16. EUPHUISM: It refers to elaborately artificial style of writing. This device which must not be confused with euphemism, consists of the use of fetched, or over-refined, fantastic language.
  17. MYTH: It is a story, handed down from olden times, especially concepts or beliefs about the early history of a, race, explanation of natural events such as the seasons.
  18. LEGEND: It is an old story handed down from the past especially one of doubtful truth, e.g. the legends of King Arthur, the legends of Okomfo Anokye.
  19. BURLESQUE: It is a poem which imitates a person’s behavior or ideas for the purpose of making it amusing.
  20. IDYLL: It is a poem which describes life in the countryside (villages). William Wordsworth’s The Solitary Reaper is an example of an Idyll.
  21. DOGGEREL: It is a short and simple poem written in verse containing some amount of humour. It has no distinct form.
  22. LIMERICK: It is a type of poem which has not serious theme and is written in a single stanza of five lines.
  23. EULOGY: It is any piece of writing which praises a person, an idea, a group, a country etc. Any literary work which is concerned with giving praise is therefore eulogistic.
  24. PATHOS: It is the quality in literary work, which arouses a feeling of pity, sympathy or tenderness in the reader or audience when a character is treated unjustly.
  25. ELLIPSIS: It is a literary device used to avoid the repetition of information that is easily understood in the context.
  26. JESTER OR CLOWN: A person who causes amusement in a play.
  27. REFRAIN: A line or lines of a poem or song, repeated especially at the end of each stanza or verse.
  28. ANECDOTE: It is a short usually amusing story about some real person or event. It is merely told to evoke laughter
  29. CUE: It is the last words of an actor’s speech, which show when somebody else is to come or say something.
  30. MIME: It involves the use of only facial expressions and gesture in dramatic performance without uttering a word.
  31. Lyric: It is a poem, which deals with the personal thoughts and feelings of the poet. It is usually written on the theme of love, death etc. It is sung to accompaniment of musical instruments.
  32. IMAGERY: It is a device through which the reader is made to form a picture in his mind of some other things before he can understand what the writer wants to say.
  33. EPITOME: It is  short summary of a book, speech etc. It is also called Gist
  34. STAGE: It refers to the raised platform or structure of boards in a theatre where actors perform.
  35. PSEUDONYM: It is a name taken by an author instead of his real name. George Orwell is the pseudonym of Eric Blair: the author of Animal Farm.
  36. COMIC RELIEF: It is a situation where a dramatist presents an incident or scene, which causes laughter from the audience or reader. The purpose of comic relief is to relieve tension.
  37. COUP DE THEATRE: It is an unexpected development or event in a play that takes the reader or audience by surprise because they had not been expecting it.
  38. GENRE: This is a literary term which simply means ‘type’ or ‘kind’

Example: “poetry, drama and prose are genres of literature”.

  1. FORESHADOW: It is a sign or warning of something to come or happen
  2. MIMICKRY: It is the act of imitating someone, especially in a play.
  3. HOMONYMS; They are words which are identical in form, spelt the same but have different meanings. Example: bow [gesture]; bow [weapon]
  4. APHORISM: Is a short, wise saying e.g.
  5. The devil you know is better than the angle you don’t know.
  6. The evil that men do lies after them.
  7. PROVERB: A popular short saying with words of advice or warning e.g. Once bitten twice shy.
  8. MAXIM: Is a widely accepted rule of conduct or general truth briefly expressed e.g. ‘waste not, want not’
  9. CONNOTATION: The emotional association surrounding a word or phrase, as opposed to its strict literal meaning.
  10. DENOTATION: The strict literal meaning  of a word

Ralph spends his day working as an online entrepreneur and e-learning strategist. As a digital publishing trainer/consultant, he has developed exceptional skills in SEO-content writing. He writes extensively on lifelong learning and personal development issues. Ralph is the CEO of RN Digital Media Ent - a digital publishing & content marketing services platform he founded in 2017.

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