Close Reading Terms

archetype
character, action, or situation that is a prototype, or pattern, of human life, occurring over and over again in literature, such as a quest, an initiation, or an attempt to overcome evil.

archetypal characters
those who embody a certain kind of universal human experience.

archetypal setting
areas associated with universal symbols

characters
people or animals who take part in the action of a literary work

protagonist
central character of a drama, novel, short story, or narrative poem.

antagonist
adversary of the protagonist

flat character
character that has only a single important trait

round character
a three-dimensional character

static character
character who changes little over the course of a narrative

dynamic character
character who changes in response to the experience through which he or she passes

motivation
the psychological feature that arouses an organism to action toward a desired goal

epiphany
a moment of sudden revelation or insight

foil
a character, usually minor, designed to highlight qualities of a major character

stock character
a flat character in a standard role with standard traits

details
facts, revealed by the author or speaker, facts that support the attitude or tone in a piece of poetry or prose

diction
word choice intended to convey a certain effect

denotative diction
refers to the dictionary definition of a word

connotative diction
refers to the feelings and attitudes associated with a word

dialect
the speech of a particular region or group as it differs from those of a real or imaginary standard speech

euphemism
the use of a word or phrase that is less expressive or direct but considered less distasteful or offensive than another

idiom
an accepted phrase or expression having a meaning different from the literal

imagery
consists of the words or phrases appealing to the senses – the descriptive diction – a writer uses to represent persons, objects, feelings, and ideas

mood
emotional atmosphere in a literary work

plot
sequence of events or actions in a short story, novel, play, or narrative poem

conflict
a term that describes the tension between opposing forces in a work of literature and is an essential element of plot

flashback
a scene that interrupts the action of a work to show a previous event

foreshadowing
use of hints or clues in a narrative to suggest future action

suspense
the quality of a short story, novel, play, or narrative poem that makes the reader or audience uncertain or tense about the outcome of events

point of view
perspective from which a narrative is told

rhetorical shift
refers to a change or movement in a piece resulting from an epiphany, realization, or insight gained by the speaker, character, or reader

setting
time and place in which events in a short story, novel, play, or narrative poem take place

style
writer’s characteristic manner of employing language

theme
is a central message of a literary work

tone
the writer’s or speaker’s attitude toward a subject, character, or audience, and it is conveyed primarily through the author’s choice of diction, imagery, figurative language, details, and syntax

tone shift, multiple tones
reveals changes in attitude or creates new attitudes

figures of speech
words or phrases that describe one thing in terms of something else – always involve some sort of imaginative comparison between seemingly unlike things i.e., simile, metaphor, personification

apostrophe
form of personification in which the absent, or dead, are spoken to as if present, and the inanimate, as if animate

metaphor
comparison of two unlike things not using like or as

extended metaphor
differs from a regular metaphor in that it is sustained for several lines or sentences or through a work

metonymy
form of metaphor in that the name of one this is applied to another thing with which it is closely associated

oxymoron
form of paradox that combines a pair of opposite terms into a single unusual expression

paradox
occurs when the elements of a statement contradict each other

personification
a kind of metaphor that gives inanimate objects or abstract ideas human characteristics

pun
play on words that are either identical or similar in sound but have sharply diverse meanings

simile
a comparison of two different things or ideas through the use of the words like or as

epic simile (Homeric)
more involved, more ornate than the typical simile

synecdoche
form of metaphor – a part of something is used to signify the whole: e.g., “All hands on deck.”

sound device
stylistic techniques that convey meaning through sound

rhyme
two words having the same sound in two or more words or phrases that appear close to each other in a poem

assonance
repetition of similar vowel sounds

consonance
repetition of consonant sounds in the middle or at the end of words

alliteration
words beginning with the same consonant sound

onomatopoeia
words that sound like their meaning

meter
the measure, patterned arrangement of syllables according to stress and length in a poem

rhythm
the varying speed,intensity, elevation, pitch, loudness, and expressiveness of speech, especially poetry

allusion
a reference to a mythological, literary, or historical person, place, or thing

antithesis
a contrast or opposition

argumentation
functions by convincing or persuading an audience, or by proving or refuting a point of view or an issue

induction
moving from observations about particular things to generalizations

deduction
moving from generalizations to valid inferences about particulars – or some combination of the two – as its pattern of development

logos
logical appeal found in persuasive/argument prose
that establishes the logic of an argument

ethos
ethical appeal found in persuasive/argument prose that builds the credibility of the speaker

pathos
emotional appeal found in persuasive/argument prose relies upon emotion

cause/effect argument
consists of arguing from the presence (or absence) of the cause to the existence (or nonexistence) of the effect, or result

classification
one of the traditional ways of thinking about a subject, identifies the subject as a part of a larger group with shared features

comparison
a traditional rhetorical strategy based on the assumption that a subject may be shown more clearly by pointing out ways it is similar to something else

contrast
traditional rhetorical strategy based on the assumption that a subject may be shown more clearly by pointing out ways in which it is unlike another subject.

hyperbole
deliberate, extravagant, and often outrageous exaggeration

dramatic irony
occurs when a character or speaker says or does something that has a different meaning from he thinks it means, though the audience and other characters understand the full implications of the speech or action

situational irony
occurs when a situation turns out differently from what one would normally expect – though often the twist is oddly appropriate

verbal irony
occurs when a speaker or narrator says one thing while meaning the opposite

sarcasm
the use of verbal irony in which a person appears to be praising something but is actually insulting it. The remark may also be taunting or caustic.

motif
a term that describes a pattern or strand of imagery or symbolism in a work of literature

satire
refers to the use of devices like irony, understatement, and exaggeration to highlight a human folly or a societal problem. The purpose of the satire is to bring the flaw to the attention of the reader in order that it may be addressed, remedied, or eradicated.

symbolism
the use of any object, person, place, or action that not only has a meaning in itself but also stands for something larger than itself, such as a quality, attitude, belief, or value.

understatement
opposite of hyperbole. It is a kind of irony that deliberately represents something as being much less that it really is.

catharsis
release of emotion (pity and fear) from the audience’s perspective

hamartia
tragic flaw that leads to the tragic hero’s downfall

hubris
arrogance before the gods

recognition
occurs as the hero meets his catastrophe, at which point he recognizes his flaw and the reason he must die

reversal
occurs when the opposite of what the hero intends is what happens