Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Literary Terms (Paper 4)


Irony is a rhetorical device, literary technique, or situation in which there is a sharp incongruity or discordance that goes beyond the simple and evident intention of words or actions. Ironic statements (verbal irony) typically imply a meaning in opposition to their literal meaning. A situation is often said to be ironic (situational irony) if the actions taken have an effect exactly opposite from what was intended. Other main types of irony include comic irony, dramatic irony, and tragic irony.

O. Henry's 'The Gift of the Magi' has irony written all over it.

Omniscient Narrator

The role of the omniscient narrator is to chronicle the events of a story in an impartial way. He or she has full access to the events and dialogue occuring in the narrative, rendering his or her account the most complete and accurate. This all-knowing, all-seeing narrator type jumps from scene to scene, following characters throughout a story and assessing the progress of the narrative.

Charles Dickens 'Bleak House' and Jane Austen's 'Mansfield Park' have such narration.


In fiction, setting includes the time, location, and everything in which a story takes place, and initiates the main backdrop and mood for a story. Elements of setting may include culture, historical period, geography, and hour. Along with plot, character, theme, and style, setting is considered one of the fundamental components of fiction.

Eg: The setting of Dublin in Joyce's 'The Dubliners'


A theme is a broad idea, message, or moral of a story. The message may be about life, society, or human nature. Themes often explore timeless and universal ideas and are almost always implied rather than stated explicitly. Along with plot, character, setting, and style, theme is considered one of the fundamental components of fiction.
 Eg: Theme of war in Hemingway's 'A Farewell to Arms'

Flat Character

A flat character is a minor character in a work of fiction who does not undergo substantial change or growth in the course of a story. Also referred to as "two-dimensional characters" or "static characters," flat characters play a supporting role to the main character, who as a rule should be round.

Mr. Collins in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice is such an example.

Stock Character

A stock character is a fictional character based on a common literary or social stereotype. Stock characters rely heavily on cultural types or names for their personality, manner of speech, and other characteristics. Stock characters make easy targets for parody, which will likely exaggerate any stereotypes associated with these characters.


A subplot is a secondary plot strand that is a supporting side story for any story or the main plot. Subplots may connect to main plots, in either time and place or in thematic significance. Subplots often involve supporting characters, those besides the protagonist or antagonist.

Distinctive subplots are found in Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, Austen's Sense and Sensibility


The picaresque novel is a popular sub-genre of prose fiction which is usually satirical and depicts, in realistic and often humorous detail, the adventures of a roguish hero of low social class who lives by his wits in a corrupt society. This style of novel originated in sixteenth century Spain and flourished throughout Europe in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and continues to influence modern literature.

Eg: Henry Fielding's Joseph Andrews, Daniel Defoe's Moll Flanders

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