Fiction Key Terms
Atmosphere – the emotional aura surrounding a certain setting
Example: In Virginia Woolf‟s “A Haunted House” (p. 129-130), the setting initially sets the
story up for an aura of fear, but as the story progresses, the emotional aura surrounding the
Haunted House is one of love (both past and present).
Setting – the time and place of a story
Example: Alice Munro‟s “Boys and Girls” (p. 218-231) takes place on a Huron County
farm in the Town of Jubilee post 1945.
Initiation Story – a story in which the main character, usually a child or adolescent,
undergoes an experience (right of passage) that prepares him or her for adulthood
Example: In Alice Munro‟s “Boys and Girls” (p. 218-231), both Mack's shooting and Flora's
escape are experiences that lead the narrator to finally accept her feminine identity.
Allegory – a device in which characters or events represent or symbolize ideas and concepts
Example: In Donald Barthelme‟s “The Glass Mountain” (p. 232-238), the narrator‟s quest of
climbing the glass mountain is symbolic of the writing process. Specifically, Barthelme
brings into question our conventional approaches to writing fiction and our view of
Total Omniscience: The Narrator, who is not present in the story, knows everything about all
or many of the characters‟ lives – past, present, and future, and may also reveal the thoughts
of any character in the story. An example of this is Joanna Russ‟, “Mr. Wilde‟s Second
Limited Omniscience: Limited or Selective Omniscience is when the narrator focuses on the
thoughts and perceptions of only a single character, being either a major or secondary
character. An example of limited omniscience is in Virginia Woolf‟s, “A Haunted House”
Style: refers to the characteristics and use of language in a particular story and to the same
characteristics in a writer‟s complete works. Style includes the author's word choice,
sentence structure, figurative language, and sentence arrangement, which are used to
establish mood, images, and meaning in the text. For example, John Cheever‟s, “Reunion”
(162-165), displays, for the most part, a straightforward, plain style.
Folk tale: a story originating in oral tradition
Eg. Barthelme “The Glass Mountain” (236; segment 80) Picaresque: a piece of fiction depicting the adventures of a roguish character. The affairs of
the picaresque hero typically present a humorous satire of a given society
Eg. Wilde “The Sphinx without a Secret: An Etching” (91-96)
In medias res
o A type of dramatic structure in which the author opens with „blind‟ bit of action before
o Usually describes a stable situation
o An example from our readings is Madeline Thien‟s “Simple Recipes.” Thien started the
story talking about the simplicity of making rice and the seemingly good relationship
between the father and daughter. As the daughter said at the end of the introduction “Then he
would rise, whistling, and clear the table, every motion so clean and sure, I would be convinced
by him that all was well in the world” (357). It made you think, as the reader, that the family
dynamic was good and that nothing could go wrong. That all changed when Thein brought
out the fish to symbolize the dying love the daughter has for her father
o Is a type of dramatic structure (def: the exact way in which our emotional involvement is
increased and relaxed)
o Definition: the appearance of some circumstance or event that shakes up the stable
situation begins the rising action of the story
o Can be internal or external, or a combination of both
o Complication is heightened by the conflict between two characters
o An example from our readings is in Alice Munro‟s “Boys and Girls” where the mother is
unhappy about the pelting going on in the house this is the „bump‟ in the road (pg. 218)
o In the body of the story
o Contains a number of scenes, involving action and dialogue, builds to moments of crisis
(where resolution momentarily seems at hand but quickly disappears)
o An example from our readings is John Cheever‟s “Reunion” as rising action is evident with
the 4 episodes at 4 different restaurants. Despite getting kicked out of restaurants, the father remains persistent with his negative behaviours and attitudes. This allows the reader to see
that the father has not changed at all and that the son has long surpassed the father in
respectability. The father, therefore, feels he has to impress his son. When being refused by
the fourth restaurant, the father says, “I Get it, you don‟t desire our patronage. Is that is? Well,
the hell with you…” (164).
Denouement - The final part of a plot (also known as resolution). The term literally means
'untying of a knot,' and many stories conclude with what the future holds for the characters.
(Example: "Reunion" by John Cheever pg. 162)
Closed denouement - This ties up everything together and explains all answered questions
that the reader might still have. (Example: "Boys and Girls" by Alice Munro pg. 218)
Open denouement - This leaves the reader provoked in the sense that there are still
some questions that remain unanswered by the end of the text. (Example: "Reunion" pg. 162
- by the end of the story we still do not know why Charlie never sees his father again)
Frame Tale: a short story in which there are stories within that are "framed" by a larger
narrative. (ex. Thomas King, "A Coyote Columbus Story" --pg. 293 in anthology)
Literary Genre: a writing style; a style of expressing yourself in writing (ex. short stories)
Tales: narratives that contain elements that are exotic or supernatural and that depart from the
level of ordinary experience (ex. Oscar Wilde, "The Sphinx Without a Secret: An Etching --
pg. 91 in anthology)
Characternym: A characternym is a literary technique used to draw the reader‟s attention
the character‟s personality through their name. An example of this exists in Timothy
Findley‟s “Stones” (218) with the character Ben. In French, Benjamin also means youngest
which is reflects Ben‟s naive personality.
Point of View: The point of view is the how the author presents information to the reader.
Depending of the point of view, the perspective of the narrative can change. Examples of
different point of views include first person, second person, and third person. The author can
also include a distinct narrative time, telling the story from either the present, past or future.
Even the voice of the narration can be unique, from stream of consciousness to the use of
First-Person Narration: “In first person narration, the narrator is a participant in the action.
He or she may either be a major character (which is the case with “Charlie in Reunion”
(Cheever, 162)) or a minor character, which may be close to the event in time or distant from
it.” (Gwynn & Campbell, 51).
Flat Character- A character that is described in terms of one underlying personality trait. The
author describes the character with limited detail and does not include any other additional
elements. An example of a flat character is the father in `Reunion` (162), who is depicted only
as a rude alcoholic. One can see this in his first interaction with a waiter: ' "Calm down, calm down, sommelier," my father said. "If it isn't too much to ask of you-if it wouldn't be too much
above and beyond the call of duty, we would like a couple of Beefeater Gibsons" ' (Cheever,
163). The father goes on to have similar interactions all throughout the story, emphasizing
these negative characteristics. A flat character that is barely described at all is termed a stock
character- someone used simply to advance the plot.
Round Character- A round character is one that is described in substantially more detail than
a flat character. A round character is given many more traits to contribute to its personality.
These may add to or even contradict each other. The author will go to great lengths to give the
reader a history of the character, as well as the character's own perspective in order to help the
reader identify with him or her. Characters of this type are more realistic than flat characters,
and are usually the story's protagonist. An example of a round character is the in "Simple
Recipes" (356). He attempts to keep his family together while simultaneously beating his son to
get his message across. The reader is exposed to a joking, light-hearted father: "Wok on the wild
side!" (Thien, 362), and a brutal, rough father: "My brother is lying on the floor, as if thrown
down and dragged there. My father raises the pole into the air" (Thien, 363).
Static Character- A static character is one that does not change throughout the course of the
story. The character's personality is fixed from the beginning, and often the reader is unaware
of why the character constantly acts the way they do. An example of a static character is also the
father in "Reunion" (162). He is first described as: "..a stranger to me-my mother divorced him
three years ago and I hadn't been with him since" (Cheever, 162). The reader gets the sense that
he is unlike the narrator, and throughout the story the father is indeed revealed as one who is
not socially competent, and is unable to connect with his son. This image is never changed or
rectified, keeping the character at one consistent level.
Climax: a moment of great intensity is the plot of a literary work, generally bringing events to a
head and leading to a conclusion. An example of the climax in Boys and Girls by Alice Munro
is when the girl opens the gate and lets the horse out. This story can be found on page 218 of
Falling Action: the sequence of events that follow the climax and end in resolution. This is in
contrast to the rising action which leads up to the plot's climax. An example of falling action in
Reunion by John Cheever is when Charlie leaves his father at the train station and never sees
him again, this is the resolution of the story. This story can be found on page 162 of the
Epiphany: a term in literary criticism for a sudden realization, a flash of recognition in which
someone or something is seen in a new light. An example of an epiphany in Reunion by John
Cheever is when Charlie realizes that his father is someone he would not be able to get along
with and chooses to leave him. This story is found on page 162 of the anthology.
Theme: is the main idea of the text, expressed directly or indirectly. An example of theme in
The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe is darkness, grief and insanity. The way in which the narrator
is speaking towards the raven hints themes of insanity, the imagery hints themes of darkness, and grief comes from the narrator directly when he calls out for "Lenore." This story can be
found on page 458.
Third-person narration: Either omniscient or limited. Omniscient third person narration allows
the author to play the role of an all-knowing narrator who can recount the action thoroughly
and reliably but also enter the mind of any character at any time. Such a narrator can reveal
and conceal at will.
Unreliable narrator: A narrator that either through naiveté, ignorance, or impaired mental
processes, relates events in such a distorted manner that the reader, who recognizes this, is
forced to rely on characters for narrative accuracy.
Omniscience: A term used to describe an “all-knowing” narrator.
Dynamic character: A character that undergoes change (gains insight, or knowledge) during
Interior monologue: A mode of narrative intended to reveal to the reader the subjective
thoughts, emotions, and fleeting sensations experienced by a character. Interior monologue is
a type of stream of consciousness, in which a character’s subjective and ever-flowing mental
commentary and observation are presented, usually though free and indirect discourse.
Stream of consciousness: A literary technique that approximates the flow (or jumble) of
thoughts and sensory impressions that pass through the mind each instant. Psychological
association (rather than rules of syntax or logic) determines the presence or absence, as well as
the order of elements in the “stream.”
Protagonist: The most important or leading character in a work; usually identical to the hero or
heroine, but not always.
Antagonist: The principal character who is in opposition to the protagonist in a narrative work.
Anti-hero: A protagonist in a modern work who does not exhibit the qualities of a traditional
hero. Instead of being a grand and/or admirable figure—brave, honest, and magnanimous, for
example—an anti-hero is all too ordinary and may even be petty or downright dishonest.
Unified plot: A plot in which the action is more or less continuous within a single day.
Episodic plot: The form of a work containing a series of incidents or episodes that are loosely
connected by a larger subject matter or thematic structure but that could stand on their own.
Exposition: A part of dramatic structure that provides the reader with essential information—
who, what, when, where—he or she needs to know before continuing. Plot: The arrangement and interrelation of event in a narrative work, chosen and designed to
engage the reader’s attention and interest
Flashback: A scene that interrupts the present action of a narrative work to depict some
earlier event—often an event that occurred before the opening scene of the work—via
reverie, remembrance, dreaming, or some other mechanism.
Foreshadowing: A literary device used to hint at future actions in the story. An effective use of
foreshadowing prevents a story’s outcome from seeming haphazard or contrived.
Symbol (use the definition from the Introduction to Poetry section, p. 386): Any concrete
thing or action that implies a meaning beyond its literal sense.
Poetry Key Terms:
Auditor- the person or persons spoken to in the poem
Example: “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe, page 458-462, lines 97-102
Metaphor- a direct comparison between two unlike thing.
Example: “Dulce et Decorum Est” Wilfred Owen, page 538-539, line 17
Volta/turn- usually a conjunction or conjunctive adverb like “but” or “then,” may appear at
the beginning of the sestet, signifying a slight change of direction of thought. Many Italian
sonnets have a strong logical connection between octave and sestet problem/solution,
cause/effect, question/answer and the volta helps to clarify the transition.
Example: “Sonnet 130” by William Shakespeare, page 416, lines 13-14
Neologism- “a word made up by a poet.” (p 380) Neologism is being utilized in the poem
“Pity this busy monster, manunkind” by e.e. cummings (p 543)
Petrarchan Conceit- “is a clichéd comparison usually relating to a woman‟s beauty.” (p 383-
384) Petrarchan Conceit is being utilized in “Sonnet 130” by William Shakespeare (p 416)
Allusion- “a metaphor making a direct comparison to a historical or literary event or
character, a myth, a biblical reference, and so forth.” (p 384) Allusion is being utilized in the
poem “The Future” by Leonard Cohen (p 625)
Simile: a comparison using “like” or “as” or “than” as a connective device. (Anthology
Example: Shakespeare‟s “Sonnet 130” My mistress‟ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips‟ red;
Conceit: an extended or far-fetched metaphor, in most cases comparing things that apparently
have almost nothing in common. (Anthology pg.383)
Example: Thomas‟ “Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night”
“Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,” (8)
Elegy: a poem of serious reflection, typically a lament for the dead. (Oxford Dict.)
Example: “The Raven” by Poe is an elegy because the narrator was devastated over his lover,
lamenting her. “Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,”(1)
Prosody/metre: A pattern of rhythm in poetry (Dr. Y‟s lect. slide). The basic rhythmic
structure of a verse or lines in a verse. (goggle). Example= the rhythm in the lines of the poem
Whenever Richard Cory went down town.
This pattern of rhythm (metre) is used through most of the poem.
Accentual-syllabic verse: the most important prosodic system in English. It requires that the
poet count both the strongly stressed syllables and the total number of syllable in the line.
(Course text. 393). This is where we talk of the trimeter(3) or the hexameter(6). For example:
Whenever Richard Cory went down town.
This has a metre consisting of 5 strongly stressed syllables so it is a pentameter.
Iamb: this is a metrical feet consisting of one stressed and unstressed syllable. (Course text.
393). For example:
˘ ´ / ˘ ´ / ˘ ´ / ˘ ´ / ˘ ´
Whenev/er Rich/ard Co/ry went/ down town.
The slashes “/” denote each metrical feet and each feet is composed of a stressed („) and
unstressed (˘) syllable which means it is an iamb. Since all its metrical feet contain a stressed
and unstressed syllable, it is an iambic pentameter.
Internal rhyme: rhyme between a word within a line and another word either at the end of
the same line or at the end of another line.
“While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door. “(Poe, The Raven, 458)
Rhyme scheme: the arrangement of rhymes in a stanza or poem. Villanelle‟s, for example, have a set rhyme scheme:
A1 b A2/ a b A1/ a b A2/ a b A1/ a b A2/a b A1 A2
Dylan Thomas – Do \Not Go Gentle into That Good Night 573
Elizabeth Bishop – One Art 564-565
Prose poetry: a form of poetry where the author is not limited on the lengths of the lines they
can use, (as they are in verse poetry).
The Colonel by Carolyn Forche 682
Couplet: paired rhyming lines (aabbcc…)
Eg. Coleridge “Metrical Feet” (448-449)
Trochee-A stressed syllable followed by an unstressed (hard than soft)
The Raven-“Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December; And each separate dying
ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.” (Poe, 6-7)
Dactyl-A stressed syllable followed by two unstressed (hard,soft,soft)
Dulce et Decorum est-“Fitting the clumsy helmets"(Owen, 10)
Anapest-Two unstressed syllables followed by a stressed (soft,hard,hard)
Dulce et Decorum Est-“Till on the haunting flares(2) we turned our backs” (Owen,3)
Persona: - A technic