Literary Elements

Hello English 102 class!

As we discuss each story and poem, and lead into the novel and play, we will be referring to many different literary terms or elements of literature.  You are to read each chapter that reflects one of these terms, and you are to understand the poetic terms as well when we review poetry.

Below is a power point presentation that reviews the chapters for the short stories.  It may be best to read the chapter first (see page numbers from 9th edition) and then review the power point and notes.

story_elements 2014

Chapter 7:  Plot (123-127)–review up to slide 8 of power point

Plot is simply the story line.   It allows the writer to set the action and characters in motion by giving its direction.  Plot is answering the question “what happened?” and then leads the reader to question “why did it happen?”  This is known as the conflict of a story.  The conflict is the motive that allows the story to develop.  Conflicts can be an individual who faces challenges in life against other people, the self, nature, society, and spirituality.  In today’s society, we begin to see a conflict with technology.    In the beginning of the story, you may find foreshadowing, an indication of things to come.   I’m not sure if you are able to hear the sound, but the example is the music from the movie Jaws.   The last slide shows you the linear plot structure:  exposition (introduction of characters, theme, setting, tone, foreshadowing); conflict (ones noted above); climax (turning point:  confront conflict); falling action (unravelling of the plot); and resolution of conflict.

Chapter 8:  Character (156-159)–review slides 9-13

Character is defined as an individualized personality.  Characters are not people, but they exhibit behavioral traits that can be associated with people in society.  We saw that the character of Miss Emily could not accept change in her life.  Her inability to do so led townspeople to feel pity for her, but what we learn is that change is so devastating to her that she kills so that she could have the last person who tried to leave and abandon her.  We will look at many other characters whose actions are familiar; we will also meet characters who actions and speech may catch us off-guard.

To know a character in a story,  the author can develop different methods to reveal characters.  Direct Exposition is when the author gives the details of what he/she wants you to know.  Sometimes, however, an author does not reveal much about a character.  As a reader, other methods of characterization can be applied to reveal behavior.  For example, knowing a character through his/her manner of speech can be seen through the  vocabulary, diction, even a dialect. An educated and an uneducated character can also be understood through the language in the dialogues.  Characterization is also understood through the actions and deeds of a character. As you read, “The Lottery”, the whole town’s actions against Tessie speaks volumes about their values.  A character’s thoughts, like in the soliloquies by Hamlet informs us his innermost thoughts, thoughts he doesn’t want anyone on stage to know but the audience.  Through his 5 major soliloquies, we get to know Hamlet’s doubts, fears, and ambitions.  Lastly, when a character describes a character to another without that character having been introduced in the story, it is called character to character.

Chapter 9:  Setting (195-199)–review slides 14-16

Setting is more than time and place.  Setting comes in 3 different types.  Historical setting covers the social, political, and economic backdrop of a time period.  A story could be set during the Depression (economic), the Viet Nam war (political), or the Victorian Period (social).  A second type is geographical:  land, ocean, even space.  It could be anywhere in the United States–a familiar city like Chicago or an unnamed town in Anywhere USA (think of “The Lottery”).  The third type of setting is physical:  time of day, weather, season.  Sometimes the setting is symbolic, for instance, winter, a season of death.  Think about this idea when you read the first three paragraphs of “Araby.”

Setting also has 4 basic functions.   The story “Young Goodman Brown” moves from a village to a forest.  The forest is a literary convention that leads to conflict.  Think of fairy tales where characters enter a forest–Snow White, the 3 little pigs, Dorothy, Little Red Riding Hood–and strangers come into play and danger ensues.  This setting then is to provide conflict.  The setting also illuminate or highlight characters.  In the story of “Araby,” the darkness of the young boy’s neighborhood serves to focus on his life and purpose for his fantasies.  The catacomb setting of “The Cask of Amontillado” establishes mood and makes fiction credible because, as you read the story, the dampness and eeriness of the catacomb become real.  Samuel Taylor Coleridge calls this “a willingness suspension of disbelief” for as readers we accept the story as true for one moment.

Chapter 10:  Point of View (226-236)–review slides 18-20

Point of view is an element of a narrative that informs us how a story is told.  The 5 types of point of view can determine how we as readers get to know the other elements like characters, tone, and setting.  The perspective of the storyteller determines how we understand the events unfold. In the story of the “The Lottery” consider the objective narration despite the story’s horror.  Omniscient or 3rd person is most commonly used as it is the “all-knowing” narration.  Everything is told to the reader.  A first person narrator can be dramatic and emotionally intense because one is telling one’s life experiences.  In the novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain uses the voice of a 10 year old boy–known as the innocent eye–to criticize the actions of adults.  When Huckleberry comments that “Human beings can be awful cruel to one another,” the reader understands that is Twain’s comment on society.  One development of the 20th century in literature came from psychology.  The stream of consciousness narration had first been used in Virginia Woolf’s novel Mrs. Dalloway.  The type of narrative technique gives readers the impression of being inside the mind of the character. Thoughts spoken aloud are not always the same as those ‘on the floor of the mind’, as Woolf put it.




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