LITERARY TERMS AND CONCEPTS TO DEFINE Allusion- An allusion is reference from one literary work to another. Most people use allusions in every day conversations, although they may not be aware of it. For example, Shakespeare’s famous line, “To be or not to be” has been used and reused in many different contexts. An example of an allusion from Week one’s reading assignments comes from The Hack Driver by Sinclair Lewis. During the story, the author makes reference the express man. He comments on how this man will probably get to Heaven’s gate and call St Peter “Pete” (LaRocco & Coughlin, 1996, p. 9). Connotation- Connotation is the meaning or implication that the author gives, and the reader receives while reading a literary work. Connotations are not difficult to spot, because they are usually presented in the form of an opinion or assumption. For example, To Be of Use, by Marge Piercy, refers to workers becoming natives to the elements of their work environment (LaRocco & Coughlin, 1996, p. 248). The entire poem places much emphasis on the positive aspects of good workers.
As the author refers to these workers as natives, it implies that they perform their jobs easily and naturally, so the connotation is positive. Denotation- A denotation is the actual meaning of a word used in a literary work. Denotations provide contrast within literature; because they possess a literal meaning, while almost everything else is comprised of figurative meanings. For example, To Be of Use, by Marge Piercy refers to workers that do not dally in the shadows (LaRocco & Coughlin, 1996, p. 248). The word “dally” has a literal meaning.
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It means to waste time by playing when there is work to be done. However, the term “in the shadows” is figurative. The fact that the denotation is placed in a figurative context gives the term more depth and meaning, because it gives the reader a sense of reality, but still leaves room for the imagination. Figurative language- Figurative language is not literal. Common forms of figurative language are in the forms of similes, metaphors, and symbols. The intention of figurative language is to take the reader beyond the literal meaning of a word or term.
This is what provokes thought and imagination in the literary work. An example of figurative language from Week One’s readings would come from Old Florist, by Theodore Roethke. In this poem, the author asks how the florist could fan life into wilted sweet-peas with his hat (LaRocco & Coughlin, 1996, p. 243). The florist is not literally fanning life into wilted sweet-peas, but use of figurative language in this context implies that the florist is able to do something that the average person would not be able to do. Simile- A simile is a comparison of one thing to another.
Similes almost always contain the words “like” or “as”. Similes are a common form of figurative language. Most people use similes in every day conversation because they are very easy to identify with, and they add more feeling to the statements they accompany. An example of a simile from Week One’s readings would come from Balthazar’s Marvelous Afternoon, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. In this story, the author refers to Dr Giraldo, who was smoothly and delicately fat, like a woman who had been beautiful in her youth (LaRocco & Coughlin, 1996, p. 68).
Metaphor- A metaphor is similar to a simile, only it compares two things that are different, but have something in common. Metaphors are often used by individuals that are teaching or educating, because they can easily paint a picture of something that is difficult to understand. An example of a metaphor from Week One’s reading would come from Nick Salerno, by Studs Terkel. In this essay, the author states that driving a garbage truck eventually becomes like a milkman’s horse. The author goes on to compare how driving the truck is similar to dropping off bottles of milk (LaRocco & Coughlin, 1996, p. 8). From the author’s description, the reader can see that the garbage truck and the milkman’s horse are different, but similar. Symbol- A symbol has an actual meaning, but it can also contain many other underlying implications. A symbol offers a representation of a concept or idea in literature. An example of a symbol from Week One’s readings would come from To Be of Use, by Marge Piercy. In this poem, the author refers to a pitcher crying for water to carry in the same way that a person longs for work (LaRocco & Coughlin, 1996, p. 49). The pitcher crying for water is a symbol of something that was made for a specific purpose and longs to do what it was created to do. Hyperbole- A hyperbole is a statement that has been over-dramatized in order to add intensity to a thought or concept. A hyperbole is not intended to have a literal meaning in a literary work. It is designed to evoke thought and emotion on the part of the reader. An example of a hyperbole from Week One’s readings would come from Factory Work, by Deborah Boe.
In this poem, the author refers to the worker hitting her boyfriend in the supermarket parking lot (LaRocco & Coughlin, 1996, p. 243). This statement is not to be taken in the literal sense. It is meant to convey that girl working in the factory has become so strong, that she could hit her boyfriend, and he would feel it. Personification- A personification takes place when an object or thing is referred to as though it were able to do something that only a live person would be able to do. An example from Week One’s reading would come from Factory Work, by Deborah Boe.
In this poem, the author refers to a machine eating up a shirt (LaRocco & Coughlin, 1996, p. 243). The machine was personified by stating that it was able to eat a shirt. Irony- Irony occurs in literature when there is a contradiction between something that is thought to be true, and the actual reality that surfaces. An example of irony from Week One’s readings would come from Balthazar’s Marvelous Afternoon, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. In this story, Belthazar makes a birdcage that everyone in his town marvels over. On several occasions, he is told that it is worth a great deal of money.
A Doctor Giraldo even tries to buy it from Belthazar, but he refuses to sell it to anyone except for Pepe, then young man that originally ordered the birdcage. In the end, Pepe’s father refuses to pay for it, and acts as though the birdcage is worthless. Even so, Belthazar insists on giving the cage to Pepe. (LaRocco & Coughlin, 1996, p. 68). Satire- Satire is the use of negative statements to bring out the shortcomings of the subject matter in a literary work. It can also be construed as a sarcastic exaggeration of a person or concept.
Satire is not intended to be funny, but it is often interpreted by the reader as humorous. An example of satire from Week One’s readings would come from The Hack Driver, by Sinclair Lewis. In this story, the author makes reference to innkeepers that sneak off to shoot duck when they should be sweeping floors (LaRocco & Coughlin, 1996, p. 57). This statement points at innkeepers as though they are known for neglecting their responsibilities. References LaRocco, C. & Caughlin, J. (1996). The Art of Work: An Anthropology of Workplace Literature. Cincinnati, OH: Southwestern Educational Publishing