Literary Terms


“The two knitting women increase his anxiety by gazing at him and all the other sailors with knowing unconcern. Their eerie looks suggest that they know what will happen, yet don’t care.” - Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

Conrad utilizes allusion through comparing the thread that the women are knitting to life, which functions to bring in emotion

“All night the dread less Angel unpurs’d” - Paradise Lost by John Milton

The “dread less Angel” is an allusion to Abdiel, who is an angel that denounced Satan’s rebellion against God

This functions to explain the author’s concept better and help readers come to a deeper comprehension of the text


Beowulf - The character of “Beowulf” is the Hero archetype of that piece of work because he is the protagonist who battles evil and must restore peace to the land

Heart of Darkness - The situational archetype of Good versus Evil is shown in this text because a battle in the hearts of men between goodness (light) and evil (darkness) is described

Auditory Imagery

“Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;

And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;

Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft

The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft,

And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.” - “To the Autumn” by John Keats

The sound of crickets, the redbreast robin, and the swallows all contribute to the atmosphere and scene of the text, and is a great example of auditory imagery

“The sweep of easy wind and downy flake” - “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost

Readers can imagine and create a mental picture of this scene in the poem through this line, as if the wind is physically audible to the audience

Tactile Imagery

“When the others went swimming my son said he was going in, too. He pulled his dripping trunks from the line where they had hung all through the shower and wrung them out. Languidly, and with no thought of going in, I watched him, his hard little body, skinny and bare, saw him wince slightly as he pulled up around his vitals the small, soggy, icy garment. As he buckled the swollen belt, suddenly my groin felt the chill of death.” - Once More to the Lake by E.B. White

Tactile imagery is utilized here to cause the reader to almost sense that they can feel the wetness of the soaked clothing

“The bed linens might just as well be ice and the clothes snow” - "The Witch of Coos" by Robert Frost

This example appeals to our sense of touch because the reader can imagine the coldness of the ice and snow

Visual Imagery

“And miles to go before I sleep” - “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost

The reader can picture the journey ahead of the speaker and gain more understanding of the depth of the poem

“O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright!

It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night

Like a rich jewel in an Ethiope’s ear” - “Romeo and Juliet” by William Shakespeare

Romeo is telling Juliet that she is brighter than the torches and that her face shines like a jewel; Shakespeare uses this visual imagery to describe Juliet’s beauty from Romeo’s perspective

Implied metaphor

“Some say the world will end in fire,

Some say in ice.

From what I've tasted of desire

I hold with those who favor fire.

But if it had to perish twice,

I think I know enough of hate

To say that for destruction ice

Is also great

And would suffice” - “Fire and Ice” by Robert Frost

The author does not directly state this, but he compares fire to human desire and ice to hatred

“Her vestal livery is but sick and green,

And none but fools do wear it. Cast it off!” - “Romeo and Juliet” by William Shakespeare

Romeo implies using an implied metaphor to Juliet to “cast off” or let go of her virginity and chastity

Mixed Metaphor

“Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,

Or to take arms against a sea of troubles

And by opposing end them” - “Hamlet” by William Shakespeare

“I like to see it lap the Miles –

And lick the Valleys up –

And stop to feed itself at Tanks –

And then – prodigious step” - Emily Dickenson

The poet uses the metaphor of an iron horse for a train and builds on that metaphor throughout the poem

Conceit/Metaphysical Conceit

Conceit: A metaphor that compares two dissimilar things in an interesting, often absurd, fashion

Metaphysical conceit: An analogy that compares an object and a spiritual quality of an individual

“If they be two, they are two so

As stiff twin compasses are two,

Thy soul the fixed foot, makes no show

To move, but doth, if the other do.

And though it in the center sit,

Yet when the other far doth roam,

It leans, and hearkens after it,

And grows erect, as that comes home.” - “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning” by John Donne

This poem compares the souls of two lovers to a compass

“My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;

Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;

If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;

If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.

I have seen roses damask’d, red and white,

But no such roses see I in her cheeks;

And in some perfumes is there more delight

Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.

I love to hear her speak, yet well I know

That music hath a far more pleasing sound;

I grant I never saw a goddess go;

My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground.

And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare

As any she belied with false compare.” - “Sonnet 130” by William Shakespeare

The poet compares the mistress’ qualities to strange things such as “black wires” for hair


Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

The Waves by Virginia Woolf


“Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears” - “Julius Caesar” by William Shakespeare

The “ears” represents attention that Mark Anthony asks of from the public

“As he swung toward them holding up the hand

Half in appeal, but half as if to keep

The life from spilling” - “Out, Out” by Robert Frost

“The life from spilling” refers to blood spilling, where the “life” is a term related to blood so it is a metonymy


“The western wave was all a-flame.

The day was well was nigh done!

Almost upon the western wave

Rested the broad bright Sun” - “The Rime of an Ancient Mariner” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

“Tell that its sculptor well those passions read

Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,

The hand that mocked them.” - “Ozymandias” by Percy Bysshe Shelley


The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger: Holden Caulfield

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald: Jay Gatsby


The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan: Mr. Worldly Wiseman

“The Rivals” by Richard Brinsley Sheridan: Mrs. Malaprop

Archetypal Criticism

a type of critical theory that interprets a text by focusing on recurring myths and archetypes

A type of criticism where archetypes determine the form and function of literary works, that a text's meaning is shaped by cultural and psychological myths


“Hamlet” by William Shakespeare

“Odyssey” by Homer

Feminist Criticism

literary form of criticism that gives the perspective of writing through a feminist perspective

a political form of literature that analyzes the questions of how male and females relate to each other and the world, the repression of women and how women are portrayed in literature

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