5 Steps to a 5: Writing the AP English Essay (2016)


Appendix II. Glossary of Terms

Allegory A work that functions on a symbolic level.

Alliteration The repetition of initial consonant sounds, such as “Peter Piper picked a peck of picked peppers.”

Allusion A reference contained in a work.

Assertion Your thesis, the point you wish to make in your essay.

Cacophony Harsh and discordant sounds in a line or passage in a literary work.

Character Those who carry out the action of the plot in literature. Major, minor, static, and dynamic are types of characters.

Comic relief The inclusion of a humorous character or scene to contrast with the tragic elements of a work, thereby intensifying the next tragic event.

Conflict A clash between opposing forces in a literary work, such as man versus man; man versus nature; man versus God; man versus self.

Connotation The interpretive level of a word based on its associated images rather than its literal meaning.

Deconstruct To break something into its parts, to identify the components of a text and to decipher each of their meanings within a given context.

Denotation The literal or dictionary meaning of a word.

Diction The author’s choice of words.

Euphony The pleasant, mellifluous presentation of sounds in a literary work.

Exposition Background information presented in a literary work.

Figurative language That body of devices that enables the writer to operate on levels other than the literal one. It includes metaphor, simile, symbol, motif, hyperbole, and others.

Flashback A device that enables a writer to refer to past thoughts, events, and episodes.

Form The shape or structure of a literary work.

Hyperbole Extreme exaggeration. In “My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose,” Burns speaks of loving “until all the seas run dry.”

Image A verbal approximation of a sensory impression, concept or emotion.

Imagery The total effect of related sensory images in a work of literature.

Irony An unexpected twist or contrast between what happens and what was intended or expected to happen. It involves dialogue and situation, and can be intentional or unplanned. Dramatic irony centers around the ignorance of those involved while the audience is aware of the circumstance.

Metaphor A direct comparison between dissimilar things. “Your eyes are stars” is an example.

Metonymy A figure of speech in which a representative term is used for a larger idea (The pen is mightier than the sword.)

Monologue A speech given by one character (Hamlet’s “To be or not to be . . .”).

Motif The repetition or variations of an image or idea in a work that is used to develop theme or characters.

Narrator The speaker of a literary work.

Onomatopoeia Words that sound like the sound they represent (hiss, gurgle, bang).

Oxymoron An image of contradictory term (bittersweet, pretty ugly, giant economy size).

Parable A story that operates on more than one level and usually teaches a moral lesson. (The Pearl by John Steinbeck is a fine example. See Allegory.)

Parody A comic imitation of a work that ridicules the original.

Pathos The aspects of a literary work that elicit pity from the audience.

Personification The assigning of human qualities to inanimate objects or concepts (Wordsworth personifies “the sea that bares her bosom to the moon” in the poem “London 1802.”)

Plot A sequence of events in a literary work.

Point of view The method of narration in a work.

Rhetorical question One that does not expect an explicit answer. It is used to pose an idea to be considered by the speaker or audience. (Ernest Dowson asks, “Where are they now the days of wine and roses?”)

Satire A mode of writing based on ridicule, which criticizes the foibles and follies of society without necessarily offering a solution (Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels is a great satire, which exposes mankind’s condition.)

Setting The time and place of a literary work.

Simile An indirect comparison that uses the words like or as to link the differing items in the comparison. (“Your eyes are like stars.”)

Stage directions The specific instructions a playwright includes concerning sets, characterization, delivery, etc. (See Hedda Gabler by Ibsen.)

Stanza A unit of a poem, similar in rhyme, meter, and length to other units in the poem.

Structure The organization and form of a work.

Style The unique way an author presents his ideas. Diction, syntax, imagery, structure, and content all contribute to a particular style.

Symbol Something in a literary work that stands for something else. (Plato has the light of the sun symbolize truth in “The Allegory of the Cave.”)

Synecdoche A figure of speech that utilizes a part as representative of the whole. (“All hands on deck” is an example.)

Syntax The grammatical structure of prose and poetry.

Synthesis The integration of a number of sources into the development and support of the writer’s thesis.

Theme The underlying ideas the author illustrates through characterization, motifs, language, plot, etc.

Tone The author’s attitude toward his or her subject.

Understatement The opposite of exaggeration. It is a technique for developing irony and/or humor where one writes or says less than intended.

Voice The author’s distinct, unique, recognizable style. Voice can also refer to active or passive when referring to whether the subject of the sentence is doing the acting or is being acted upon.