SAT II Literature : Literary Terminology Describing Prose

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for SAT II Literature

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Example Questions

Example Question #121 : Literary Terminology And Devices

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

There were a king with a large jaw and a queen with a plain face, on the throne of England; there were a king with a large jaw and a queen with a fair face, on the throne of France. In both countries it was clearer than crystal to the lords of the State preserves of loaves and fishes, that things in general were settled forever.

Which additional literary technique does the first paragraph exhibit?

Possible Answers:

Paradox 

Stream of consciousness

Colloquialism

Litotes

Rhetorical question

Correct answer:

Paradox 

Explanation:

A paradox is a contradictory statement, something that seems impossible, and most of Dickens’ contrasting pairings seem impossible here: the times are the best and worst, faithful and skeptical, hopeful and despondent. Colloquialism is the use of an informal, conversational, or regional bit of speech (e.g. “y’all” for “you all”). Rhetorical questions are questions that are asked for effect rather than to solicit information (e.g. “Why me?”). Litotes is the deliberate use of understatement or double negatives, the opposite of hyperbole (e.g. “they don’t seem unhappy”). Stream of consciousness is a style of writing designed to mimic the free-flowing thoughts of someone’s inner consciousness; the style often involves disorganization and lack of standard punctuation or capitalization.

Passage adapted from Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities (1859)

Example Question #122 : Literary Terminology And Devices

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

There were a king with a large jaw and a queen with a plain face, on the throne of England; there were a king with a large jaw and a queen with a fair face, on the throne of France. In both countries it was clearer than crystal to the lords of the State preserves of loaves and fishes, that things in general were settled forever.

Which additional literary technique does the first paragraph display?

Possible Answers:

Apostrophe

Caricature

Sprung rhythm

Polysyndeton

Anaphora

Correct answer:

Anaphora

Explanation:

Anaphora is the repetition of part of a clause, and it is perhaps the most notable literary device in this passage by Charles Dickens. Apostrophe is a direct address to the reader, and a caricature is a cartoonish or exaggerated portrait of a person. Sprung rhythm is a poetic technique most often associated with the work of Gerard Manley Hopkins, and it does not apply to fiction. Lastly, polysyndeton is the excessive use of conjunctions (e.g. “I went and I picked up the paper and I read it over and finally I crumpled it up”).

Passage adapted from Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities (1859)

Example Question #123 : Literary Terminology And Devices

It was a fine autumn morning; the early sun shone serenely on embrowned groves and still green fields; advancing on to the lawn, I looked up and surveyed the front of the mansion. It was three storeys high, of proportions not vast, though considerable: a gentleman’s manor-house, not a nobleman’s seat: battlements round the top gave it a picturesque look. …Farther off were hills: not so lofty as those round Lowood, nor so craggy, nor so like barriers of separation from the living world; but yet quiet and lonely hills enough, and seeming to embrace Thornfield with a seclusion I had not expected to find existent so near the stirring locality of Millcote. A little hamlet, whose roofs were blent with trees, straggled up the side of one of these hills; the church of the district stood nearer Thornfield: its old tower-top looked over a knoll between the house and gates.

I was yet enjoying the calm prospect and pleasant fresh air, yet listening with delight to the cawing of the rooks, yet surveying the wide, hoary front of the hall, and thinking what a great place it was for one lonely little dame like Mrs. Fairfax to inhabit, when that lady appeared at the door.

“What! out already?” said she.  “I see you are an early riser.”  I went up to her, and was received with an affable kiss and shake of the hand.

(1847)

What literary device does paragraph 2 employ?

Possible Answers:

Metaphor

Colloquialism

Anastrophe

Hyperbole

Polysyndeton

Correct answer:

Polysyndeton

Explanation:

Note the excessive use of conjunction words in the following clauses: “I was yet enjoying the calm prospect and pleasant fresh air, yet listening with delight to the cawing of the rooks, yet surveying the wide, hoary front of the hall, and thinking what a great place it was…” This is polysyndeton, the excessive use of conjunctions. Hyperbole is the use of extreme exaggeration (e.g. “this suitcase weighs a ton”). Anastrophe is the purposeful inversion of normal word order in a clause or sentence (e.g. “forsake me not” instead of “do not forsake me”). Metaphor is a comparison that does not employ “like” or “as” (e.g. “the queen is a ferocious lion”). Colloquialism is the use of an informal, conversational, or regional bit of speech (e.g. “y’all” for “you all”).

Passage adapted from Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre: An Autobiography. (1847)

Example Question #124 : Literary Terminology And Devices

It was a fine autumn morning; the early sun shone serenely on embrowned groves and still green fields; advancing on to the lawn, I looked up and surveyed the front of the mansion. It was three storeys high, of proportions not vast, though considerable: a gentleman’s manor-house, not a nobleman’s seat: battlements round the top gave it a picturesque look. …Farther off were hills: not so lofty as those round Lowood, nor so craggy, nor so like barriers of separation from the living world; but yet quiet and lonely hills enough, and seeming to embrace Thornfield with a seclusion I had not expected to find existent so near the stirring locality of Millcote. A little hamlet, whose roofs were blent with trees, straggled up the side of one of these hills; the church of the district stood nearer Thornfield: its old tower-top looked over a knoll between the house and gates.

I was yet enjoying the calm prospect and pleasant fresh air, yet listening with delight to the cawing of the rooks, yet surveying the wide, hoary front of the hall, and thinking what a great place it was for one lonely little dame like Mrs. Fairfax to inhabit, when that lady appeared at the door.

“What! out already?” said she.  “I see you are an early riser.”  I went up to her, and was received with an affable kiss and shake of the hand.

(1847)

What literary device does the follow phrase (sentence 4) employ? “A little hamlet, whose roofs were blent with trees, straggled up the side of one of these hills…”

Possible Answers:

Caricature

Personification

Epiphany

Soliloquy

Quatrain

Correct answer:

Personification

Explanation:

To say that the hamlet “straggled” up the hills is to give an inanimate object a human quality: personification. Epiphany is a sudden realization, often experienced by a character at the end of a short story, that changes someone’s life. Caricature is a cartoonish or exaggerated portrait of a person. A quatrain is a four-line unit of poetry (e.g. a four-line stanza). A soliloquy is a long monologue that, in drama, specifically refers to a monologue in which no other characters are present on the stage (e.g. Hamlet’s famous “To be or not to be” speech).

Passage adapted from Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre: An Autobiography. (1847)

Example Question #125 : Literary Terminology And Devices

… The figure of that first ancestor, invested by family tradition with a dim and dusky grandeur, was present to my boyish imagination as far back as I can remember. It still haunts me, and induces a sort of home-feeling with the past, which I scarcely claim in reference to the present phase of the town. I seem to have a stronger claim to a residence here on account of this grave, bearded, sable-cloaked, and steeple-crowned progenitor—who came so early, with his Bible and his sword, and trode the unworn street with such a stately port, and made so large a figure, as a man of war and peace—a stronger claim than for myself, whose name is seldom heard and my face hardly known. He was a soldier, legislator, judge; he was a ruler in the Church; he had all the Puritanic traits, both good and evil. He was likewise a bitter persecutor; as witness the Quakers, who have remembered him in their histories, and relate an incident of his hard severity towards a woman of their sect, which will last longer, it is to be feared, than any record of his better deeds, although these were many. His son, too, inherited the persecuting spirit, and made himself so conspicuous in the martyrdom of the witches, that their blood may fairly be said to have left a stain upon him. So deep a stain, indeed, that his dry old bones, in the Charter-street burial-ground, must still retain it, if they have not crumbled utterly to dust! I know not whether these ancestors of mine bethought themselves to repent, and ask pardon of Heaven for their cruelties; or whether they are now groaning under the heavy consequences of them in another state of being.

(1850)

Of what literary device is the underlined sentence an example?

Possible Answers:

Verisimilitude

Hyperbole

Cliché 

Anastrophe

Apostrophe

Correct answer:

Hyperbole

Explanation:

Hyperbole is the use of extreme exaggeration (e.g. “this suitcase weighs a ton”), and this sentence’s assertion that blood is literally staining the narrator’s ancestor is a clear example of exaggeration. Verisimilitude is the appearance of reality or truth (without necessarily being actually real or true). Apostrophe is a direct address to the reader (e.g. Herman Melville’s “Call me Ishmael”). Anastrophe is the purposeful inversion of normal word order in a clause or sentence (e.g. “forsake me not” instead of “do not forsake me”). A cliché is a phrase that’s become trite or worn out from overuse (e.g. “fast as lightning”).

Passage adapted from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. (1850)

Example Question #126 : Literary Terminology And Devices

… The figure of that first ancestor, invested by family tradition with a dim and dusky grandeur, was present to my boyish imagination as far back as I can remember. It still haunts me, and induces a sort of home-feeling with the past, which I scarcely claim in reference to the present phase of the town. I seem to have a stronger claim to a residence here on account of this grave, bearded, sable-cloaked, and steeple-crowned progenitor—who came so early, with his Bible and his sword, and trode the unworn street with such a stately port, and made so large a figure, as a man of war and peace—a stronger claim than for myself, whose name is seldom heard and my face hardly known. He was a soldier, legislator, judge; he was a ruler in the Church; he had all the Puritanic traits, both good and evil. He was likewise a bitter persecutor; as witness the Quakers, who have remembered him in their histories, and relate an incident of his hard severity towards a woman of their sect, which will last longer, it is to be feared, than any record of his better deeds, although these were many. His son, too, inherited the persecuting spirit, and made himself so conspicuous in the martyrdom of the witches, that their blood may fairly be said to have left a stain upon him. So deep a stain, indeed, that his dry old bones, in the Charter-street burial-ground, must still retain it, if they have not crumbled utterly to dust! I know not whether these ancestors of mine bethought themselves to repent, and ask pardon of Heaven for their cruelties; or whether they are now groaning under the heavy consequences of them in another state of being.

(1850)

What literary device appears in the underlined sentence?

Possible Answers:

Period sentence

Oxymoron

Telegraphic sentence

Asyndeton

Polysyndeton

Correct answer:

Asyndeton

Explanation:

This passage omits most of its conjunctions, which makes it an example of asyndeton. This is the opposite of polysyndeton, the excessive use of conjunctions (e.g. “I went and I picked up the paper and I read it over and finally I crumpled it up”). Oxymoron is a simple contradictory term (e.g. “ice water”). Telegraphic sentence refers to any concise sentence (usually five or fewer words in length) that omits unnecessary words and parts of speech. A periodic sentence, on the other hand, is one in which the main clause and important idea comes at the very end.

Passage adapted from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. (1850)

Example Question #127 : Literary Terminology And Devices

… The figure of that first ancestor, invested by family tradition with a dim and dusky grandeur, was present to my boyish imagination as far back as I can remember. It still haunts me, and induces a sort of home-feeling with the past, which I scarcely claim in reference to the present phase of the town. I seem to have a stronger claim to a residence here on account of this grave, bearded, sable-cloaked, and steeple-crowned progenitor—who came so early, with his Bible and his sword, and trode the unworn street with such a stately port, and made so large a figure, as a man of war and peace—a stronger claim than for myself, whose name is seldom heard and my face hardly known. He was a soldier, legislator, judge; he was a ruler in the Church; he had all the Puritanic traits, both good and evil. He was likewise a bitter persecutor; as witness the Quakers, who have remembered him in their histories, and relate an incident of his hard severity towards a woman of their sect, which will last longer, it is to be feared, than any record of his better deeds, although these were many. His son, too, inherited the persecuting spirit, and made himself so conspicuous in the martyrdom of the witches, that their blood may fairly be said to have left a stain upon him. So deep a stain, indeed, that his dry old bones, in the Charter-street burial-ground, must still retain it, if they have not crumbled utterly to dust! I know not whether these ancestors of mine bethought themselves to repent, and ask pardon of Heaven for their cruelties; or whether they are now groaning under the heavy consequences of them in another state of being.

(1850)

What literary device does the underlined sentence also exhibit?

Possible Answers:

Sarcasm

Litotes

Metonymy

Anaphora

Synecdoche

Correct answer:

Anaphora

Explanation:

Anaphora is the repetition of part of a clause, and that is the device exhibited in the repetition of “He was a… he was a… he had.”  Sarcasm is verbal irony and is often cutting or satirical. Metonymy is the substitution of one word for another word that’s commonly associated with it (e.g. using “throne” to discuss a monarchy). Synecdoche is a specific type of metonymy in which the real word for something is replaced by a word for a part of that thing (e.g. someone saying they need a “hand” when they really need the entire person’s help). Litotes is the deliberate use of understatement or double negatives, the opposite of hyperbole (e.g. “they don’t seem unhappy”).

Passage adapted from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. (1850)

Example Question #128 : Literary Terminology And Devices

We went tiptoeing along a path amongst the trees back towards the end of the widow's garden, stooping down so as the branches wouldn't scrape our heads. When we was passing by the kitchen I fell over a root and made a noise. We scrouched down and laid still. …Jim was setting in the kitchen door; we could see him pretty clear, because there was a light behind him.  He got up and stretched his neck out about a minute, listening. Then he says:

“Who dah?”

He listened some more; then he come tiptoeing down and stood right between us; we could a touched him, nearly. Well, likely it was minutes and minutes that there warn't a sound, and we all there so close together. There was a place on my ankle that got to itching, but I dasn't scratch it; and then my ear begun to itch; and next my back, right between my shoulders. Seemed like I'd die if I couldn't scratch. Well, I've noticed that thing plenty times since. If you are with the quality, or at a funeral, or trying to go to sleep when you ain't sleepy—if you are anywheres where it won't do for you to scratch, why you will itch all over in upwards of a thousand places.

What is the main technique by which the author establishes his narrator’s background and class here?

Possible Answers:

Colloquialism

Dialogue

Oxymoron

Anaphora

Loan words

Correct answer:

Colloquialism

Explanation:

Colloquialism is the use of an informal, conversational, or regional bit of speech (e.g. “y’all” for “you all”). The author here makes wide use of these colloquialisms and of poor grammar to establish his narrator as a young, uneducated boy.

Passage adapted from Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884).

Example Question #121 : Literary Terminology And Devices

We went tiptoeing along a path amongst the trees back towards the end of the widow's garden, stooping down so as the branches wouldn't scrape our heads. When we was passing by the kitchen I fell over a root and made a noise. We scrouched down and laid still. …Jim was setting in the kitchen door; we could see him pretty clear, because there was a light behind him.  He got up and stretched his neck out about a minute, listening. Then he says:

“Who dah?”

He listened some more; then he come tiptoeing down and stood right between us; we could a touched him, nearly. Well, likely it was minutes and minutes that there warn't a sound, and we all there so close together. There was a place on my ankle that got to itching, but I dasn't scratch it; and then my ear begun to itch; and next my back, right between my shoulders. Seemed like I'd die if I couldn't scratch. Well, I've noticed that thing plenty times since. If you are with the quality, or at a funeral, or trying to go to sleep when you ain't sleepy—if you are anywheres where it won't do for you to scratch, why you will itch all over in upwards of a thousand places.

The last sentence in this passage includes an example of what literary device?

Possible Answers:

Anthimeria

Aposiopesis

Aphorism

Oxymoron

Elocution

Correct answer:

Aposiopesis

Explanation:

Aposiopesis is the sudden, deliberate breaking-off of a line of writing or speech for deliberate effect (e.g. “When your father gets home…”), and it’s the effect that the em dash creates in the last line here. An oxymoron is a simple contradictory term (e.g. “ice water”), while an aphorism is a pithy saying or adage (e.g. “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”). Anthimeria is the use of one part of speech in place of another (e.g. “gift someone a sweater,” with “gift” used as a verb instead of a noun), often to create an apropos new word.

Passage adapted from Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884).

Example Question #130 : Literary Terminology And Devices

One Saturday evening, at a time when he had not yet gone into housekeeping with Mademoiselle Mimi, who will shortly make her appearance, Rodolphe made the acquaintance at the table he frequented of a ladies' wardrobe keeper, named Mademoiselle Laure. Having learned that he was editor of "The Scarf of Iris" and of "The Beaver," two fashion papers, the milliner, in hope of getting her goods puffed, commenced a series of significant provocations. To these provocations Rodolphe replied by a pyrotechnical display of madrigals, sufficient to make Benserade, Voiture, and all other dealers in the fireworks of gallantry jealous; and at the end of the dinner, Mademoiselle Laure, having learned that he was a poet, gave him clearly to understand that she was not indisposed to accept him as her Petrarch. She even, without circumlocution, made an appointment with him for the next day.

What literary technique can be seen in the line “she was not indisposed to accept him as her Petrarch” (sentence 4)?

Possible Answers:

Litotes

Assonance

Alliteration

Paradox

None of these choices

Correct answer:

Litotes

Explanation:

Litotes is the deliberate use of understatement or double negatives, the opposite of hyperbole, and it is what we see in the phrase “not indisposed.” Alliteration is the repetition of similar sounds at the beginning of multiple words (e.g. “two torn tulips”). Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds (e.g. Edgar Allan Poe’s “the mellow wedding bells”). Paradoxes are contradictory statements, something that seems impossible (e.g. Odysseus’ “I am no man” in The Odyssey).

Passage adapted from Henry Murger’s Bohemians of the Latin Quarter (1888).

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