SAT II Literature : Literary Terminology Describing Prose

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for SAT II Literature

varsity tutors app store varsity tutors android store

Example Questions

Example Question #51 : Literary Terminology Describing Prose

1 Thirty years ago, Marseilles lay burning in the sun, one day.

2 A blazing sun upon a fierce August day was no greater rarity in southern France then, than at any other time, before or since. 3 Everything in Marseilles, and about Marseilles, had stared at the fervid sky, and been stared at in return, until a staring habit had become universal there. 4 Strangers were stared out of countenance by staring white houses, staring white walls, staring white streets, staring tracts of arid road, staring hills from which verdure was burnt away. 5 The only things to be seen not fixedly staring and glaring were the vines drooping under their load of grapes. 6 These did occasionally wink a little, as the hot air barely moved their faint leaves.

… 7 The churches were the freest from [the stare]. 8 To come out of the twilight of pillars and arches—dreamily dotted with winking lamps, dreamily peopled with ugly old shadows piously dozing, spitting, and begging—was to plunge into a fiery river, and swim for life to the nearest strip of shade. 9 So, with people lounging and lying wherever shade was, with but little hum of tongues or barking of dogs, with occasional jangling of discordant church bells and rattling of vicious drums, Marseilles, a fact to be strongly smelt and tasted, lay broiling in the sun one day.

What literary device can be seen in the phrase “staring tracts of arid road” (sentence 4)?

Possible Answers:

Assonance

Irony

Allusion

Pun

Chiasmus

Correct answer:

Assonance

Explanation:

Here we have the repetition of a vowel sound in “staring,” “tracts,” and “arid.” This makes the phrase a perfect example of assonance.

Passage adapted from Charles Dickens’ Little Dorrit (1857)

Example Question #52 : Literary Terminology Describing Prose

1 Thirty years ago, Marseilles lay burning in the sun, one day.

2 A blazing sun upon a fierce August day was no greater rarity in southern France then, than at any other time, before or since. 3 Everything in Marseilles, and about Marseilles, had stared at the fervid sky, and been stared at in return, until a staring habit had become universal there. 4 Strangers were stared out of countenance by staring white houses, staring white walls, staring white streets, staring tracts of arid road, staring hills from which verdure was burnt away. 5 The only things to be seen not fixedly staring and glaring were the vines drooping under their load of grapes. 6 These did occasionally wink a little, as the hot air barely moved their faint leaves.

… 7 The churches were the freest from [the stare]. 8 To come out of the twilight of pillars and arches—dreamily dotted with winking lamps, dreamily peopled with ugly old shadows piously dozing, spitting, and begging—was to plunge into a fiery river, and swim for life to the nearest strip of shade. 9 So, with people lounging and lying wherever shade was, with but little hum of tongues or barking of dogs, with occasional jangling of discordant church bells and rattling of vicious drums, Marseilles, a fact to be strongly smelt and tasted, lay broiling in the sun one day.

What literary device can be seen in sentence 6?

Possible Answers:

Synesthesia

Prolepsis

Anthropomorphism

Analepsis

Litotes

Correct answer:

Anthropomorphism

Explanation:

Here we have grape vines winking, an example of a human action or attribute being ascribed to a non-human object. Analepsis and prolepsis are the techniques of flashback and flash-forward, respectively. Synesthesia is the conflation of different sensory perceptions (e.g. a velvety sound, a bright flavor). Litotes is the deliberate use of understatement or double negatives, the opposite of hyperbole (e.g. “they don’t seem unhappy”).

Passage adapted from Charles Dickens’ Little Dorrit (1857)

Example Question #53 : Literary Terminology Describing Prose

1 Thirty years ago, Marseilles lay burning in the sun, one day.

2 A blazing sun upon a fierce August day was no greater rarity in southern France then, than at any other time, before or since. 3 Everything in Marseilles, and about Marseilles, had stared at the fervid sky, and been stared at in return, until a staring habit had become universal there. 4 Strangers were stared out of countenance by staring white houses, staring white walls, staring white streets, staring tracts of arid road, staring hills from which verdure was burnt away. 5 The only things to be seen not fixedly staring and glaring were the vines drooping under their load of grapes. 6 These did occasionally wink a little, as the hot air barely moved their faint leaves.

… 7 The churches were the freest from [the stare]. 8 To come out of the twilight of pillars and arches—dreamily dotted with winking lamps, dreamily peopled with ugly old shadows piously dozing, spitting, and begging—was to plunge into a fiery river, and swim for life to the nearest strip of shade. 9 So, with people lounging and lying wherever shade was, with but little hum of tongues or barking of dogs, with occasional jangling of discordant church bells and rattling of vicious drums, Marseilles, a fact to be strongly smelt and tasted, lay broiling in the sun one day.

What literary device can be seen in sentence 9?

Possible Answers:

Allusion

Onomatopoeia

Personification

Metonymy

Synecdoche

Correct answer:

Onomatopoeia

Explanation:

In sentence 9, “hum” and “rattling” are examples of onomatopoeia, a word that mimics the sound of the thing it is describing. To a lesser extent, “jangling” can also be considered onomatopoeia.

Passage adapted from Charles Dickens’ Little Dorrit (1857)

Example Question #54 : Literary Terminology Describing Prose

1 The Maypole… was an old building, with more gable ends than a lazy man would care to count on a sunny day; huge zig-zag chimneys, out of which it seemed as though even smoke could not choose but come in more than naturally fantastic shapes, imparted to it in its tortuous progress; and vast stables, gloomy, ruinous, and empty…. 2 With its overhanging stories, drowsy little panes of glass, and front bulging out and projecting over the pathway, the old house looked as if it were nodding in its sleep. 3 Indeed, it needed no very great stretch of fancy to detect in it other resemblances to humanity. 4 The bricks of which it was built had originally been a deep dark red, but had grown yellow and discoloured like an old man's skin; the sturdy timbers had decayed like teeth; and here and there the ivy, like a warm garment to comfort it in its age, wrapt its green leaves closely round the time-worn walls.

What literary device can be seen in the phrase “with more gable ends than a lazy man would care to count on a sunny day” (sentence 1)?

Possible Answers:

Portmanteau

Parallelism

Hyperbole

Paradox

Epistrophe

Correct answer:

Hyperbole

Explanation:

This is an example of hyperbole, deliberate exaggeration. Paradoxes are contradictory statements, something that seems impossible (e.g. Odysseus’ “I am no man” in The Odyssey). Parallelism is the use of clauses with identical grammatical patterns, syntax, or meter (e.g. “She expected nothing, hoped for everything, and received something”). A portmanteau is a neologism (new word) created by combining two existing words (e.g. Spanish + English = Spanglish). Epistrophe is the repetition of the end of a clause at the end of several clauses in a row (e.g. “I like strawberry ice cream, I buy chocolate ice cream, I eat all kinds of ice cream”).

Passage adapted from Charles Dickens’ Barnaby Rudge (1841)

Example Question #55 : Literary Terminology Describing Prose

1 The Maypole… was an old building, with more gable ends than a lazy man would care to count on a sunny day; huge zig-zag chimneys, out of which it seemed as though even smoke could not choose but come in more than naturally fantastic shapes, imparted to it in its tortuous progress; and vast stables, gloomy, ruinous, and empty…. 2 With its overhanging stories, drowsy little panes of glass, and front bulging out and projecting over the pathway, the old house looked as if it were nodding in its sleep. 3 Indeed, it needed no very great stretch of fancy to detect in it other resemblances to humanity. 4 The bricks of which it was built had originally been a deep dark red, but had grown yellow and discoloured like an old man's skin; the sturdy timbers had decayed like teeth; and here and there the ivy, like a warm garment to comfort it in its age, wrapt its green leaves closely round the time-worn walls.

What literary device can be seen in sentence 2?

Possible Answers:

Oxymoron

Foil

Foreshadowing

Anthropomorphism

Allegory

Correct answer:

Anthropomorphism

Explanation:

Anthropomorphism, or personification, can be seen in sentence 2 and subsequent sentences. Likening a house to a human or ascribing human characteristics to it is a perfect example of this device.

Passage adapted from Charles Dickens’ Barnaby Rudge (1841)

Example Question #56 : Literary Terminology Describing Prose

From the corner of the divan of Persian saddle-bags on which he was lying, smoking, as was his custom, innumerable cigarettes, Lord Henry Wotton could just catch the gleam of the honey-sweet and honey-coloured blossoms of a laburnum, whose tremulous branches seemed hardly able to bear the burden of a beauty so flamelike as theirs; and now and then the fantastic shadows of birds in flight flitted across the long tussore-silk curtains that were stretched in front of the huge window, producing a kind of momentary Japanese effect, and making him think of those pallid, jade-faced painters of Tokyo who, through the medium of an art that is necessarily immobile, seek to convey the sense of swiftness and motion. The sullen murmur of the bees shouldering their way through the long unmown grass, or circling with monotonous insistence round the dusty gilt horns of the straggling woodbine, seemed to make the stillness more oppressive. The dim roar of London was like the bourdon note of a distant organ.

(1890)

What is the primary literary device in the passage?

Possible Answers:

Simile 

Allusion

Personification 

Allegory 

Imagery 

Correct answer:

Imagery 

Explanation:

The primary literary device used in the passage is imagery, because most of the paragraph is dedicated to describing in vivid detail the appearance and feel of the setting.

Passage adapted from Oscar Wilde's A Picture of Dorian Grey (1890)

Example Question #57 : Literary Terminology Describing Prose

There are days which occur in this climate, at almost any season of the year, wherein the world reaches its perfection, when the air, the heavenly bodies, and the earth, make a harmony, as if nature would indulge her offspring; when, in these bleak upper sides of the planet, nothing is to desire that we have heard of the happiest latitudes, and we bask in the shining hours of Florida and Cuba; when everything that has life gives sign of satisfaction, and the cattle that lie on the ground seem to have great and tranquil thoughts. 2. These halcyons may be looked for with a little more assurance in that pure October weather, which we distinguish by the name of the Indian Summer.  3. The day, immeasurably long, sleeps over the broad hills and warm wide fields. 4. To have lived through all its sunny hours, seems longevity enough. 5. The solitary places do not seem quite lonely. 6. At the gates of the forest, the surprised man of the world is forced to leave his city estimates of great and small, wise and foolish. 7. The knapsack of custom falls off his back with the first step he makes into these precincts. 8. Here is sanctity which shames our religions, and reality which discredits our heroes. 9. Here we find nature to be the circumstance which dwarfs every other circumstance, and judges like a god all men that come to her. 10. We have crept out of our close and crowded houses into the night and morning, and we see what majestic beauties daily wrap us in their bosom. 11. How willingly we would escape the barriers which render them comparatively impotent, escape the sophistication and second thought, and suffer nature to intrance us. 12. The tempered light of the woods is like a perpetual morning, and is stimulating and heroic. 13. The anciently reported spells of these places creep on us. 14. The stems of pines, hemlocks, and oaks, almost gleam like iron on the excited eye. 15. The incommunicable trees begin to persuade us to live with them, and quit our life of solemn trifles. 16. Here no history, or church, or state, is interpolated on the divine sky and the immortal year. 17. How easily we might walk onward into the opening landscape, absorbed by new pictures, and by thoughts fast succeeding each other, until by degrees the recollection of home was crowded out of the mind, all memory obliterated by the tyranny of the present, and we were led in triumph by nature.

The phrase, “We have crept out of our close and crowded houses” (sentence 10) is an example of:

I. alliteration

II. assonance

III. chiasmus

Possible Answers:

I and III only

I only

II only

I and II only

III only

Correct answer:

I and II only

Explanation:

The phrase demonstrates alliteration: the repetition of consonants in stressed syllables. ("“We have CRept out of our Close and CRowded houses.")

It also demonstrates assonance: the repetition of vowel sounds. ("“We have crept out of our close and crOWded hOUses.")

The phrase does not exemplify chiasmus (a sentence comprising two two-part items that are set in opposition to each other: "Ask not what YOUR COUNTRY can do for YOU — ask what YOU can do for YOUR COUNTRY.")

Passage adapted from Ralph Waldo Emerson's "Essay VI, Nature" (1836)

Example Question #58 : Literary Terminology Describing Prose

The word ‘ivory’ rang in the air, was whispered, was sighed. You would think they were praying to it. A taint of imbecile rapacity blew through it all, like a whiff from some corpse. By Jove! I’ve never seen anything so unreal in my life. And outside, the silent wilderness surrounding this cleared speck on the earth struck me as something great and invincible, like evil or truth, waiting patiently for the passing away of this fantastic invasion.

The sentence "A taint of imbecile rapacity blew through it all, like a whiff from some corpse" is an example of ______________.

Possible Answers:

a simile

alliteration 

a metaphor

an allegory

personification

Correct answer:

a simile

Explanation:

In this sentence, the author is comparing two things using the word "like," which makes this a simile, rather than a metaphor, which does not use the words "like" or "as." The other possible answers should be more immediately eliminated, as there is no evidence of personification, alliteration, or allegory. 

Passage adapted from Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness (1899).

Example Question #59 : Literary Terminology Describing Prose

I entered the room where the corpse lay, and was led up to the coffin. How can I describe my sensations on beholding it? I feel yet parched with horror, nor can I reflect on that terrible moment without shuddering and agony, that faintly reminds me of the anguish of the recognition. The trial, the presence of the magistrate and witnesses, passed like a dream from my memory, when I saw the lifeless form of Henry Clerval stretched before me. I gasped for breath; and, throwing myself on the body, I exclaimed, ‘Have my murderous machinations deprived you also, my dearest Henry of life? Two I have already destroyed; other victims await their destiny: but you, Clerval, my friend, my benefactor' –

The human frame could no longer support the agonizing suffering that I endured, and I was carried out of the room in strong convulsions.
A fever succeeded to this. I lay for two months on the point of death: my ravings, as I afterwards heard, were frightful; I called myself the murderer of William, of Justine, and of Clerval. Sometimes I entreated my attendants to assist me in the destruction of the fiend by whom I was tormented; and, at others, I felt the fingers of the monster already grasping my neck, and screamed aloud with agony and terror.

The narration in this passage is an example of ________________.

Possible Answers:

A third-person narrator

A first-person narrator

An unreliable narrator

An omniscient narrator

A second-person narrator 

Correct answer:

A first-person narrator

Explanation:

This is an example of a first-person narrator (the narrator refers to himself as "I"). It is not second-person narration (uses the pronoun "you"), or third-person narration (refers to the main character as "he" or "she"). It is not an omniscient narrator, as it is written in the first-person and limited to the knowledge held by the narrator. This could be an example of unreliable narration, but there is not enough information in this passage to determine that, making first person narrator the most correct answer.

Passage adapted from Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1818)

Example Question #60 : Literary Terminology Describing Prose

I entered the room where the corpse lay, and was led up to the coffin. How can I describe my sensations on beholding it? I feel yet parched with horror, nor can I reflect on that terrible moment without shuddering and agony, that faintly reminds me of the anguish of the recognition. The trial, the presence of the magistrate and witnesses, passed like a dream from my memory, when I saw the lifeless form of Henry Clerval stretched before me. I gasped for breath; and, throwing myself on the body, I exclaimed, ‘Have my murderous machinations deprived you also, my dearest Henry of life? Two I have already destroyed; other victims await their destiny: but you, Clerval, my friend, my benefactor' –

The human frame could no longer support the agonizing suffering that I endured, and I was carried out of the room in strong convulsions.
A fever succeeded to this. I lay for two months on the point of death: my ravings, as I afterwards heard, were frightful; I called myself the murderer of William, of Justine, and of Clerval. Sometimes I entreated my attendants to assist me in the destruction of the fiend by whom I was tormented; and, at others, I felt the fingers of the monster already grasping my neck, and screamed aloud with agony and terror.

The phrase "murderous machinations" is an example of __________________.

Possible Answers:

Personification

Hyperbole

Assonance 

Metaphor 

Alliteration

Correct answer:

Alliteration

Explanation:

"Murderous machinations" is an example of alliteration (the repetition of initial consonant sounds). It is not an example of "assonance," which describes the repetition of vowel sounds. There is no evidence that the phrase is hyperbole, metaphor or personification.

Passage adapted from Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1818)

Learning Tools by Varsity Tutors