Literary Elements Project 2015

Do you know your literary vocabulary?


We all read lots of stories. No matter if it's for fun, of if its cause our teachers forced us to, we have read lots of stories. Every year, we also learn all sorts of random vocabulary words, like idiom and metaphor, and simile and stuff like that. But do we actually know what those words mean? Using five stories of our choice, we put our vocab to the test.

The Stories

'The Tell-Tale Heart' by Edgar Allen Poe

Protagonist: The protagonist would be the main character, because he is the main character who faces a problem, his problem being the old man’s eye.

Antagonist: There isn’t exactly an antagonist in this story, as nobody is against the main character. However, an idea that could be considered as ‘opposing’ is the heart itself, since it seems that the heart is what busts the man who killed the old man.

'The Dinner Party' by Mona Gardner

Protagonist: The American, the native boy & the host are the protagonists, because they are the main characters and the ones who got the cobra to come out.

Antagonist: The antagonist would probably be the colonel who was speaking against women, since that isn't a very good thing to do. Plus, he was very distracting, and his point was proven wrong, hence making him the 'bad guy'.

'The Sniper' by Liam O' Flaherty

Protagonist: The protagonist would be the man, because you find yourself rooting for him through the story (until the very end, at least), much like the main character in Stephen King's "Battleground".

Antagonist: The antagonist of this story is the man's quick action. It caused him to kill his brother ruthlessly. If he was a bit more chill, he wouldn't have hurt someone so close to him. He was so blinded by the thought of killing a POSSIBLE enemy that he didn’t realize that maybe this enemy isn't an enemy after all.

'Charles' by Shirley Jackson

Protagonist: The protagonist is the mom, since the story is in her perspective, and she is hearing the story from her son's perspective. The readers hear the whole story from her POV.

Antagonist: The son, Laurie, or in other words 'Charles'. Laurie was 'Charles' the whole time, which becomes obvious at the end, when the teacher says there is no 'Charles' in their class. This also explains how Laurie is able to say bad words that 'Charles' said, talks insolently much like 'Charles', and how he came late from school. Hence, Laurie is the antagonist, since he is the 'bad kid'.

The Lottery by Shirley Jackson

Protagonist: Mrs. Hutchinson is the protagonist, because her ideals, thoughts, and choices seem to the main ones that the readers can agree to. Since this story isn't set in our day, time, or location, we wouldn't do a lottery like this. Hence, we agree with

Antagonist: Mr. Summers, because he is the one who runs the lottery, creates the whole thing. If the whole thing is rigged, he must have been the one that rigged it, right? If not, the antagonist could be the whole idea of the lottery and how corrupt the idea has become.

The Elements


The universal message behind the whole story.

Example: The power of the heart is stronger than the power of will. - “Tell-Tale Heart”

Explanation: In this story, the man's will makes him kill the older man, but the older man's heart is much too strong for that.


The ending of the story, in which all problems get resolved and come to a close.

Example: The final sentence of the story, "Charles" - "We don't have a Charles in kindergarten."

Explanation: That final sentence is the resolution of the story, when everything becomes clear and closes out.

Situational Irony

The difference between what is expected to happen and what actually happens.

Example: The title itself, of the story, "The Lottery".

Explanation: When you hear the title of the story, you probably expected something like what we do today - a lot more peaceful, safe, and easy. But when you actually get to the end, you realize that it's not what you expected at all - it's completely ironic in a very bad way.


A typical/stereotypical example of a person or genre.

Example: The colonel saying that men have more nerve control than women, from "The Dinner Party."

Explanation: It's a common archetype that men are sexist, saying things about their gender being better. It is also a common archetype that men have more nerve control than women, which isn't necessarily true.


A strong or dominant idea in the story.

Example: In the story, "The Lottery", the idea of the lottery being sinister and dark is the motif.

Explanation: Through the story, everyone seems a bit uneasy about the lottery, which seems like a prominent idea in the story.


The moment when the character realizes something important, when they are suddenly aware of something through a new light.

Example: The mother realizing that Charles & Laurie are the same person (Charles), the sniper realizing he killed his brother (The Sniper),

Explanation: In all of these, the characters suddenly realize something they didn't consider before; that moment is the character(s)'s epiphany.


The basic introduction to a story; the setup of the setting & characters.

Example: "The morning of June 27th was clear and sunny, with the fresh warmth of a full-summer day; the flowers were blossoming profusely and the grass was richly green. The people of the village began to gather in the square, between the post office and the bank, around ten o'clock; in some towns there were so many people that the lottery took two days and had to be started on June 2th. but in this village, where there were only about three hundred people, the whole lottery took less than two hours, so it could begin at ten o'clock in the morning and still be through in time to allow the villagers to get home for noon dinner." - The Lottery

Explanation: The first paragraph of this story sets up the story, creates a scene for the rest of the story to follow, and introduces the setting.

Dramatic Irony

When the audience knows something that a character doesn't know, which leads the character to do something different from what they should do.

Example: The snake being under the table in the story, "The Dinner Party."

Explanation: We know that there is a snake under the table, as does the American man. However, the other people don't know this, so they are still calm, until they actually find out.

Author's Style

The way an author writes, his/her trademark in writing.

Example: Shirley Jackson's writing has lots of unexpected twists and turns.

Explanation: !!!!SPOILERS INCLUDED!!!! In "Charles," you wouldn't expect that Charles is actually Laurie. Similarly, in "The Lottery," you wouldn't expect that the lottery is actually the person with the rocks being thrown at them. You only find these out at the end of each story, hence the unpredictability.

Verbal Irony

The use of words to mean something different than what they appear to mean. (sarcasm)

Example: There wasn't any sarcasm in the stories.

Explanation: Verbal Irony is when people say something, but they really mean something else. I couldn't find any of that in any of my stories.


An idea set up in the form of an expression.

Example: There weren't really any idioms in the stories.

Explanation: There weren't any expressions or figurative languages in any of the stories.


An obvious and large exaggeration.

Example: There weren't any hyperboles in my stories.

Explanation: A hyperbole is when somebody exaggerates something, or makes it overly unbelievable. There weren't any hyperboles in the stories I chose.


The atmosphere of the story, the feel the story creates.

Example: The cordial atmosphere of "The Dinner Party", the eerily normal mood of "The Lottery", & the unease of "The Tell-Tale Heart", & the war-like feel of The Sniper.

Explanation: In each story, certain words and sentences create a mood that corresponds to the story's plot. For example, the word choice in "The Lottery" make it seem like a happy story about every day life, but a story that's much too happy to be such a story.


The way the speaker sounds - their attitude toward the subject.

Example: In the story, "Charles", the speaker seems very upset about the topic, lots of concern and anxiety in the things she says.

Explanation: She is anxious to meet Charles' mom, she seems highly interested in what Laurie has to say each day, and her words make her sound like that. Hence, her tone is filled with concern.

Character Motivation

The reason a character is the way they are; the things that affect their thoughts, feelings, & personality.

Example: In the story, "The Sniper," the sniper's character motivation is his job itself and his past experiences getting injured, hurt, and killed.

Explanation: The sniper's job itself causes him to be so wary, so aware, so on edge.

Thanks for reading!