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Suspense – intense eagerness to learn the outcome. It is created through delaying the outcome by interposing fresh obstacles, by interrupting the chain of events with a descriptive passage, or by turning temporarily to another plot or subplot, etc.

Syllogism – a pattern or form for deductive reasoning. (See Deductive Reasoning).

Symbol – a character, object, or happening which stands for something else of deeper or

wider meaning. It is, therefore, often means of expressing the invisible. (Mr. Scratch

symbolizes the devil or wickedness in Stephen Vincent Benet’s The Devil and Daniel

Webster, the brackish well symbolizes the evil curse on the Pyncheon house in The

House of the Seven Gables, the scene in which the French noble requires four servants to

serve him is hot chocolate symbolizes class distinction in A Tale of  Two Cities.

Syntax – The way in which words, phrases, and sentences are ordered and connected

Many of Mark Twain’s characters speak in dialect, so their syntax is ungrammatical.

“Jim, this is nice,” I says. “I wouldn’t want to be nowhere else but here.  Pass me along another hunk of fish and some hot cornbread.”

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Schenedoche (si nek’ do ke)  (rhymes with  Schenectady) – a figure of speech, akin to metonymy, in which the part stands for the whole (100 rifles for 100 men with rifles), the whole for the part (the navy is here; that is a warship has arrived), the name of the material for the thing (the swordsman drew his steel, that is, his sword). The species for the genus. The genus for the species. The difference between synecdoche and metonymy is that the former seems to involve a whole and part association, whereas metonymy seems to involve any sort of mental or emotional association of two words. However, metonymy appears to be coming more and more to be used to cover both terms.


Tetrameter – poetic meter of four feet to a line. (See Versification.)

Theme – One meaning of the theme of a piece of literature is its topic, what it is fundamentally about, briefly generalized. Frequently the theme may be stated in a number of ways, all more or less meaning the same thing. The theme of The Red Badge of  Courage , for example, might be put: a youth’s struggle for manhood, the effects of war on a young man, etc. Theme can also mean the underlying idea in a piece of literature; the main moral, social, economic, or intellectual thought which runs through the whole work and which the piece of literature seems to have been written to exemplify, illustrate, implement, or elaborate on. In this sense, the theme of Silas Marner is the power of love in re-building a person’s faith in life. In Vanity Fair it is the hypocrisy and shallowness of the fashionable society of its day. The line of demarcations between theme and thesis is sometimes hard to draw. Generally speaking, however, it would appear that a theme is underlying or submerges; whereas a thesis stands out above the surface.

Thesis – a specific proposition, point, or idea that a work of literature aims to prove, illustrate, or make convincing. It could be a theory, a reform, a moral lesson, or a systematic attack on something. An author may sometimes sacrifice breadth, impartiality, and naturalness of plot and character for the sake of a thesis. The thesis of Sinclair Lewis’s Main Street, for instance, is that American life is narrow, uncultured, and standardized. In Thomas Hardy’s The Return of the Native it is that human life is subject to the whims of an impersonal fate.

Threnody – a song of lamentation; a dirge or funeral song. (Seem Monody.)

Tone – the general quality, feeling, mood, temper, spirit, etc. (similar to Mood). Various kinds of tone are intellectual, moral, emotional, aesthetic, etc.) Tone refers to the author’s attitude toward the subject, and often sets the mood of the piece.

Tour De Force – a feat of power or skill. It is said of any piece of literature in which the author’s purpose has been to display his literary skill or power at some phase of writing, or his special knowledge of some difficult or esoteric field of information. Tour De Force sometimes suggests showing off, but it is mostly used in a complementary sense (Poe’s “The Bells” shows skill at use of sounds; Galsworthy’s Old English exhibits skill a writing a successful play with only one character).

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