Literary Terms

Analyzing Literary Works -

Novels, Dramas, Poetry, Short Stories

What are Literary Elements?

Literary elements are used by readers to analyze and understand any work of literature. They are present in all works of literature. Examples of literary elements are: setting, plot characterization, point of view, conflict, and theme.

What are Literary Devices?

Literary devices are used deliberately by writers in their works to convey his or her meaning or message to readers. When understood and used by students literary devices help them appreciate, interpret, and analyze literary works. Examples of literary devices are irony, metaphor, simile, hyperbole, oxymoron…the list is long. It is important to know that not all literary devices are used in all literature students read and study. There are so many. Some literary devices are used by good writers in every literary work; however, when they write, authors choose the devices they want to use to convey their meanings.

The information in the table below was taken from the CA State Standards. At the end of the table you will find links to and expanded list of literary devices.


Literary Device

Literary Element


Character, setting, plot, narrator


Point-of-view (who is telling the story)

Character, setting, plot


Alliteration, rhymes, rhythm, point-of-view

Message or moral



Message, lesson, moral, or theme, narrator


Characterization, setting, point-of-view, verse, rhythm, meters(poems), dialogue, stage directions (plays)



Characterization, speaker, metaphor, similes, narrator’s point-of-view, tone



Figurative & connotative meanings, tone, point-of-view of narrator or speaker.

Theme or central idea plot, characterization (changes as plot develops)


Characters, setting, plot, dialogue (to propel story or drama), figurative & connotative language, tone, analogies and allusions

Theme or central idea


Character, setting, plot, dialogue (to propel story or drama), figurative & connotative language, tone, analogies, allusions, point-of-view of characters, audience or reader, irony, suspense, humor

Theme or central idea


Figurative language, tone, pacing, flashbacks, point-of-view includes cultural experience)

Theme (development) or central idea, characters (development & motivation), plot (development), plot (parallel)


Figurative language & connotative language, tone, satire, sarcasm, irony, understatement

Development of literary elements (i.e., setting, plot events or actions), characters (introduced and development)

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