Literary device - term
May 27, 2008 6:29 PM   Subscribe

Is there a Literary device / term for this example - a character in a story yells quiet or hush. The closest I could think of was irony, but I'm guessing there's something more specific. Thanks.
posted by scubbadubba to Writing & Language (13 answers total)
Breaking the fourth wall?

Can you give us more examples?
posted by unixrat at 6:34 PM on May 27, 2008

I meant more from a book, not a stage play. I'm having trouble with another example. Maybe a character running around and screaming, "Everyone stay calm."
posted by scubbadubba at 6:46 PM on May 27, 2008

Well, it's the opposite of a Tom Swifty.
posted by nicwolff at 7:04 PM on May 27, 2008

posted by turgid dahlia at 8:20 PM on May 27, 2008

you mean someone demonstrating the polar opposite of their own dialogue? "do as i say, not as i do" type thing. i don't know what that's called, literature-wise. hypocrisy?
posted by ncc1701d at 9:11 PM on May 27, 2008

I came here to answer the same way nicwolff did - sort of an ironic opposite tom swifty.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 9:26 PM on May 27, 2008

Can you give an example? Your question is ambiguous.

Do you mean...

-- a character in a story yells, "Quiet!" or "Hush!"


-- a character in a story yells quietly.

The latter in an oxymoron (as is military intelligence). I'd also call it "bad writing," as it's impossible to imagine someone yelling quietly. But I supposed it could be "good writing," if you think of it as a paradoxical, post-modern effect -- and if you think those sorts of effects can ever be good writing.

In the case of the former, it's just dialogue. Or I guess you could call it hypocrisy, since someone is yelling for others to be quiet.
posted by grumblebee at 7:06 AM on May 28, 2008

I meant a character in a story yells, "Quiet!" or "Hush!" I though hypocrisy was used more when a teacher or authority figure tells one thing and does the opposite, but I guess that's close. Thanks for all the replies so far.
posted by scubbadubba at 8:23 AM on May 28, 2008

Hypocrisy isn't specifically a literary term. It just means "not practicing what you preach." Anyone can be a hypocrite -- it's not limited to authority figures.

Is it key to your question that the speaker is not practicing what he preaches? Is the whole point that he's yelling -- yet yelling for others to be quiet? If so, I really don't think there's a term. It's not even all that hypocritical.

If a teacher yells for quiet, he's not being hypocritical.

But if that same teacher decides to take a class, and if he's noisy when he becomes a student, then (since he earlier told HIS students to be quiet), he's being a hypocrite.

I guess you could claim it's a form of antithesis. It involves opposites. (Yell/Quiet). But it's a pretty weak antithesis.
posted by grumblebee at 9:36 AM on May 28, 2008

A lot of words have this quality. Pulchritude means beauty but is itself one of the ugliest words in English. Diminutive means small but it is a big word. Big means large but it is a small word. Monosyllabic means one-syllable, but the word itself has five. I vote for paradox.
posted by mattbucher at 12:36 PM on May 28, 2008

If someone writes about a person yelling in a theater, the writer is employing synoeciosis, using contrary terms ("he yelled for quiet"), but not in the form of an antithesis ("he demanded quiet; he received mockery"). Quintilian discusses these figures under antithesis (9.3.81) and συνοικείωσις (9.3.64).

If a person yells in a theater for quiet, perhaps as a function of frustration, that person uses ecphonesis, an emotional exclamation, more specifically, aganactesis, a deeply indignant exclamation. Energeia refers to the vigor with which the person delivers the admonition.
posted by gentilknight at 4:33 AM on May 29, 2008

Wikipedia's current example of situational irony seems close to what you're talking about:

"For instance, if a speaker exclaims, 'I’m not upset!' but reveals an upset emotional state through her voice while truly trying to claim she's not upset, it would situational irony."

That seems close to your "Everyone stay calm!" example (although without the hypocrisy aspect). It reminds me of this Onion article: "I am the serenest!"
posted by salvia at 8:53 AM on May 29, 2008

posted by prefpara at 11:05 AM on May 29, 2008

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