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Literature Glossary

Don’t be an oxymoron. Know your literary terms.

Over 200 literary terms, Shmooped to perfection.



A motif is a meaningful pattern in art and literature. When you see an image, type of character, or symbol pop up again and again, chances are you're dealing with a motif. A motif can be specific to a single book or poem or can occur in art more generally, like an apple standing in for original sin. Yeah. Real original.

Want to see a motif in the wild? Check out the motif of flight in Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon. Just don't make any sudden movements.

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