To properly frame this question, I should note that I recently have been studying formal rhetoric according to the five canons (inventio, dispositio, elocutio, memoria, and actio), and paying attention to literary features that fall along the lines of elocutio (for oral delivery) or stylus (style, for written delivery), under which tropes and rhetorical devices (schemata) lie as part of the third canon. So, I would like to request some help from those who have studied English tropes or rhetorical devices.
I will further preface the question by saying I'm not completely sure whether it is a rhetorical device or if "technique" is a better word. However, I am hoping there is a way to formally classify this kind of writing for use in writing formal papers or articles as a convenient way of referencing it.
How would you identify or classify the optional device or technique employed by a narrator when they report what was not said, especially when they report what could have been said? Essentially when there is a denial that something was said (where the something is either summarized by the narrator or provided as a hypothetical quotation).
Formula: (he/she/it/they did not say/ask)|(no one said/asked)|(neither said/asked) + [summary of]|[hypothetical quotation of] what could have been said
A few examples:
1. Just then his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you seek?” or, “Why are you talking with her?” (Gospel of John 4:27; ESV)
2. The two of them stared at the descending sun but neither of them said to each other, "What has this day come to?"
3. He was very angry at what happened after practice, but did not ask "Why did you do that?" or, "What were you thinking?"
The device seems to be one of negation or denial of a hypothetical, which seems to be interesting enough to categorize with a name since what is reported actually didn't happen and is a non-entity (hypothetical/imaginary). It is also interesting because the hypothetical details could be nearly infinite in example, since one could report numerous other instances of what one did not say. Thus a narrator doing this is making a very deliberate selection (a technique?) of what examples they do provide of what was not said, and neglecting to suggest other examples of what could have been said.
Investigating known tropes, I looked at litotes and apophasis, which employ negation or denial, but I can't seem to fit this form of negation with those rhetorical devices.
Could it be a device or technique of suggestion: "They didn't say this, but were thinking it..."?
If I wanted to use a search engine or database to search for publications that discuss this kind of device/technique in say Melville's Moby Dick or any other literature, what kind of device/technique would I call this as a formal or common designation?
Can anyone point me in the right direction here?