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Transcript of Literary Devices
Descriptive language used to make comparisons and to employ the reader’s own imagination. Metaphor A direct comparison of two unlike things without the use of “like” or “as.” A metaphor can create an effective word picture for the reader. An especially long metaphor is called an “extended” metaphor. Example: In Lord of the Flies, the boys in Jack’s tribe are called savages until that eventually becomes their label. Simile Indirect comparison between two unlike objects using the words “like” or “as”. The comparison helps create an effective word picture. Example: In John Hersey’s Hiroshima, Dr. Fujii is “squeezed...like a morsel between two huge chopsticks” Personification A ﬁfigure of speech in which an inanimate object or animal is given human qualities or characteristics. Example: “...my thoughts hum in my brain...” from All Quiet on the Western Front Onomatopoeia The use of words whose sounds seem
to imitate the sound of the object or action being named. Example: The word “hiss” itself sounds like a snake moving its tongue. The word “splash” reverberates almost like the sound of something hitting water. Oxymoron A descriptive phrase that combines two contradictory
terms to create a totally fresh image or idea. Example: Jumbo shrimp, working vacation Hyperbole An overstatement or exaggeration that can be used for dramatic effect or to help paint a word picture. Example: “I’m dying of hunger.” Idiom An expression peculiar to a particular culture that conveys a meaning beyond its mere words. Example: After spending all of her money, a person might say that she is “ at broke.” Euphemism A word or phrase that, as a substitution, “softens the blow”
of the direct meaning. Example: A friend might say that your neighbor has “passed away,” rather than telling you outright that the neighbor is dead. Cliché An overused and sometimes trite word or expression.
Example: When George Orwell coined the term “Big
Brother” in 1984, it was a new phase; however, people
now often use it to mean they are being watched. Parallelism The use of symmetrical sentence structure or phrasing
to create either an effect or a more telling comparison.
Example: Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, in which he
writes: “The world will little note or long remember
what we say here, but it can never forget what they did
here.” Sarcasm The use of invectives or harsh terms to indicate weakness or fault. Sarcasm can be cutting and cynical and may be displayed by an action as well as by words. Example: George Orwell uses sarcasm to chastise government in both Animal Farm and 1984. Stylistic Techniques Allusion An author’s reference to a person, place, event, or piece
of literature which he expects his audience to recognize
or understand. Example: In John Steinbeck’s Grapes
of Wrath, the author assumes his readers’ familiarity with the Biblical flood and the Moses story, mentioned at the end of the book. Caricature A representation of a character in which, in literature,
his or her characteristics are exaggerated to produce
a comic effect. Example: In Twain’s Huckleberry
Finn, the “Duke” is a caricature designed to satirize
and create humor. Foreshadowing A hint of what is going to happen next. Example: In Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, the speech by Friar Lawrence about the mingling of good and evil foreshadows the coming entanglements in the play. Irony A literary device in which action or language stands in contrast to what appears to be true or expected. Example: “Dr. Fujii hardly had time to think that he was dying before he realized that he was alive...” Imagery A word picture or sensory impression created by a writer’s adept choice of words. Example: In The Jungle, Upton Sinclair is literally able to sicken his readers with the raw imagery he employs in his descriptions of conditions within Chicago’s meatpacking plants. Motif A recurrent and conspicuous thematic element. Example: In Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game, one motif is that of dishonesty. Early in the novel, just after the intercalary exchange, Ender thinks, “Sometimes lies were more dependable than the truth” Symbol The literary device of using a person, object, or action
to stand for something else—often an abstract idea. Example: In many pieces of literature, the dove as a universal symbol represents peace. In Moby Dick, a constructed symbol—devised by author Herman Melville to convey a specific meaning—is the white whale as his symbol of evil. The examples and definitions used in this presentation were taken from The Fireworks Press Guide to Literary Terms