Literary Devices

Literary devices are the heart and soul of every expression. These devices breathe life in words which are common to all forms of a language whether it is a narrative, story-writing, drama, newspaper or poetry. 'Language is the dress of thought'. Imagine a person's feelings, emotions or views on a subject, stated plainly without the aid of a literary device. It would be a dull task. We all love to see our favorite movie stars delivering those wonderfully scripted dialogs with great passion and intensity. All these expressions are a manifestation of the beauty of words, which we refer to as literary devices. The English language encompasses a host of literary devices that make it so rich and expressive. They provide a broad structure under which all the types of literature are classified, studied and understood. The importance of literature in the portrayal of human emotions is best understood by the application of these devices. Some of the common ones in use are described in brief as follows. A literary technique or literary device may be used by works of literature in order to produce a specific effect on the reader. Literary technique is distinguished from literary genre as military tactics are from military strategy. Thus, though David Copperfield employs satire at certain moments, it belongs to the genre of comic novel, not that of satire. By contrast, Bleak House employs satire so consistently as to belong to the genre of satirical novel. In this way, use of a technique can lead to the development of a new genre, as was the case with one of the first modern novels, Pamela by Samuel Richardson, which by using the epistolary technique strengthened the tradition of the epistolary novel, a genre which had been practiced for some time already but without the same acclaim.

The following are Common literary techniques and Common literary elements
Allegory: It is a symbolic aspect of a story that conveys a lesson or a teaching which is not present in it. Generally, its a narrative that contains an abstract idea to be delivered or conveyed through a figurative use of one subject for the other. Classics such as Aesop's Fables or John Bunyan's 'Pilgrim's Progress' and films like 'The Matrix' or 'Casablanca' are examples of allegory. Alliteration: Words or sentences that begin with similar-sounding words are said to employ alliteration. 'Careless cutting cars', ' wonderfully whistling woods' or tongue like, 'she sells sea shells by the sea shore' are examples of alliteration. Allusion: This device is a reference to any event or happening in real life or a literary work. For example, 'The battle between the countries was World War II revisited' or 'Oh, don't be such a Romeo!'. Here, World War II and Romeo are allusions. Anastrophe: Also known as inversion, it is a sentence or a poetic expression which reverses or changes the order of words for greater emphasis. 'Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown' or 'Ten thousand saw I at a glance' are antistrophic expressions. Aposiopesis: It’s the sudden breaking applied in a prose or a poem to increase the emotional aspect or dramatic feel. The following extract from Shakespeare's play, 'King Lear' is a good example of aposiopesis. 'I will have a revenge on you both, that all the world shall.... I will do such things, what they are, and yet I know not'. Apostrophe: It is a direct address to the dead or an inanimate object creating an emotional surge. 'Caesar, only if you were alive' or 'O stone, O might, O heart of man-made God, Thou art the emblem of our hope', are examples of apostrophe. Antagonist is Counterpart to the main character/protagonist and source of a story's main conflict. It may not even be a person (see Conflict below).

Climax: It is the arrangement of ideas in an increasing order of their importance. It emphasizes the meaning in a clear and effective way. Examples include, ' He came, he saw, he conquered, 'Her village, her state, her nation were her pride', 'Eat, drink and sleep' and so on. Ellipsis: It is the omission of a word or words from a sentence which may sound grammatically incorrect but the meaning is easily conveyed. Examples: 'He won all the games, hands down', or 'I got Sam and Sam me'. Hyperbole: It is an exaggeration, used often to ridicule, create humor or any drastic emotional appeal. 'The waves rose as high as the mountains,' 'I am so hungry that I can eat a whole cow' or 'She wept and wept until there was a sea of tears', are sentences which substantiate the use of hyperbole. Irony: It is the expression of ideas which are exactly opposite to the implied meaning. There is a discord or disagreement between the presented words and their use. 'A student of psychology going insane', a quote such as, 'A bank lends you money provided you show that it's not needed' or the warning found on every cigarette pack, 'Smoking is injurious to health' is an irony! Litotes: It is an understated expression when the actual idea to be expressed is quite significant. It is like downplaying an idea when it seems to be the best possible course of action or description. Statements such as, 'I am not a bit amused' or 'He has a modest earning in billions of dollars' are some examples of litotes. Metaphor: The direct comparison of two entities where one entity is expressed as the other. Examples are, 'He was a lion in the fight', 'The birth of laughter', 'stealing eyes', 'noisy looms' and so on. Metonymy: It is an associative substitution technique like, 'A press conference by the Pentagon'. Here, Pentagon refers to the officials of the Pentagon who will be holding the press conference. The English grammar permits the use of a reference word in place of the actual subject as long as the meaning is clear. Mood it is the atmosphere or emotional condition created by within the setting. Mood refers to the general sense or feeling which the reader is supposed to get from the text and is not necessarily referring to the characters' state of mind. Motifs, Themes and Symbols A motif is a recurring important idea, structure or image; it differs from a theme in that it can be expressed as a single word or fragmented phrase. e.g. comparing a person's stages of life to seasons of the year. A theme usually must be expressed as a complete sentence. A theme is a main universal idea or message conveyed by the piece. e.g. Little Red Riding Hood's theme may be "Don't talk to strangers". A symbol is an object, color, person, character or figure used to represent abstract ideas. A symbol, unlike a motif, must be tangible or visible. Onomatopoeia: 'Crackling sound', 'hissing away', 'screeching noise', 'Boo-hoo' are examples of onomatopoeia. It is a sound expression where the word is similar to the sound made. Oxymoron: This figure of speech includes words or ideas opposite in meaning placed one after the other. 'True lies', 'open secret', 'pretty ugly face', 'feeling alone in a crowd', are some forms of this literary device. Parallel construction: In this literary device, the idea to be stated is repeated in some other form to emphasize the articulation. 'She cried, she wept but he was unmoved', or 'Show me your strength, your stamina, your energy only where it is needed' are some expressions of parallel construction. Protagonist is the main character in a story, the one with whom the reader is meant to identify. The person is not necessarily "good", but is the person whom the reader is most invested in. e.g. Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye

Personification: It is a representation of abstract ideas or inanimate objects as having human attributes or qualities. 'Death laid its icy hands on kings', 'Love and friendship had crippled his sense of judgment' and 'tormenting idea' exemplify the use of personification. Point of view - the identity of the narrator's voice, the point of view from which the reader sees the story. It may be first person (there is no narrator) or third person (the story is told by a character or direct observer in the story). Pun: It is an idea or expression which has two meanings implied at the same time. Quite often it is used to pass a witty remark or bring about a sarcastic effect. Examples are, 'I knead the dough so that I can eat', 'learn the art of silence such that nothing is left unsaid', 'there are three types of people: The ones who can count and the ones who can't'. Satire: It is mimicry; a mockery, a witty remark or ridicule related to a person, place, animal or a thing, generally for leisure and is completely wrong or absurd. TV shows like 'Saturday Night Live' or movies like 'The Tailor of Panama' are examples of satire. Simile: It is an indirect comparison made between two different entities showing some common aspect or relation. Examples include, 'as cool as a cucumber', 'as white as snow', 'Life is just like an ice-cream, enjoy it before it melts'. Synecdoche: The representation of a whole aspect by a part or a part by the whole is called as synecdoche. Example: 'He has several mouths to feed'. Here mouths represent people. 'The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world'. Here 'hand' refers to the mothers in general. Zeugma: It expresses the control of one subject or a part of speech over the entire sentence composed of different objects or other parts of sentence. 'He succumbed to the public pressure and the wounds inflicted by his lady', 'She crossed the seas and all the obstacles holding her back', or 'Beauty glows with sunshine, laughter and a sense of deep satisfaction', are some examples of this literary device. Dramatic irony - Where the audience or reader is aware of something important, of which the characters in the story are not aware. Situational irony is different in that the readers are not aware; the results are unexpected and mocking in relation to what was expected (the usual use of the term irony). Verbal irony is an expression that is opposite of what it is intended to mean (e.g. the Ministry of Love is actually a place of torture and brainwashing in the novel 1984). Exposition - When an author interrupts a story in order to explain something - usually to provide important background information. An exposition can also be essential information which is given at the beginning of a play or short story, about the plot and the events which are to follow. Foil a character that is meant to represent characteristics, values or ideas which are opposite to another character (usually the protagonist). Foreshadowing - Where future events in a story, or perhaps the outcome, are suggested by the author before they happen. This suggestion can be made in various ways such as a flashback, an object, or a previous minor situation which reflects a more significant situation later on. This sort of warning sign can also be called a red herring. Parallelism - The use of similar or identical language, structures, events or ideas in different parts of a text. Pathetic fallacy - When the mood of the character is reflected in the atmosphere (weather) or inanimate objects. Repetition - When a specific word, phrase, or structure is repeated several times, usually in close proximity, to emphasize a particular idea.

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