You Have Now Entered the Wacky World of Literary Devices.
For the grand prize you have 60 seconds to answer the following…
(Disclaimer – This is just a joke folks)
What is Hyperbole and name one famous story that makes use of it?
Tick Tock Tick Tock Tick Tock Tick Tock…
You learn forward, grab the microphone, your eyes stare unflinchingly into the crowd as you say –
“Hyperbole is the use of over-exaggeration for creating emphasis, or humor, but it is not intended to be taken literally. One example of this story telling technique would be, The Tales of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox.
Yeah! Excellent Answer!
This idea of looking into literary devices came to me the other day when a companion asked me how to spell allegory. I spelled it out for her flawlessly. But the next question was the one I was dreading…
“What does allegory mean?”
I didn’t know what it meant.
She giggled at me. “And you’re a writer?”
Well that was enough to make me go look it up. But, I would have done that anyway, because I am an extremely inquisitive person, and I love to learn. So, for those of you that don’t know what the literary device, allegory, means –
Here you go!
An allegory is a symbolism device where the meaning of a greater, often abstract, concept is conveyed with the aid of a more corporeal object or idea being used as an example. One famous example of allegory is the book, The Lord of the Flies. This story features a group of schoolboys stuck on an island, and the novel had allegorical representations of rational mind, democracy, order, civility, and many other such abstract terms.
I’ll be the first to admit it to anybody. I didn’t go to college for writing. I was born into a working class family. I’ve learned what I’ve managed to learn in life through dedication and hard work.
Many of the literary devices were familiar to me by word, but I didn’t really understand what they meant until I dove into this investigation. I was amazed at how many literary devices exist. There are dozens of them! Just reading through the list and their descriptions got my creative juices flowing.
I want to share some examples
along with their definitions
And some literary works that made use of them
Bildungsroman – This is a very popular form of storytelling whereby the author bases the plot on the overall growth of the central character throughout the timeline of the story. As the story progresses, the subject undergoes noticeable mental, physical, social, emotional, moral, and often spiritual advancement. A very famous example of this literary device is, Gone With The Wind, which was published by Margaret Mitchell in 1936.
Litotes – It is an understated expression where the idea to be expressed is quite significant. Litotes, are defined as ‘an ironical understatement where the affirmative is expressed by the negation of the opposite’. To put it simply, in litotes, instead of saying that something is attractive, you say that it is not unattractive. Litotes are often used to mimic speech, since we lazy humans tend to drop words to make things quicker. Here are some examples:
- The food is not bad.
- She is not as young as she was.
- He is not unlike his dad
Hubris – Hubris is another way of saying overly arrogant. You can tell the difference between hubris and regular arrogance by the suggestion that the character has seemed to allow reality slip away from them. Hubris is the buildup of arrogance and pride and is generally followed by a catastrophic fall at the end of the story. An excellent example of Hubris is the story, Arabian Nights.
Caesura – involves creating a fracture within a sentence where the two separate parts are distinguishable from one another yet intrinsically linked to one another. The purpose of using a caesura is to create a dramatic pause, which has a strong impact. Finding out about this device means a lot to me personally, because I use this a lot. Here is an example of Caesura; “Ludwig – How your music makes me soar!”
Polysyndeton – is a sentence construction in which multiple conjunctions are used in very close succession to infuse a sense of exaggeration. In other words, you use a lot of ‘ands’ to emphasize a point by stretching the sentence out. Here is a great example from Ian Fleming‘s novel, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang:
‘Most motor-cars are conglomerations of steel and wire and rubber and plastic, and electricity and oil and petrol and water, and the toffee papers you pushed down the crack in the back seat last Sunday.’
I’ve had a lot of fun studying up on literary devices
And I bet you would too!
Here’s a challenge for you. I’m going to list some literary devices that I’m pretty sure you’ve heard the term. Could you define that term? Could you point to an example that uses the device? Do you use it in your own writing? Might you consider doing that now, after reading this article?
Here you go-
- Deus ex Machina
There will be a test on Tuesday.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this discussion. I would also like to encourage you to comment. Tell me if there is any subject matter that you would like me to weigh in on. (what literary device was that?) Keep writing friends!
I am very opinionated about the craft of writing, and life in general. But… I am well-tempered with an enthusiasm for debate. Please leave comments, even the ugly ones, I dare you.
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I’m also an avid reader. If you desire success in your writing career, you should be too.
I’m currently reading, “Unexplained Mysteries of World War II”, by William B. Breuer
All my best on a beautiful day in South Carolina.