Identifying Literary Devices
Literary devices are tools writers use to enhance their narrative and evoke emotions in readers. Metaphors, similes, alliteration, personification and hyperboles are commonly used literary devices and they each have specific characteristics.
- Metaphor – A direct comparison between two unlike things. For example, in Romeo and Juliet, Juliet is referred to as the Sun, implying she is a source of light and warmth.
- Simile – A comparison using ‘like’ or ‘as’. An example of this is seen in Of Mice and Men. Steinbeck describes the town of Soledad as “like a picture printed on tin,” suggesting a lack of warmth and life.
- Alliteration – The repetition of the same initial sound in a series of words. Bilbo Baggins’ name is an example of alliteration, which makes it more memorable.
- Personification – Giving human characteristics to non-human entities.
- Hyperbole – An exaggerated statement. Such as when Alice said she’ll “die of curiosity,” emphasising her intense curiosity.
Authors often use patterns in language to emphasise themes or ideas. For example, foreshadowing and repetition.
- Repetition – Repeated words or phrases can highlight important themes. In Animal Farm, the phrase “All animals are equal” is repeated to emphasise the animals’ initial desire for equality.
- Foreshadowing – Hints or clues about future events can create suspense. For example, the pain in Harry Potter’s scar foreshadows his connection to Voldemort.
Theme, Characters and Setting
Language features can provide insight into various aspects of the text. Let’s look at how to connect them:
- Themes – Literary devices can highlight key themes. For example, in Lord of the Flies, the ‘beast’ is a metaphor for the savagery within each boy, reflecting the theme of innate human evil.
- Characters – The author’s language can reveal character traits. For example. a character’s formal and reserved speech might reflect their proud nature.
- Settings – Descriptive language can create vivid settings. For example, Dark and gloomy descriptions are used to create bleak or unwelcoming atmospheres.
Meaning, Tone and Effect
Language plays an important role in shaping a text’s overall impact. Let’s look at how to analyse it:
- Meaning – Literary devices can add depth to the text’s meaning. In To Kill a Mockingbird, the mockingbird is a symbol of innocence, adding layers to the story’s exploration of morality.
- Tone – The author’s word choice can establish the tone. For example, in 1984, Orwell’s use of harsh, cold language creates a tone of oppression and fear.
- Effect – The language used can influence the reader’s emotions. In The Catcher in the Rye, Salinger’s use of informal, conversational language makes Holden’s narration feel personal and relatable.