Literary Devices

Literary Devices

Definition of a Literary Device

The term literary device is a typical structure that writers use in their literary works to express their message in a simple and interesting manner to the readers. When they use it properly, a literary device helps their readers to interpret, analyze and appreciate very well a literary work. Generally, a literary device is a universal artistic structure and a figurative language that is so common in literature and poetry. There is a collection of literary devices available in literature. These devices provide a wider structure under which we can classify, study and understand different types of literature.

Significance of a Literary Device

A literary device is a heart and soul of a literary text as it breathes life in words, which are common to any form of language such as, story writing, narrative, journalistic writing, drama and poetry. The writers frequently employ it to bring logical framework and meanings to their works with the help of language. They do not only give a deeper meaning to a text, but also beautify a literary piece. If a writer plainly states his feelings, views or emotions on a topic without using a literary device, his work would be a dull task and emotionless. Besides, a literary language encompasses a collection of literary devices that makes it so expressive and rich. Moreover, the readers can better understand the importance of literature through human emotions by applying literary devices.

Function of a Literary Device

Literary devices help the readers to understand and appreciate a literary work of the writer. Since these devices have a universal application, therefore, the readers could easily compare a work of one writer to another to find out its worth. Literary devices give the readers enjoyable reading experience as well as understanding the deeper or hidden meanings. In addition, they motivate the imagination of the readers to envisage the scenes and characters more clearly.

Types of Literary Devices

A literary device has two aspects. The writers treat it as either literary element or literary technique. It would be easier to understand these two types if we define them one by one:

Literary Elements

Literary elements are inherent in a literary work and writer use them extensively in order to develop their literary piece. These include, plot, characters, setting, narrative structure, theme, moral, mood, etc. The writers cannot easily create their desired work without using literary elements in a proper professional manner. Let us consider these elements in detail:

  • Plot: A logical sequence of the events, helps developing the story.
  • Setting: It pertains to the place and time in which the story occurs.
  • Protagonist: It is a major character in a novel, play or a story. For instance, Romeo is a protagonist in play, Romeo & Juliet.
  • Antagonist: It is a character, who conflicts with the Protagonist. Such as, Claudius is antagonist in the play Hamlet.
  • Narrator: It is someone who narrates the story.
  • Narrative method: It is the manner in which the writer presents a narrative consisting of plot and setting.
  • Dialogue: Where the characters of a story speak or talk to one another.
  • Conflict: In a story, the conflict is a very important issue around which the entire narrative revolves.
  • Mood: It is an ambiance, an atmosphere or feelings of a narrative.
  • Theme: It is central concept or idea of a narrative.

Literary Techniques

In contrast, literary techniques are the methods that authors use to convey their ideas. These are structures often phrases or words in literary texts, which writers use to accomplish their artistic ends as well as draw attention of the readers to appreciate their literary piece. Contrary to literary elements, literary techniques are very important feature of literary works. Common literary techniques include alliteration, simile, metaphor, allegory, hyperbole, etc.

Examples and Explanation of Literary devices

It is the use of same consonant sounds in the beginning of the words coming together. For instance:

From forth the fatal loins of these two foes;
A pair of star-cross’d lovers take their life.
(Romeo Juliet by William Shakespeare)

In this literary technique, the writers give an abstract idea a form of actions, characters, or events. For instance:
“Animal Farm” by George Orwell, is perfect example of allegory that uses the actions of animals to represent corruption, bad governance and greed of Russian revolutionaries.

In this literary technique, the writers employ words in such a manner that their intended meaning is totally opposite to the literal meaning. For instance: In Greek drama, Oedipus Rex by Sophocles, Oedipus kills his father, married mother unknowingly, and brought a curse on his city. On the contrary, Oedipus curses the man who is responsible for all this, meaning that he curses himself because he is the cause of bad plight in his city.

It gives an idea, an animal or an object the human qualities. For instance:

When well-appareled April on the heel
of limping winter treads.
(Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare)

In the above lines April and winter are personified, although April cannot wear dress and winter cannot limp, however, Shakespeare has given them human qualities.

It is an intentional exaggeration of ideas and actions for emphasis. For instance from The Adventures of Pinocchio by C. Colloid:

“He cried all night, and dawn found him still there, though his tears had dried and only hard, dry sobs shook his wooden frame. But these were so loud that they could be heard by the faraway hills…”

Pinocchio cries all the night until the break of dawn and his tears go dry, crying for whole night and drying up of tears is an instance of hyperbole.

A figurative language creates visual images of ideas, actions and objects in the minds of readers so that they could appeal to their physical senses. For instance:

“Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
(Ode to the Autumn by John Keats)

In the following lines, we can hear the lamb is bleating and it appeals to our hearing sense.

Simile & Metaphor:
Both of these are types of comparisons between two distinct and unlike objects and the purpose is to describe resemblance between dissimilar things. However, the difference between them is that simile makes use of “like” or “as” and metaphor, on the other hand, does not. For example:

“O my Luve’s like a red, red rose
That’s newly sprung in June; (Simile)
(Red, red Rose by Robert Burns)
“She is all states, and all princes, I.” (Metaphor)
(The Sun Rising by John Donne)

In the above excerpts, we can see simile uses “like” to compare love with red rose, whereas, metaphor is a direct comparison, without using as or like and the poet is calling his beloved as all states and himself as all princes of those states.

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