By: Barbara P.
19 min read
Reviewed By: Caleb S.
Published on: May 19, 2023
Have you ever read a book or poem that made you feel something? Maybe it was a story that made you laugh or a poem that made you cry. Or maybe it was something else entirely. Whatever it was, it's likely that the author used literary devices to create that effect.
Literary devices are tools that writers use to create a more interesting and engaging story. They can be used to add color, depth, and emotion to a piece of writing. There are many different types of literary devices, each with its own unique purpose.
In this blog, we'll take a look at 28 common literary devices. We'll learn what they are, how they work, and how they can be used to create a more powerful and memorable story.
So whether you're a writer or a reader, this blog is for you! Let's get started.
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"Literary devices" are techniques used in writing to create deeper meaning, enhance aesthetic appeal, and evoke emotions through language and wordplay.
They can be used to add depth, meaning, and emotion to a story or poem. Literary devices can be used to create a variety of effects in a text, such as:
When used effectively, literary devices can help to make a text more interesting and engaging for the reader. They can also help to add depth, meaning, and emotion to a story or poem.
These all are important components of literature that contribute to its depth and richness. While they are related, they have distinct characteristics and functions.
Literary devices refer to specific techniques or tools that writers use to create specific effects in their writing.
On the other hand, literary elements are the fundamental building blocks of literature, such as plot, setting, characters, theme, and point of view.
Literary techniques, on the other hand, are broader strategies and methods employed by writers to convey their ideas effectively.
Here is a table summarizing the distinctions between literary devices, literary elements, and literary techniques:
Now that we know what literary devices are, let's delve deeper into these devices!
An allegory is a story that represents something else to show a deeper meaning. They can be based on real events or important ideas, but sometimes they are completely made up.
In allegories, characters can represent real people from history or have qualities that symbolize them.
Here is an example!
"The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" by C.S. Lewis is an allegorical tale. It tells the story of four siblings who enter a magical world called Narnia through a wardrobe. The events and characters in Narnia symbolize biblical figures and concepts. Through this allegory, Lewis conveys deeper moral and spiritual messages to the readers.
Alliteration involves the repetition of initial consonant sounds in a series of words within a sentence or phrase. It adds rhythm, emphasis, and musicality to the writing, creating a memorable and pleasing effect.
"She sells seashells by the seashore."
"Big Ben's booming bells broke the peaceful silence."
In this example, the repeated “s” and b" sound adds a sense of intensity and impact to the sentence.
An allusion is a subtle reference made by an author to evoke certain ideas, emotions, or associations in the reader's mind. By drawing on familiar cultural references, allusions add depth and layers of meaning to a text.
For example, in literature, an allusion to Shakespeare's play "Romeo and Juliet" can evoke the themes of love, tragedy, and forbidden romance.
Amplification is like turning up the volume on a thought, making it resonate louder and clearer. It helps to create a fuller and richer understanding of the subject by adding examples, descriptions, or additional information.
Let’s take an example;
Original statement: "She was tired."
|Amplified statement: "After a long day of work, running errands, and taking care of her family, she collapsed onto the couch, her body begging for rest. Every muscle felt heavy, her eyelids drooping with exhaustion."|
Anagrams are like linguistic puzzles that twist words into surprising shapes. It is a playful and creative way to manipulate language and explore different combinations of letters.
|"The word 'evil' is an anagram of 'live,' reminding us of the delicate balance between good and bad in life."|
An analogy is a literary device that compares two things or ideas to explain or illustrate a complex or abstract concept. An analogy is like a bridge that connects the unknown to the known, making complex ideas feel familiar and relatable.
|"Her voice soared through the room like a nightingale, filling every corner with its melodious charm."|
The analogy is used to compare her voice to that of a nightingale, emphasizing its beauty and quality.
It's a storytelling trick that brings life and personality to the non-human, sparking our imagination and stirring our emotions. This device helps create a relatable connection between the reader and the non-human elements in a story.
|The sun smiled down upon the earth, casting its warm rays and bringing a sense of joy to all living creatures.|
The sun is anthropomorphized by attributing the human trait of smiling to it.
Antithesis involves the use of contrasting ideas, words, or phrases within a sentence or passage. It's a literary dance that pairs opposites, revealing the power of contrast and heightening the impact of words.
|"Her laughter was a symphony of joy, while his silence echoed with sorrow."|
The antithesis here contrasts the joyful laughter of one person with the sorrowful silence of another, creating a striking opposition between the two emotions.
Chiasmus is a rhetorical device that involves the reversal of grammatical structures or ideas within a sentence or phrase. It follows an "ABBA" pattern, where the second half of the sentence mirrors the first half in reverse order.
|"He went from laughter to tears, from tears to laughter."|
"You can take the boy out of the country, but you can't take the country out of the boy."
Colloquialism refers to informal, everyday language and expressions that are commonly used in casual conversations. It reflects the language used by a particular community or group and may differ from formal or standard language.
|"I'll catch you later, dude. Gotta hit the road and get some grub."|
The colloquialism "gotta" is a contraction of "got to," and "grub" is a casual term for food.
Circumlocution is a linguistic technique that involves expressing an idea or concept indirectly or using excessive words, rather than stating it directly.
|"The individual in question seems to possess certain qualities that deviate from the norm."|
Circumlocution is used here instead of simply saying "The person is unusual."
An epigraph is a short quote or phrase that appears at the beginning of a book or chapter. It gives a hint about what the story is about or sets the mood. It's like a little preview that helps you understand the book better.
|"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife." - Jane Austen, Pride, and Prejudice|
This epigraph from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen introduces one of the central themes of the novel, which is the pursuit of marriage and social status.
Euphemism is a language device used to express something unpleasant, harsh, or taboo in a more mild, polite, or indirect way.
It involves substituting a word or phrase with a less offensive or sensitive alternative to soften the impact or to make it more socially acceptable.
|"Grandma has decided to retire to her eternal rest."|
This euphemism uses "retire to her eternal rest" instead of saying "Grandma has passed away" or "Grandma has died."
Foreshadowing is a literary technique where subtle hints or clues are dropped in a story to suggest what might happen later on. It's the author's way of winking at you, saying, "Pay attention, something big is about to happen!"
Foreshadowing can be achieved through various means such as symbolic objects, dialogue, or even specific events that hint at what is to come.
|"The dark clouds loomed ominously over the horizon as the wind whispered a chilling warning."|
This foreshadows an impending storm or danger that the characters will face.
Hyperbole is a figure of speech that involves exaggeration for emphasis or dramatic effect. It's when we use exaggerated statements or claims that aren't meant to be taken literally.
Hyperbole is a way to make a point, add emphasis, or create a vivid image.
|"I've told you a million times to clean your room!"|
In this example, the speaker uses the hyperbole of "a million times" to emphasize the frequency with which they have asked the person to clean their room.
Imagery is like a painter's brush, using vivid and descriptive language to create a picture in the reader's mind. It appeals to our senses, allowing us to see, hear, taste, touch, and smell the words on the page.
"The golden sun dipped below the horizon, casting a warm, orange glow across the tranquil sea."
"The aroma of freshly baked bread wafted through the air, tempting taste buds with its warm and buttery scent."
A metaphor is a literary device that compares two different things by stating that one thing is another. It creates a direct association between two unrelated objects or ideas to highlight their similarities and evoke a deeper understanding or meaning.
Unlike a simile, which uses "like" or "as" to make a comparison, a metaphor suggests a direct identification or substitution.
|"Time is a thief." |
"Her heart is a fragile glass, easily shattered."
In both examples, the use of metaphors helps to create vivid and impactful imagery by drawing a parallel between two seemingly unrelated concepts.
The mood of a story is the targeted emotional response that the author aims for. The mood plays a crucial role in storytelling, immersing the reader in a particular atmosphere and evoking specific feelings throughout the narrative.
|"The thick, ominous fog hung low over the desolate graveyard, casting eerie shadows on the weathered tombstones. A cold wind whispered through the trees, sending a shiver down my spine. The silence was broken only by the distant hoot of an owl, adding to the sense of foreboding.|
The author's vivid descriptions and choice of atmospheric elements create a chilling and suspenseful mood, evoking feelings of unease and anticipation in the reader."
Check out this video to learn more!
A motif is like a special symbol or idea that keeps popping up in a story. It's like a secret code that adds meaning and connects different parts of the story together. It's repeated over and over again to make it stand out and show its importance.
In William Shakespeare's play "Macbeth," the motif of blood is prevalent throughout. It symbolizes guilt, violence, and the consequences of one's actions.
Onomatopoeia is a literary device that uses words that imitate or mimic the sounds they represent. It's like a language of sound effects, where words bring the sounds to life. For example, words like "buzz," "crash," or "sizzle" sound similar to the noises they describe.
The bees buzzed around the colorful flowers in the garden.
The fire crackled and popped, sending sparks dancing into the night sky.
In both examples, the words "buzzed" and "crackled" are onomatopoeic because they imitate the sounds of the bees and the fire.
Oxymoron is a literary device that combines contradictory or opposite terms in a single phrase. It's like a verbal puzzle that creates a unique and unexpected meaning.
|The deafening silence enveloped the room, leaving an unsettling calmness in its wake.|
In the example, "deafening silence" combines the contradictory ideas of loudness and silence.
A paradox is a statement or situation that seems contradictory or absurd, but upon closer examination, reveals a deeper truth or meaning.
|"I can resist anything but temptation." - Oscar Wilde|
This paradoxical statement suggests the internal struggle between the desire to resist temptation and the difficulty of actually doing so.
Personification is a literary device where human qualities or characteristics are attributed to non-human things or abstract ideas. It's like giving life and personality to inanimate objects or concepts.
|The flowers danced in the gentle breeze, their petals swaying to an invisible rhythm.|
In this example, the flowers are personified by attributing the human action of dancing to them, creating a vivid image of their graceful movement.
A portmanteau is a linguistic device that combines two words or parts of words to create a new word with a blended meaning. It's like a word fusion that combines the sounds and meanings of the original words.
|"Smog" - This word combines "smoke" and "fog" to describe a type of air pollution that is a mixture of smoke and fog.|
Puns are a form of wordplay that exploits multiple meanings of a word or words that sound similar but have different meanings. They involve using wordplay to create a humorous or clever effect.
|"I used to be a baker, but I couldn't make enough dough."|
This pun uses the word "dough" with a double meaning. It refers to both the literal dough used in baking and the slang term for money.
Satire is a literary technique that uses humor, irony, or sarcasm to criticize or mock individuals, societies, or institutions. It's like a form of social commentary that exposes flaws, vices, or absurdities through clever and often exaggerated exaggeration.
A Modest Proposal" by Jonathan Swift: This satirical essay proposes a shocking solution to poverty in Ireland: suggesting that impoverished families should sell their children as food to the rich.
A simile is a figure of speech that compares two different things using "like" or "as" to highlight their similarities. It's like drawing a parallel between two objects or ideas to create a vivid image or emphasize a particular quality.
|"The baby slept like a log, completely still and peaceful."|
In this example, the simile likens the baby's sleep to that of a log, highlighting the deep and undisturbed nature of their slumber.
Symbolism is a literary device that uses objects, characters, colors, or events to represent abstract ideas, themes, or qualities. It's like assigning deeper meaning to something tangible.
|"The broken mirror symbolized her shattered self-esteem and fragmented identity."|
In this sentence, the broken mirror is used as a symbol to represent the character's emotional state, highlighting her damaged self-image.
Tone refers to the writer's attitude or emotional expression towards the subject matter or audience in a piece of writing. It's like the overall mood or atmosphere created by the writer's choice of words, sentence structure, and style.
Here are two examples of different tones:
|"The students were thrilled as the teacher announced a surprise field trip to the amusement park."|
In this example, the tone is enthusiastic and excited, reflecting the positive and joyful atmosphere of the students upon hearing the news.
When reading a text, here are some ways to identify and recognize literary devices:
By actively engaging with the text and being attentive to these elements, you can better identify and appreciate the use of literary devices in your reading.
In conclusion, exploring the world of literary devices not only enhances our writing skills but also opens up new avenues for professional growth.
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Dr. Barbara is a highly experienced writer and author who holds a Ph.D. degree in public health from an Ivy League school. She has worked in the medical field for many years, conducting extensive research on various health topics. Her writing has been featured in several top-tier publications.
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