Literary Devices, Poetic Devices and Figures of Speech

Literary devices are specific devices that writers, readers, and the students must know. Using literary devices, a writer can elevate her prose to glorious. For readers, it is essential to know literary devices to understand the text. For students, the knowledge of a few literary devices can raise their score in the English examination. 

Many of you might be wondering: what exactly the literary device means? If you are new to the concept, then the following description can help you understand it better. 

What are Literary Devices? 

Literary devices are narrative techniques that writers use to express their intentions and enhance their writing style. These techniques allow a writer to convey a deeper meaning of what is written on the page. Literary devices add texture, energy, and excitement to the narrative and grip the imagination of the reader’s so that the reader can connect to the character and theme. 

These devices serve various purposes in literature. Some reflect the intellectual effect, while others add emotional effects. So if the writer wishes to inject some special effects into the prose, literary devices occupy a great place. But for readers, it is not easy to understand and identify the literary devices. The thumb rule says while reading a text that if you find some narrative structure in the text in an unusual way, there is probably a literary device. 

Literary devices are like garnishing food that adds flavors to writing like drama and poetry. There are more than two hundred literary devices that writers can use, but few are customary literary terms that everyone should know. Following is a list of literary devices that everyone should know. 

Allegory Literary device

Allegory is a kind of narrative that uses characters and plot to portray an abstract idea or theme. It is a work that conveys the hidden meaning that is usually moral and spiritual. It depicts the complex theme in an approachable manner.

Allegory examples

The children’s fables like The lion and the mouse, the fox and the grapes are simple allegories about morality.

Alliteration definition and examples

 Alliteration is a figure of speech that refers to a series of words in quick succession. It means the same sound repeats in a group of words. It delivers a pleasing rhythm to prose and poetry. Give examples will clarify all doubts about alliteration

Alliteration examples

‘She sells sea shell by the seashore’ & ‘Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.’

Allusion literary device

In literature, the allusion is an indirect and unexplained reference to someone or something. Through allusion, the writers imply towards famous individuals, philosophical ideas, historical events, and many more. They allude to layer association and meaning from these references onto their work. 

Examples of Allusion:

“Don’t act like Romeo before her.” Here Romeo refers to the Character of Shakespear’s fiction.

Anachronism 

Anachronism is usually a mistake that is something or someone that is not in correct chronological order. It could be intentional or unintentional and occupies the incorrect temporal placement of any event, person, animal, a slang word, or belief system. A simple example of Anachronism has a character in the 18 century talking over the mobile phone. 

Anaphora 

Anaphora is a figure of speech. It consists of repeating a sequence of the word at the beginning of a successive clause, sentence, or phrase. It is usually seen in poetry and speeches to provoke an emotional response in the reader.

For example – The home was a sweet home with a small living room, a small dining room, a small bedroom, and a bathroom.

Anastrope 

Anastrope is a figure of speech, in which the traditional structure or order of a sentence is deliberately reversed. Anastrope’s work gives an emphasis or rhetorical effect that compels the reader to pause to thought upon the statement.

For example: “I stared into her eyes deep and sparkling.” 

Anthropomorphism 

Anthropomorphism is the application of human traits, characteristics, and emotions to an animal or non-human entities. It includes objects, animals, or weather. Most of the children’s fables or traditional tales bears anthropomorphized characters. A very ordinary example of anthropomorphism mickey mouse. 

Aphorism 

Aphorism represents a short saying or witty statement that outstandingly articulates a truth. Aphorisms are typically memorable and stated bluntly. Sometimes they are humorous too but not necessarily always. Our culture accepts them as truth because of the common-sense truth indicated by them.

Example –“A friend in need is a friend indeed.” 

Archetype 

An archetype is a literary device in which a character is created or derived from universal symbols or traits that are specific and identifiable for readers. Archetypes add familiarity and context to the story. Archetype represents feelings and situations that are shared across society and period and therefore instantly identifiable to any audience.

For Example: “Romeo and Juliet – The lover archetype!” 

Chiasmus 

Chiasmus is a figure of speech in which two or more parallel clauses are inverted. The second half of the clauses are balanced against the first half by the reversal of their structure to develop an artistic effect. Example – As per an expert chef – “People should live to eat, not eat to live”

Colloquialism 

Colloquialism represents the use of casual and unceremonious language in a piece of writing. It may include the use of slang. The use of colloquialism depicts the writer as a part of society and is influenced by the manner people speak to each other in society. Writers intentionally use colloquialism in their work to add a sense of realism.

For example – “Gonna – Going to“

Cumulative sentence 

A cumulative sentence is known as a loose sentence that starts with the main clause or independent clause, but, further followed by a series of subordinate constructions or modifier elements. These elements include words, phrases, and clauses. They gather the information and refine the main idea of the sentence.  

Example “I went to the mall, purchased dresses, shoes and sunglasses from various shops.”

What is Dramatic irony in Literature

Dramatic irony is a literary device that writers use in their work to create an impact that something is going on in the situation with which characters are unaware but, the readers are aware of it. It creates an element of suspense as the readers knew that the character will eventually learn the truth, but ‘when and how’ is not clear to them.

Dramatic Iron examples

In the children’s fable ‘Snow White and the seven dwarf’ – the audience knows that the old woman who offers the apple to snow white was the wicked queen, but she was unaware of it, and she ate the apple. 

Euphemism 

Euphemism is a figure of speech, that replaces a word or phrase that might seem awkward or harsh. Euphemism is a literary device that refers to figurative language and is designed to replace the impolite and unpleasant phrase, that can make someone uncomfortable. It allows someone to use indirect and figurative language rather than literal language.

Example – Using dearly departed instead of died.

Exposition 

Exposition is a literary device. It is also known as the writer’s opportunity to introduce background information to the reader or listener. Through exposition, the writer reveals the details regarding the setting, theme, background, or introduction of the characters. The motive of exposition is to give the audience a basis for understanding the piece of literature.

For example – “Once upon a time, there lived a kind boy. He was always ready to help others. He had a pet dog called Denis. Denis was his best buddy”

Flashback 

A flashback is a transition in a story to a previous incidence or period, that interrupts the normal chronological order of the events in the story. Writer insert flashback or past events to provide a context to the current events of the narrative. Dream sequences and memories are the ways to present flashbacks. 

Foreshadowing 

Foreshadowing is a literary device in which a writer gives an advance hint of the event yet to come in the story. Foreshadowing is a device that develops curiosity and suspense. The author usually utilizes foreshadowing in the earlier part of the story to set up the later event. 

Hyperbole

Hyperbole is a literary device and uses such language that creates a heightened effect through deliberate exaggeration. It is usually an overstated claim or statement that integrates emphasis without the purpose of being truth.

For example: “I love you to the moon and back”

Imagery 

Imagery is the descriptive language used by the writer to appeal to the reader’s senses. The use of imagery creates an image in the reader’s mind. Through descriptive language, the writers create a mental image for the readers. It does not solely focus on visual representation or mental image – it refers to overall sensory experiences including internal emotions and physical sensations.

For example – “The sweet aroma of freshly baked chocolate cookies drifted from kitchen to the patio.”

Irony 

The irony is a literary device that creates a situation of contrast between how things seem and how they are. The irony is of three types: dramatic irony, situational irony, and verbal irony. The writer uses irony so that it reveals that the intended meaning is contrary to the literal meaning.

For example – ‘After having a glance at students poor score in scorecard the teacher says “ You will finish the session with the highest honor.”’

Metaphor 

A metaphor is a figure of speech that draws a comparison between two, unlike things. A metaphor makes an implicit comparison that does not include the words ‘like’ or ‘as.’ Metaphors ascertain that two things are identical in comparison not merely similar.

For example: “Laughter is the best medicine.”

Personification 

A personification is a form of figurative language in which non-human things depict human attributes. Personification makes the reader develop a great sense of relation with non-human entities. It makes things easier for readers to imagine. 

Point of view 

Point of view is a mode of narration that an author uses to show concerning the story. The commonly used three points of view are- first-person -through which the narrator tells the story from his perspective, Second person – through which the tale tells the story about the reader and the third person – through which the narrator tells the story about other people.

An example of a third-person point of view is “ Alice sat beside her sister in the garden bench. She saw a rabbit hopping near the bush” 

Juxtaposition

Juxtaposition appears when two things are placed side by side to create a dramatic or irony comparison. It is a form of implied comparison and not overt comparison. It allows the reader to determine the similarities or differences between the pair of entities.

For example “youth and experience”

Malapropism 

Malapropism is sometimes called phonological word substitutions. Malapropism occurs when an incorrect word is used by replacing a similar-sounding word. Malapropism occurs unintentionally but writers use it intentionally to bring humorous results.

For example – “Flying saucers are just an optical conclusion (It should be illusion rather than a conclusion.)”

Metonymy 

Metonymy is a figure of speech in which the name of one object or concept takes the place of another with which it has a close association. Metonymy allows a writer to express a word or thought in different ways, by replacing it using a closely related term or thought.

For example: “Coast – represents a connection with seaside or ocean.”

Motif 

The motif is a literary device that represents a recurring narrative element that occurs multiple times throughout the text. A motif can be a symbol, sound, image word, or idea that develops a theme. Writers also use the motif to reinforce the objective that he wants to emphasize. 

Onomatopoeia

 Onomatopoeia is a figure of speech that refers to a word that describes a sound. It imitates the sound of the object or action. Onomatopoeia appeals to the sense of hearing and can sometimes add a touch of humor.

For example: Onomatopoeia of water is dribble, drizzle, plop, splash. 

Oxymoron

Oxymoron is a figure of speech consisting pair of two words that are contradictory to each other. Writers use an oxymoron to create a bit of drama for the readers. Sometimes it compels the reader to stop for a while and think either it is to laugh or to wonder.

For example –“Alone together”

Paradox

A paradox is a literary device that occurs in a statement as self-contradictory or illogical. But in reality, it expresses a possible truth. Writers use this device for emphasis, for humor, or to create stress.

For example: “This statement is false.” 

Satire 

Satire is a literary device that is used for humorously criticizing people or ideas. It is artful ridicule of stupidity to expose or correcting it. Writers use satire to make fun of some aspects of society or human nature. Political cartoons in the newspaper are usually satire. 

Simile 

A simile is a figure of speech, that creates a comparison between the two essentially dis-similar objects or concepts. The motive of a simile is to flash an interesting connection in the reader’s mind. Simile and metaphor are often confusing with each other, but they are a bit different. A simile makes a comparison using the word ‘like’ or ‘as’ while metaphor draws a direct comparison without using such words.

For example: – As light as a feather. 

Synecdoche

Synecdoche belongs to figurative language in which a part of something is used to represent the whole or vice-versa. As a literary device, it lets a smaller component of something to stand for a whole. It works in the opposite form as well, where the large whole represents a small component or part of the whole.

For example-“Ask for her hand- stands for asking a woman to marry”

Tone 

Tone denotes the overall mood and message of the text. It describes the writer’s attitude towards a subject or the audience. The writers use appropriate word choice to convey the tone.

For example: “I am so glad to have you in my life!” 

Tragicomedy 

Tragicomedy is a literary device that blends the tragedy as well as the comedy. Tragicomedy could be a serious play with a happy ending. Or it could be a tragic play with comic reliefs to add the moments of humor. 

Zoomorphism

Zoomorphism is a literary technique in which animal traits are assigned to any non-animal creature, object, or event. It is just adverse to anthropomorphism and can be a physical manifestation such as a God appearance as animal traits, or could be a comparison like calling someone a book worm.

Example – Antman 

Using these literary devices can help you become a better writer, an understanding reader, and a high-grade scorer English student.