Questions tagged [literary-device]

For questions regarding an author's use of various literary techniques and other stylistic elements to allow the reader to better interpret and appreciate the work of literature.

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What is the opposite of deus ex machina?

Deus ex machina is a plot device in which a seemingly unsolvable problem is resolved by a sudden and unexpected external event. For example: "The villain has our hero backed in a corner with no ...
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25 votes
2 answers
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Did Borges invent the idea of writing reviews/summaries of imaginary literary works?

In reading short stories by the great Argentinian author Jorge Luis Borges, I've noticed a repeated theme: many of these stories are written in the style of a review or summary of a much larger and ...
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Was pretending to be an abridgement of a made-up work invented by William Goldman?

William Goldman's The Princess Bride is famous (among other reasons) for a literary device it employs - it pretends to be an abridgment (or "the good parts version") of a longer work by S. ...
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18 votes
1 answer
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To what effect does Goldman claim The Princess Bride is an abridgement?

This question was inspired by this question, which asks about the history of one work claiming itself as an adaptation or abridgment of another. In The Princess Bride by William Goldman, the author ...
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13 votes
4 answers
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Does "The Soul selects her own Society" by Emily Dickinson have a simile?

Here is the poem "The Soul selects her own Society" by Emily Dickinson. The Soul selects her own Society — Then — shuts the Door — To her divine Majority — Present no more — Unmoved — ...
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10 votes
1 answer
548 views

Is alliteration adjacent words and/or close together words starting with the same letter? If words between are permitted then how many?

OK, I know this question isn't about literary analysis or anything but I posted this on ELU and it was put on hold (as off-topic) and I was advised to post it here. Is alliteration exclusively ...
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9 votes
2 answers
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Was Mark Twain actually almost a millionaire twice over, before he became famous?

The prequel to Mark Twain's Innocents Abroad was Roughing It: Roughing It illustrates many of Twain's early adventures, including a visit to Salt Lake City, gold and silver prospecting, real-estate ...
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9 votes
1 answer
302 views

What is the narrative device that involves using inconsequential elements in the story?

I’m looking for the narrative device that, as opposed to Chekhov’s gun, involves purposely including accounts of events or things in the narrative that are inconsequential to the main story. This ...
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9 votes
1 answer
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What effect does an epistolary format have on our understanding of the book as a reader?

There are many great works of literature written in the form of an epistolary novel. However, many of those stories could have also been told in a more traditional novel form. What effect does the ...
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8 votes
2 answers
468 views

Are there earlier incidences than Merchant of Venice of an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other?

In act 2, scene 2 of The Merchant of Venice, Launcelot Gobbo is conflicted regarding whether to run from Shylock, or continue working for him. Shakespeare expresses this internal conflict by ...
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The name of a device by which an author reports the use of coarse language without quoting it?

Don, a soldier sleeping in a hammock, is abruptly awakened some hours earlier than expected and is quite alarmed, thinking the camp may be under attack by the enemy. The company headquarters runner ...
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8 votes
1 answer
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Term for intentionally impressing different meanings on different audiences

Is there a term for when an author intentionally generates two completely different responses from two distinct parts of their audience or readership? An example I found could be in The Picture of ...
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2 answers
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What do you call a break in rhyming in the middle of a book / poem for dramatic effect?

I'm creating a children's book for a school project. I've been tasked to identify some literary devices used throughout the book. There is a section of the book which I want to highlight because it ...
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6 votes
2 answers
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What figure of speech is "transient feet" in "A Photograph" by Shirley Toulson?

In the poem "A Photograph" by Shirley Toulson, the phrase "transient feet" appears in the last line of the first stanza: All three stood still to smile through their hair At the ...
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5 votes
4 answers
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What kind of language features appear in Lady Macbeth's line "too full o' the milk of human kindness"?

In Macbeth Act I Scene 5, Lady Macbeth says the following: Glamis thou art, and Cawdor; and shalt be What thou art promised: yet do I fear thy nature; It is too full o' the milk of human ...
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5 votes
1 answer
172 views

Are photographs in Harry Potter a device for characterizing subjects?

In an answer that I recently wrote elsewhere on this site, I posited that photographs are used by J.K. Rowling in the Harry Potter books as a device to portray the subjects of the photograph in a ...
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5 votes
1 answer
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What is the "uncanny" element of Gothic Literature?

In Wikipedia, the "uncanny" is defined as the psychological experience of something as strangely familiar, rather than simply mysterious. It may describe incidents where a familiar thing or event ...
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5 votes
1 answer
534 views

Why the capitalization of "Heavens" in Rudyard Kipling's "The Secret of the Machines"?

In Rudyard Kipling's poem The Secret of the Machines the last stanza goes as follows: Though our smoke may hide the Heavens from your eyes, It will vanish and the stars will shine again, ...
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4 votes
2 answers
283 views

Analysis of "While I speak God's law, I will not crack its voice with whimpering."

In The Crucible, during act 4 (Danforth's monologue), he says While I speak God's law, I will not crack its voice with whimpering. When looking at this quote the only technique I can see is ...
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1 answer
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Name of this lyrical device comparing oneself to something that's described by the same word, but in another sense of the word?

Warning: The examples contain some offensive words, but I believe that is not against the rules here? Lately I've been listening a lot to a certain hip-hop album, in which almost every track uses a ...
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4 votes
1 answer
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What is the figure of speech used in this part of "Cataract Operation"?

What is the figure of speech used in these lines taken from the Simon Armitage poem "Cataract Operation"? the olé of a crimson towel. the cancan of a ra ra skirt, the monkey business of a ...
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4 votes
1 answer
42 views

Where can I find sources that could help me write about parody of human feelings in Beckett's novel "Molloy"?

My college assignment is to write about parody in Beckett's Molloy and I need to write about the parody of human feelings in this novel too. I would appreciate if someone could tell me which sources ...
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4 votes
1 answer
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Effect of enjambment in "The Red Wheelbarrow" by William Carlos Williams

In "The Red Wheelbarrow" the poet William Carlos Williams uses enjambment to great effect (or so I have read): so much depends upon a red wheel barrow glazed with rain water beside the ...
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4 votes
1 answer
139 views

Is the stormy weather an element of Naturalism in The Shining by Stephen King?

In Stephen King's novel The Shining, there seems to me to be a correlation between the weather and the sanity of Jack Torrance. Namely, as the Torrance family becomes more isolated (i.e. people from ...
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4 votes
1 answer
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Are the terms "metatextuality / metareference / metareferentiality" synonyms? Is the following definition correct?

Questions I would like to know if I understood correctly that "metatextuality / metareference / metareferentiality" are synonyms and can be used interchangeably. Finally I summarize what I ...
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Why does isolating "there" on its own line sound less emphatic in Korean than English?

I was reading Translator’s Note: Three Poems by Ko Un from the Poetry Foundation and came across this excerpt: We translated “명사도 동사도 다” (“all nouns and verbs”) as “all words,” which sounds less ...
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Is there a word for a literary technique that allows a short passage to be read aloud in more than one way?

I recently started reading Sam Logan's Sam and Fuzzy online, and am greatly enjoying it. In the fifth volume of the NMS Series (Sam and Fuzzy Missing Inaction, "Boundaries, Pt. 9") there's a cute ...
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3 votes
1 answer
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Identify rhetorical/stylistic device in Tanpınar's The Time Regulation Institute

Is this an example of any rhetorical/stylistic device or literary technique? But can one really call it a life? If to live is to endure endless pain and destitution and to suffer humiliation so deep ...
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3 votes
1 answer
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What's the name of the literary device used by Sheymov to refer to himself in 3rd person?

In the introduction, the author explains that he'll use third person to refer to himself: After much thought, I decided to write this book as a third-person account. For me it is a natural form of ...
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3 votes
1 answer
220 views

Sonnet 39 of Astrophil and Stella: Are these epithets or metaphors?

This is Sonnet 39 of Astrophil and Stella, also known as Come Sleep! O Sleep: Come Sleep! O Sleep, the certain knot of peace, The baiting-place of wit, the balm of woe, The poor man’s wealth, the ...
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3 votes
1 answer
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Is there a formal term for "mispronunciation as a comedic device"?

Mispronunciation can be a comedic device. (Zach Galifianakis has regularly used the device in situational comedy.) I was trying to discuss the device formally, but couldn't recall a formal term for ...
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3 votes
2 answers
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What would be the name for foreshadowing if it is referencing the past?

In literature, if foreshadowing is reference to future events, what would it be called if it is referencing a past event which the reader does not know?
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3 votes
1 answer
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Are these quotes from Orwell's 1984 similes, metaphors, or something else?

Winston's entrails seemed to have turned into ice. I thought metaphor, but it's the "seemed" that's throwing me off. It's not quite 'something IS something else' (i.e. his 'entrails turned into ice')...
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3 votes
0 answers
87 views

What is the point of "the story so far"/recaps in book series?

I just finished the book "The Fellowship of the Ring". Now I've started with "The Two Towers". It begins by recapping the story of the first book. For who exactly is this "...
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2 votes
1 answer
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Does Vivien sleep with Merlin in Tennyson's "Idylls of the King"?

I am re-reading Tennyson's Idylls of the King after many years. His idyll "Merlin and Vivien" is a rather in-depth look at how Vivien learns Merlin's magic through some impressive feats of ...
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2 votes
3 answers
270 views

Where is dramatic irony present in Macbeth?

In a school book it is written Dramatic Irony or Irony of situation: It involves a situation in a play or story in which the audience knows the reality which the speaker or character is ignorant of. ...
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2 votes
1 answer
969 views

Analyzing the alliteration of the first line of Lolita

Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Please help me analyze the alliteration from the line above. Which 'L' words attribute to the alliteration? Lo, Li from Lolita and light, ...
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2 votes
1 answer
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Was Anton Chekhov the earliest to use stream-of-consciousness technique in his works?

Anton Chekhov was a famous Russian short story writer and dramatist. Early in his career, he mastered the form of the one-act play and produced several masterpieces of this genre. I remember I ...
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2 votes
1 answer
5k views

What's the technique in 'To be thus is nothing, but to be safely thus.' from Macbeth?

What's the technique in these (half-)lines from Macbeth?                                   To be thus is nothing, but to be safely thus. They are from Act 3 Scene 1. Macbeth is insecure because of ...
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2 votes
2 answers
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Why are some metaphors not similes?

This Master Class website says that A simile is a type of metaphor. All similes are metaphors, but not all metaphors are similes. Is this true? Can anyone cite an official textbook? Please explain ...
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2 votes
1 answer
264 views

What is the term used for a story's narrator becoming self-aware?

I was reading a short-story titled "A Face in the Dark" by Ruskin Bond. There's this passage in it: "It had no eyes, ears, nose or mouth. It was just a round smooth head — with a ...
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2 votes
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What literary term/device is used when a character in a novel represents the author?

I'm reading a novel called Persepolis for my English course, and it's about a girl named Marji that grows up during the 1979 Revolution. The author's intention with the novel is to break Western ...
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2 votes
0 answers
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Forms of foregrounding: are recurrence / equivalence the same?

I'm struggling to grasp the difference between the literary devices of recurrence and equivalence. I'm preparing for an exam where we are asked to define these terms. In German, they are referred to ...
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1 vote
2 answers
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Is there a name for the narrative technique of starting at the end and then going back to the beginning? (As in Lord Jim)

I've been reading Lord Jim, by Joseph Conrad, which is rife with what I would call non-standard narrative structures. There are obvious narrative peculiarities in the book that have been discussed at ...
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1 vote
2 answers
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Sarcasm, satire & irony

On what basis is an expression with an opposite meaning classified under the three types namely sarcasm, satire and irony? How do sarcasm, satire and irony different from one another? I need ...
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1 vote
2 answers
112 views

If a first-person narrator addresses the reader, is it considered speech or thought?

I'm reading the novel Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief for my literature class and was trying to use the characterisation framework of PAIRS (Physical appearance, Actions, Inner Thought, ...
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1 vote
1 answer
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Literary or rhetorical term meaning "past for the future"?

William Blake, in his poem in his preface to Milton, a Poem, commonly known as "Jerusalem" (not to be confused with the long poem Jerusalem The Emanation of the Giant Albion (1804-1820)), ...
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1 vote
2 answers
2k views

What literary device is used in from "one thing to another"?

The extract is Then, from one thing to another, M. Hamel went on to talk of the French language, saying that it was the most beautiful language in the world — the clearest, the most logical; that we ...
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1 vote
1 answer
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What figure of speech is "change of mood" in Robert Frost's "Dust of Snow"?

From "Dust of Snow" by Robert Frost: Has given my heart A change of mood And saved some part Of a day I had rued. What figure of speech, or poetic device, is used in the line, "A ...
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1 vote
1 answer
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Is there a contrast between "straight" and "late" in this example?

King Crimson's song "I talk to the wind" starts with: Said the straight man to the late man Where have you been? I'm pretty sure that the songwriter is creating a contrast (e.g., an ...
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