25 Essential Literary Devices: Common structures that are used in writing are called literary devices that may be literary techniques or literary elements. The latter are mostly found in practically every story that may be related to a play or a novel. It is used to interpret and analyze for example team, plot, setting, and protagonist. On the other hand the former is used to construct the text with the use of language that can express the artistic meaning. Mostly figures of speech are used for this purpose. You can define these literary devices as an element or a technique. It entirely depends upon how you interpret the same. The most common literary devices and elements that are used in literature are given below.

A figure of speech is a departure from the ordinary form of expression or the original course of ideas in order to produce a greater effect. Figure of speeches may be classified as those that are based on resemblance such as:

Simile- A comparison is made between 2 objects of different kinds which have however at least one point in common, for e.g.

1. Life is as tedious as a twice-told tale

2. Thy soul was like a star, and dwelt apart
Metaphor-It is an implied Simile. It does not use like or as but take for granted that one thing is like another or as if the two things were one, for e.g.

1. He fought like a Lion can be written as he was a lion in the fight

2. The camel is the ship of the desert
Personification- In animates objects abstract notions are spoken off as having life and intelligence, for e.g.

1. Laughter holding both her sides

2. Death lays his icy and on Kings
Apostrophe- this is the direct address to the dead, to the absent or to a personified object or idea, for e.g.

1. O death! Where is thy sting? O Grave! Where is thy Victoria?

2. O Judgment! Thou art fled to brutish beasts

Those based on contrast are:

In this a striking opposition or contrast of words or sentiments is made in the same sentence. It is employed to secure emphasis, for e.g.

1. Man proposes God disposes
2. Speech is silver but silence is golden

This is used to make emphases by over stating, for e.g.

1. O Hamlet! Thou hast cleft my heart in twain
2. I loved Ophelia; forty thousand brothers could not with all their quality of love makeup the sum

Consist in description of a disagreeable thing by an agreeable name, for e.g.

1. He has fallen asleep ( he is dead)
2. You are telling me a fairy tale (A lie)

This is a special form of Antithesis, whereby two contradictory qualities are predicted at once of the same thing, for e.g.

1. His honor rooted in dishonor stood. And faith unfaithful kept him falsely true.

2. So innocent arch, so cunningly simple

This is a brief pointed saying frequently introducing antithetical ideas which exit surprise and arrest attention, for e.g.

1. The child is the father of the man
2. Fools rush in where angels fear to tread
Those based on association are:

This is a change of name; an object is designated by the name of something which is generally associated with it, for e.g.

1. The Bench, for the judges
2. The house for the members of Loksabha

In this a part is used to designate the whole or the whole to designate a part, for e.g.

1. Give us this day our daily bread
2. England won the first test match against Australia

It is a mode of speech in which the real meaning is exactly the opposite of that which is literally conveyed, for e.g.

1. But Brutus says he was ambitious, and Brutus is an honorable man.
2. It is an Irony of Faith that a man so good in day time can turn to a demon at night (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde)

This consists in the use of a word in such a way that it is capable of more than one application, the object being to produce a ludicrous effect, for e.g.

1. Is life worth living? – It depends upon the liver
2. An ambassador is an honest man who lies abroad for the good of his country

An Epithet is transferred from its proper world to another that is closely associated with it in the sentence, for e.g.

1. He passed a sleepless night.
2. The ploughman homeward plods his weary way

This is also known as Rhetorical Question, as the question is asked nearly to ask a question, for e.g.

1. Am I my brother’s keeper?
2. Do men gather grapes of thorns or figs of thistles?

This figure of speech is used to draw attention to a point than a mere bald statement of it could do for e.g.

1. What a piece of work is man!
2. How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon the bank!

Those depending on construction are:

This is the arrangement of a series of ideas in the order of increasing importance, for e.g.

1. Simple, erect, severe, austere, sub line
2. What a piece of work is man! How noble in reason! How in finite in faculties! In action, how like an angel! In apprehension, how like a God!

This is opposite of climax, a sudden descent from higher to lower, it is chiefly used for the purpose of satire or ridicule, for e.g.

1. Here thou great Anna! Whom three realms obey, dost sometimes counsel take-and sometimes Tea.
2. And thou Dalhousie the great God of War, Lieutenant-Colonel to the earl of mar.

This is done by repeating specific structure, word or phrase several times in close proximity to make emphasis on a particular idea, for e.g.

1. He could not meet him face to face.
2. The gentleman is the father of his father

In this consonant, sounds are repeated consecutively in the same sentence for e.g.

1. Dew drops fall at dun
2. She sells sea shells on the sea shore

There are various types of comedies in literature. The old comedies are mostly centered on extravagant fantasy, personal commentary, pungent political commentary and uninhabited obscenity. The new comedy deals with stock characters, stereo typed situations and portrays daily life centered on family. They may center on stodgy parents, young lovers, clever servants and more. You can further characterize comedy as a romantic comedy in which there is a beautiful heroine and hero. The story may start with a flash back or can even end in a comical situation after having gone through comical complications. Shakespeare’s ‘As You Like It’ is one such example. You can consider a satiric comedy that is usually involved in ridiculing policies of political personalities, social orders, or philosophical doctrines. An example of the same is Ben Johnson’s Volpone and the Alchemist. The comedy of humor is normally based on physiological theories that the writer portray with different characters given each one a particular role to play. The other type of comedy is the comedy of manners. It is usually found in plays and stories where men and women living in upper class sophisticated society enact. It creates a comic effect on the wit of the dialogue.

When a serious subject is narrated in a long verse it is called an epic. It can be a story centered on a heroic figure. One such example is Homer’s Odyssey and Iliad. These are oral epics. There is an example of a secondary epic which is Milton’s Paradise Lost which is also known as a literary epic. In an epic the central focus is on the hero and there is no epic without action. You may at times find some super natural agent created in an epic. An epic poem is deliberately distinct from an ordinary speech. In epics you will find stereo typed epithets. The diction is elevated in an epic and is a very long verse that may run into a number of books.

This term is philosophy centered. It is applied to a group of attitudes present in artistic, religious and philosophical thought prior and post World War II. According to this philosophical thinking meaning of things, can be created by acting upon them. It is totally based on human being thinking, how he behaves in different situations. Apart of this awareness is the sense they have of meaninglessness in the outer world. This produces loneliness, anxiety, discomfort where human limitations are concerned. There is a desire to invest experience, acting upon the world with a meaning. Though efforts to act in an absurd world leads to anguish despair and greater loneliness. Though each individual has the freedom but the responsibility of making what he feels fit of himself. His destiny is decided by his choices and actions. Example of this is The Stranger and No Exit by Satre.

The word Essay is defined as a literary composition on any subject. This composition gives expression to one’s own personal ideas or opinions on some topic. Essay’s can be classified as Narrative Essays such as narration of some event, a short story, a biography. The narrative it relates should be treated as a subject for thought and comment. The other type can be a Reflective essay. These types of essays are usually of an abstract nature for e.g. habits, qualities etc. It can be on social, domestic, political or any topic. The other type of essay is a Descriptive Essay. This consists of a description of a place or thing. It may be related to some season, plant, animal, minerals or any topic that can be described. The other type is Expository Essay. This type of an essay is an explanatory essay. It explains about a certain topic in detail such as scientific topics, literary topics, industry, history or even fiction. The other type is Imaginatory Essay. An essay on subject such as the feelings and experiences of the sailor wrecked on a desert island may be called Imaginatory essays. In such a case the writer is called to place himself in imagination in a position of which he has had no actual experience. Such subjects has ‘If I were a king,’ or ‘The Autobiography of a Horse’, would call for Imaginatory Essays. The classification is useful, so long as it is remembered that these classes are not mutually exclusive. Some essays may partake of the peculiarity of more than one class, for e.g. a narrative essay may contain a good deal of description. Mostly all essays should be of original ideas and the writer should express his own feelings and opinion about the subject.

Tragedy may be a domestic tragedy; you can take for example The London Merchant and Death of a Sales Man. These tragedies are centered on lower social families where members suffer or the story is centered on the domestic disaster. The other type of tragedy which is in a play at the end of which there is a catastrophe for e.g. Oedipus the King. Finally a dramatic tragedy what is also known as Tragic Irony. In such type of a tragedy which is normally enacted in a play, the character does something or says something which is ironically different from what the audience or the author is aware of. This is a literary device that the play write or the author uses to create a dramatic situation of irony. The play Oedipus is an example of this type of tragedy.

Literary terms and devices when used in various literary works such as plays, novels, poetry, essay etc bring out the true theme of the subject. The writer portrays his strength and control over literature in bringing out his thought, opinion and feeling to the reader.

25 Essential Literary Devices