INTRODUCTION TO LITERARY DEVICES/FIGURES OF SPEECH

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LITERARY DEVICES
Literary devices are structures or figures of expression that writers use to convey their messages to their readers. When these devices are properly used, they serve as guides to the readers to appreciate, analyse and interpret literary works. Literary devices are also called figures of speech.
The common examples of literary devices are;

  1. Simile; This literary device compares two things using the words, ‘like’ and ‘as’.
    Examples;
    a. John looks like the man at the mountain.
    b. Emmanuel behaves like a parrot.
    c. The animal remained as calm as a stationery machine.
    d. The man is blind as a bat.
  2. Metaphor; metaphor is a literary device that compares things without the use of the words ‘like’ and ‘as’.
    Examples
    i. He is a black sheep of the family.
    ii. The woman is the lioness of the village.
    iii. John was the King Solomon of our team.
  3. Personification
    This is a figure of speech that gives human attributes to inanimate objects.
    Examples
    I. The wind spoke violently to me today.
    II. The trees danced vigorously to the air this morning.
    III. My stomach cries for food every morning.
    IV. The wall told me every secret you kept to yourself.
    V. As I walked out of the Banking hall, the sun slapped my face.
  4. Hyperbole
    This is a literary device that exaggerates. The aim of the exaggeration is to emphasize something. In other areas of study such as rhetoric, hyperbole is used for comic and ironic effects.
    Examples
    a. John stumbled and uprooted a mountain.
    b. The sun baked the Earth this afternoon.
    c. Priscilla was so thirsty that she could drink an entire ocean.
  5. Oxymoron
    This is a figure of speech that uses two contradictory words side by side.
    Examples
    i. That was a bitter sweet experience.
    ii. Can you tell us the long and short of the story?
    iii. It was an ugly nice experience.
    iv. The woman gave a silent scream from the bedroom.
    v. Joseph is such a wise fool
  6. Alliteration
    This is literary device that involves the repetition of the same consonant sound at the beginning of successive words.
    Examples
    a. The cat can kill criminals.
    b. The fan fought for financial freedom.
    c. The bag brings beauty.
    d. The man made money.
    e. The children cheated one another.
  7. Assonance
    This is a figure of speech in which the same vowel sound is repeated in two or more words that are closer to one another in a line of poetry or prose.
    Examples
    I. The gun and the sun are friends.
    Repetition of /ʌ/ sound in sun and gun.
    II. A new branch of the bank was inaugurated last week.
    Repetition of /æ/ in branch and bank.
    III. A wild child is what every parent prays against.
    Repetition of /aɪ/ in wild and child.
    IV. He is the cock of the rock.
    Repetition of /ɒ/ in cock and rock.
  8. Paradox
    This is a literary device that appears stupid, self-contradictory and senseless on the surface, but upon reflection, makes a lot of sense.
    Examples
    i. Less is more
    ii. The son is the father of the man
    iii. If you want peace, you must prepare for war.
    iv. You can earn money by spending it.
    v. Today was yesterday’s tomorrow.

Watch out for our next lesson on literary devices.

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