Literary Devices

  • Please note that these are merely the literary devices/techniques to which I am most likely to refer during the course of our poetry discussions.  There are many other literary devices we will discuss when reading prose.  These are basic definitions to help you recall our class discussions.

    • ALLITERATION - Sally sells seashells by the seashore is an example of alliteration.  We are repeating the consonant "s" within the line.
    • ASSONANCE - The repetition of a vowel sound within a line of poetry, such as the title of the children's book The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss (the "a" sound)
    • BLANK VERSE - Unrhymed iambic pentameter.
    • CAESURA - A pause in a line of poetry, typically indicated by punctuation such as a comma.
    • CONSONANCE - Repetition of a consonant sound anywhere other than the start of words (because that's alliteration).
    • END RHYME - Rhymes placed at the end of lines.
    • END STOP - Punctuation at the end of a line of poetry.
    • ENJAMBMENT - Enjambment is very common in poetry.  It occurs when a sentence is broken into two or more lines of poetry.
    • FIGURATIVE LANGUAGE - Figurative language involves the use of a word or phrase for some other purpose than its literal meaning (such as metaphors, similes, hyperbole, etc.)
    • HYPERBOLE - Exaggeration, such as "I'm so hungry I could eat a horse."
    • IMAGERY - Imagery is a specific type of description that is designed to appeal to specific senses (usually visual imagery).  Please note that basic descriptions ("she had red hair") do not count as imagery.  The detail must be vivid enough to create a mental picture!
    • METAPHOR - "My love is a red, red rose."  Metaphors create a direct comparison between two otherwise unlike objects.
    • ONOMATOPOEIA - Think Batman.  Ka-pow!  Zoom!  Blam!  Words used to "describe" sound are onomatopoeia.
    • PARALLELISM - Parallelism occurs when two different sections have a similarity (for example, a similar structure, rhyme pattern, language, etc.)
    • PERSONIFICATION - Giving an inanimate object human characteristics, such as an impatient clock.  Impatience is a human trait.
    • SIMILE - Unlike metaphors, which create a direct comparison between two unlike objects, similes weaken the comparison by using the words "like" or "as."  "My love is like a red, red rose."
    • SYMBOLISM - Symbolism can be difficult to understand, but in general, it is the use of a tangible object to represent an abstract idea or concept.  Click here for more on symbolism.
    • TONE - Please, please, please, if you never do another thing for me--never write, "The author uses tone" on a worksheet or analysis.  You simply can't "use tone."  Think of a poet's tone as his or her attitude.  You don't look at someone and say, "Wow.  You sure are using tone today!"  You say, "You are really grumpy today!"