Welcome to the website dedicated to literary devices (literary terms). Here you will find a list literary devices (literary terms) with definitions and examples. Please feel free to post your thoughts and vote on your favorite literary device.
The use of satire in literature refers to the practice of making fun of a human weakness or character flaw. The use of satire is often inclusive of a need or decision of correcting or bettering the character that is on the receiving end of the satire. In general, even though satire might be humorous and may “make fun”, its purpose is not to entertain and amuse but actually to derive a reaction of contempt from the reader.

An example of satire in modern popculture is the TV series Southpark that uses satire as it primary medium for drawing attention the flaws in society, especially American society at present. The scripts and writing for the show are an excellent example of satire in written form.

In literature, the word ‘setting’ is used to identify and establish the time, place and mood of the events of the story. It basically helps in establishing where and when and under what circumstances the story is taking place.

In the first installment of the Harry Potter series, a large part of the book takes place at the protagonist, Harry’s, aunt’s and uncle’s place, living in the “muggle” (non-magical) world with the “muggle” folks, and Harry is unaware of his magical capabilities and blood. This setting establishes the background that Harry has a non-magical childhood with other “muggle” people and has no clue about his special powers or his parents and is raised much like, actually worse than, regular people, till his 11th birthday.

Similes are one of the most commonly used literary devices; referring to the practice of drawing parallels or comparisons between two unrelated and dissimilar things, people, beings, places and concepts. By using similes a greater degree of meaning and understanding is attached to an otherwise simple sentence. The reader is able to better understand the sentiment the author wishes to convey. Similes are marked by the use of the words ‘as’ or ‘such as’ or ‘like’.

He is like a mouse in front of the teacher.

Spoonerism refers to the practice of interchanging the first letters of some words in order to create new words or even to create nonsensical words in order to create a humorous setting. While they are often unintentional and known as a “slip of the tongue”, in literature they are welcomed as witty wordplay.

The phrase “flesh and blood” being spoken as a character as “blesh and flood” in urgency and heightened emotion.

The term stanza refers to a single, related chunk of lines in poetry. It basically refers to one unit or group of lines, which forms one particular faction in poetry. The most basic kind of stanza is usually 4 lines per group, with the simplest rhyme scheme “a-b-a-b” being followed.

“The greedy paddy cat,

Chased after the mice;

She got so round and fat,

But it tasted so nice”

The phrase ‘stream of consciousness’ refers to an uninterrupted and unhindered collection and occurrence of thoughts and ideas in the conscious mind. In literature, the phrase refers to the flow of these thoughts, with reference to a particular character’s thinking process. This literary device is usually used in order to provide a narrative in the form of the character’s thoughts instead of using dialogue or description.

All writings by Virginia Woolff are a good example of literary stream of consciousness.

"Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end." The Common Reader (1925)

Suspense is the intense feeling that an audience goes through while waiting for the outcome of certain events. It basically leaves the reader holding their breath and wanting more information. The amount of intensity in a suspenseful moment is why it is hard to put a book down. Without suspense, a reader would lose interest quickly in any story because there is nothing that is making the reader ask, “What’s going to happen next?” In writing, there has to be a series of events that leads to a climax that captivates the audience and makes them tense and anxious to know what is going to happen.

A cliffhanger is a great way to create suspense. You remember when you were a kid and very excited to watch those Saturday morning shows. You can probably recall the feeling you had at the pit of your stomach when, after about 25 minutes and lots of commercials, you were hoping to find out what happened to your favorite character. However, you didn’t get to find out. Instead they would make the “Tune In Next Week” announcement and you already knew that you would be there. Same time, same place. Suspense is a powerful literary tool because, if done correctly, you know your audience will be back for more and more.

A symbol is literary device that contains several layers of meaning, often concealed at first sight, and is representative of several other aspects, concepts or traits than those that are visible in the literal translation alone. Symbol is using an object or action that means something more than its literal meaning.

The phrase “a new dawn” does not talk only about the actual beginning of a new day but also signifies a new start, a fresh chance to begin and the end of a previous tiring time.

A synecdoche is a literary devices that uses a part of something to refer to the whole. It is somewhat rhetorical in nature, where the entire object is represented by way of a faction of it or a faction of the object is symbolized by the full.

“Weary feet in the walk of life”, does not refer to the feet actually being tired or painful; it is symbolic of a long, hard struggle through the journey of life and feeling low, tired, unoptimistic and ‘the walk of life’ does not represent an actual path or distance covered, instead refers to the entire sequence of life events that has made the person tired.

While the term synesthesia literally refers to a medical condition wherein one or many of the sensory modalities become joined to one another, in literature it refers to the depiction of a strong connection, link or bond between the different senses. Characters in literature are sometimes described to be experiences synesthesia. Synesthesia is the conflation of the senses.

The Sound of Blue by Hollu Payne which portrays synesthesia with respect to the Romantic ideal.

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