Rhetorical Devices & Literary Terms

Topics: Literature, Nineteen Eighty-Four, Satire Pages: 7 (1466 words) Published: February 8, 2014
Rhetorical Devices that use figurative language

Rhetorical devices are techniques that writers use to persuade, create a literary effect, or evoke an emotional response from the reader.

Whenever you describe something by comparing it with something else, you are using figurative language, which is any language that goes beyond the literal meaning of words in order to furnish new effects or fresh insights into an idea or a subject (e.g. Whenever you call something “cool,” you’re not talking about its temperature but referring to some other quality it possesses).

Analogy: A comparison made between two things or situations in order to make a point.

In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the 'unalienable Rights' of 'Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.' It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked 'insufficient funds.

(Martin Luther King, Jr., “I Have a Dream,” Aug. 28, 1963)

Metaphor: A comparison of two unlike things using any form of the verb “to be” (am, are, is, was, were).

The streets were a furnace, the sun an executioner. (Cynthia Ozick, "Rosa")
But my heart is a lonely hunter that hunts on a lonely hill.
(William Sharp, "The Lonely Hunter")

Simile: Comparing two unlike things using “like” or “as.” Saying one thing is similar to another.

Life is like an onion: You peel it off one layer at a time, and sometimes you weep.
(Carl Sandburg)

Symbolism: The use of one thing to represent another. Something that stands for something else. For example, we often use a dove as a symbol of peace, or a flag as a symbol of patriotism.

Personification: Giving inanimate objects human characteristics.

Fear knocked on the door. Faith answered. There was no one there.
(proverb quoted by Christopher Moltisanti, The Sopranos)

Allegory: A short and simple story that illustrates a lesson to be learned.

Plato’s “Allegory of a Cave”
Rhetorical Devices that use tone for effect

Hyperbole: An extreme exaggeration.

Principal Skinner: The things you don't know would fill a whole library and leave room for a few pamphlets.

Superintendent Chalmers: There's no need for hyperbole, Seymour.

("Bart Stops to Smell the Roosevelts." The Simpsons, October 2, 2011)

Irony: Language that conveys a certain idea by saying just the opposite. For example, it’s ironic when a fire station burns down.

Gentlemen, you can't fight in here! This is the War Room.

(Peter Sellers as President Merkin Muffley in Dr. Strangelove, 1964)

Imagery: The use of description that helps the reader imagine how something looks, sounds, feels, smells, or tastes.
Tita was so sensitive to onions, any time they were being chopped, they say she would just cry and cry; when she was still in my great-grandmother’s belly her sobs were so loud that even Nacha, the cook, who was half-deaf, could hear them easily.

(Like Water for Chocolate)

Oxymoron: A figure of speech in which incongruous or seemingly contradictory terms appear side by side.

Examples: jumbo shrimp, bittersweet, liquid gas, almost always, pretty ugly

Juxtaposition: The placement of two or more things side by side, leaving it up to the reader to make a connection or infer meaning.

Wooden gate.
Lock firmly bolted:
Winter moon.
(Japanese Haiku)

Paradox: A statement that appears to contradict itself.

War is Peace
Freedom is Slavery
Ignorance is Strength...
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