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Etymology and Meanings of Literary Device Litotes

Etymologically, the term litotes, as its pronunciation shows, is a Greek derivative of the same word, having the same spellings. In the Grecian language, its root is litos which means smooth and plain. Litotes also means simplicity and plainness.

Literally, it means simple and unadorned style in writing or frugal and small in quantity. The term, however, finds its excessive use in rhetoric but is also common in literature.

Definition of Literary Device Litotes

In literary terms, it is an understatement used as verbal irony. It is an integral part of the figures of speech. It often uses double negatives to imply positive or affirmative meanings. Also, sometimes it is entirely a deliberate use of double negatives, while at other times, it is a cultural more (convention) such as in African American pidgin English. The other important things in its usage include context, text, and culture. It is akin to using a euphemism that means glossing over the rough usage of a word.

Common Examples of Litotes
  1. It is not that it is not rocket science.
  2. Neither are you asking, nor am I telling you.
  3. He is one of the brightest and dumbest fellows.
  4. I don’t refuse to accept your proposal.
  5. They often do not try to fail yet they fail.
Usage in Rhetoric

In rhetoric, litotes is a figure of thought. Two other figures are antenantiosis (deliberate understatement) and meiosis (intentional understatement). The most common use of this term tends to establish the ethos of a person using rhetoric as a tool. One example is of Oedipus as he uses double negative when placating the Thebans saying, “I am not sleeping, you are not waking me.” Both negatives have shown positive meanings in that he is not bragging and not underestimating but showing his modest and balanced approach.

Literary Examples of Litotes
Example # 1

From Hamlet by William Shakespeare

Ha, ‘swounds, I should take it, for it cannot be
But I am pigeon-livered, and lack gall
To make oppression bitter, or ere this

I should ha’ fatted all the region kites
With this slave’s offal.

These lines occur in Hamlet by William Shakespeare. He has used understatements about himself saying that “I am pigeon-livered” or “lack gall.” Although they are not negative statements, they show the use of understatement by Hamlet who often does not do so for any significant reason but only wants to show his affirmation to take action against the usurper.

Example # 2

From “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T. S. Eliot

But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,
Though I have seen my head (grown slightly bald) brought in upon a platter,
I am no prophet—and here’s no great matter.

The last verses of this great poem by T. S. Eliot show the use of double negative in poetry. It shows that he is not a prophet that he should predict such matters, and the matter is not of huge importance. Both negatives show the positive meanings that Prufrock implies here. In fact, he wants to say that it does not matter to him as the issues under discussion are trivial.

Example # 3

From A Streetcar Named Desire by Lorraine Hansberry

First thing a man ought to learn in life is not to make love to no colored woman rest thing in the morning. You all some eeeevil people at eight o’clock in the morning.

This is the conversation of Walter Lee Younger when he talks to Ruth, his wife in the popular play by Lorraine Hansberry, A Streetcar Named Desire. He tells his wife that he is fed up with her and that nobody should marry an African American girl, which is an understatement. It also shows the use of double negative, which is common in the language spoken by the African Americans though sometimes the statement may not be a litotes.

Example # 4

From Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neal Hurston

What she doin’ coming back here in dem overhalls? Can’t she find no dress to put on?—Where’s dat blue satin dress she left here in?—Where alldat money her husband took and died and left her?—What dat ole forty yearole ’oman doin’ wid her hair swingin’ down her back lak some young gal?

Despite being a fine example of African American colloquialism, this short passage from Their Eyes Were Watching God by Hurston shows the double use of negatives which is also an understatement. It is because it shows that it is a quizzical expression. Therefore, this is an excellent litotes.

Example # 5

From Beloved by Toni Morrison

Then something. The plash of water, the sight of her shoes and stockings awry on the path where she had flung them; or Here Boy lapping in the puddle near her feet, and suddenly there was Sweet Home rolling, rolling, rolling out before her eyes, and although there was not a leaf on that farm that did not make her want to scream, it rolled itself out before her in shameless beauty. It never looked as terrible as it was and it made her wonder if hell was a pretty place too. Fire and brimstone all right, but hidden in lacy groves. Boys hanging from the most beautiful sycamores in the world. It shamed her–remembering the wonderful soughing trees rather than the boys. Try as she might to make it otherwise, the sycamores beat out the children every time and she could not forgive her memory for that.

This passage shows excellent use of understatements or litotes intended to make the barbarism against African Americans less barbaric and more maltreatment. Although it does not seem intentional, it is rather tragic as different litotes have not used the double negative, but they present the opposite meanings and not affirmative ones.

How to Create Litotes
  1. Plan authoring a story, a novel, or a short narrative. Also, think about your characters and their humble beginning.
  2. Place the character in a situation where they have to express humility.
  3. Try to use a double negative to elicit an affirmative answer that should be an understatement.
  4. Try out its effectiveness in the context and text.
  5. Also, try to use the context of Oedipus as he says, “I am not sleeping, you are not waking me.” It has double negative, humility as well as pride.
Benefits of Using Litotes
  1. It shows the real nature of the character as well as the author who wants to show the character in a certain light.
  2. It helps readers understand the real objective of the authors/writers.
  3. It also helps the authors and writers present down-to-earth real characters in their writings.
Literary Device of Litotes in Literary Theory
  1. Litotes is an integral part of figurative writing. Therefore, it is also essential in formalism or a formalistic analysis of a literary piece.
  2. It helps in postcolonialism as well as postmodernism to interpret the author and his real objectives of writing a piece of literature.
  3. It also helps us understand the perspective of readers’ response theory.
  4. It is important in rhetoric as it shows the assertation of the character or the speaker or the author. In this assertion lies their real objective of showing or establishing ethos to make oratory, speech, or writing convincing. Therefore, it is an important part of rhetoric.
Suggesting Readings

Bennett, Andrew, and Nicholas Royle. Literature, Criticism and Theory. Harlow, UK: Pearson, 2004. Print.

Barry, Peter. Beginning Theory: An Introduction to Literary and Cultural Theory. Machester, 2009. Print.

Harris, A. Leslie. “Litotes and Superlative in Beowulf.” English Studies 69.1 (1988): 1-11. Neuhaus, Laura. “On The Relation of Irony, Understatement, and Litotes.” Pragmatics & Cognition 23.1 (2016): 117-149.

You may also read Metonymy

Frame Story

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Etymology and Meanings of Literary Device Frame Story

Etymologically, a frame story is a term comprising two words; frame and story. It has another variant called a frame tale. It means a story inserted in a story in a way that it constitutes its main frame.

Definition of Literary Device Frame Story

In literature, it is a term that the main narrative comprises some short pieces of the same narrative or has a second narrative emphasizing the main story.

In other words, a frame story leads the readers to other secondary narratives that stress upon the main idea of the main thematic strand. Therefore, it could be defined as a set of different stories tied together with smaller narratives but slightly changed to adjust to the major theme.

Another definition that suits this term is that it is a story embedded within the main story where the main character is involved in some other incidents or narrates his own story.

Common Examples of Frame Story
  1. One Thousand and One Nights is a good example of a frame story having several short narratives.
  2. The Tale of Ameer Hamza in Urdu literature having several stories is another example of a frame story.
  3. Metamorphoses of Ovid has also parts, making a good example of a frame story.
  4. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley presents a story within a story, providing a good example of a frame story.
Literary Examples
Example # 1

The Prologue by Geoffrey Chaucer

The Prologue is not only full of characters but also full of mini-narratives as they expand into separate narratives after that when the host proposes each pilgrim state his/her story. However, within this prologue, the main narrative goes on when the host tells about each character. Therefore, it is a very good example of a story within a story or a frame story.

Example # 2

If On a Winter’s Night a Traveller by Italo Calvino

The novel shows the good use of a frame story as it comprises more than twelve stories each as a chapter. The interesting point about this novel is that each story has a “you” narrator instead of a traditional third-person or first-person narrator. The story presents a man going to exchange a suitcase with somebody but it seems to the reader that the book has the same page repeated. The reader, then, returns that book but comes to know that it is not the same book. Written in a magical realistic mode, the book shows many frame stories in a similar fashion.

Example # 3

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

Although this postmodern masterpiece shows several examples of frame stories, these frame stories show erratic timeframes in each of them as Billy Bud does not know how to tell the narratives from his memory in chronological order. For example at one point, Vonnegut’s narrator Billy tells, “I would hate to tell you what is this lousy little book…” but again starts another story that “But not words about Dresden came….”. This shows that he has several frame stories jotted down together to present a postmodern account of his WWII experiences as a soldier.

Example # 4

The Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel

This latest novel by Kristin Harmel presents several frame stories. The main story of a librarian goes with her own love story and story of her fugitive status in the town lying in the free zone. Almost all of these frame stories go parallel to each other, implying to the readers that they are part of the same story though these different love, hate, escape and travel stories are frame stories or frame tales in their own way.

Example # 5

Hamlet by William Shakespeare

A play within a play, Hamlet presents a good example of a frame story. The reason is that the play within Hamlet is a separate story staged by separate players as presented by Shakespeare. Hamlet, the prince, enjoys this play as it suits him to alert his rival, King Claudius. The thematic strands are not only similar but almost the same. Although it is a classic case of a play within the play, it also suits the purpose when it comes to a frame story. In fact, this is another type of a frame story.

Example # 7

Some other popular literary examples of frame stories are Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, and some movies such as Titanic, Forrest Gump, Cast Away, and even Braveheart have frame stories within them.

How to Create Frame Story
  1. Imagine and plan the main story.
  2. Think of different aspects of the main story.
  3. Break these aspects into mini-narratives.
  4. Insert these mini-narratives into the main story in chronological or reverse chronological order or even without it.
Benefits of Using Frame Story
  1. Make a narrative easier to decipher, understand and apply in the real life.
  2. Make a story well-connected, coherent, and well-knit.
  3. Make the readers have a sense of time and place.
  4. Make the story setting clear to the readers and audiences.
  5. Make the story interesting as well as enchanting for the readers and the audiences.
Literary Device of Frame Story in Literary Theory

It is interesting to note that a frame story as a literary device/technique is used in different literary perspectives.

  1. Certainly, this term is part of Russian formalism which uses different literary techniques to decipher the real message of a text.
  2. However, its usage in postcolonial and specifically indigenous narratives from an indigenous perspective is a question mark. Despite this, its importance in post-colonialism or para-colonialism is secondary as both of them are concerned with some other pressing issues connected with human beings and culture as a whole.
  3. Its placing, interpretation, and inclusion, however, in reader’s response theory or formalism or New Criticism is of paramount importance when interpreting a narrative. It also has vital importance in narratology.
Suggested Readings

Barry, Peter. Beginning Theory: An Introduction To Literary And Cultural Theory. Manchester University Press, 2020. Print.

Bennett, Andrew, and Nicholas Royle. Literature, Criticism, and Theory. Harlow, UK: Pearson, 2004. Print.

Hikel, Mary Lyn. “The Theory and Practice of the Frame Story as Narrative Device: Boccaccio’s Decameron” As Paradigm.” (1990): 2888-2888. Thompson, Michael, Richard Ellis, and Aaron Wildavsky. Cultural Theory. Routledge, 2018. Print.


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Etymology and Meanings of Literary Device Motif

Etymologically, the literary device of motif first occurred in Latin as motivus which means impelling. Later, it entered the French language in 1848 and transformed into a motif that means the main or dominating idea.

Grammatically, it is a noun and its plural is motifs. It means a recurrent thematic idea, or strand in fiction, or a poetry.

Definition of Literary Device of Motif

In literary terms, a motif is recurringly intervening ideas, having a symbolic significance in the course of the story. This could be an image, an object, a natural sign, a sound, or even a natural object.

Types of Literary Device of Motifs

There are several types of motifs. Some narratives present water, clouds, and even the sky as motifs, while others present musical notes. Generally speaking, a motif could be any of these types but not limited to only these.

  1. An abstract idea
  2. A material object
  3. A natural object
  4. A sound
  5. A natural occurrence, event, incident, or phenomenon
Common Examples of Motif

Several things could be used as motifs. Most of the common ideas and things used in different texts as motifs are as follows.

  1. Music in movies
  2. Writing with a ballpoint
  3. Walking aimlessly
  4. Fishing to pass the time
  5. Horse riding to search for meanings
  6. Cattle
  7. Birds
  8. Gothic style
  9. Natural elements
  10. Environment
Literary Examples of Motif
Example # 1

From The Jungle by Upton Sinclaire

When that personage had developed a will of his own in the matter, Marija had flung up the window of the carriage, and, leaning out, proceeded to tell him her opinion of him, first in Lithuanian, which he did not understand, and then in Polish, which he did. Having the advantage of her in altitude, the driver had stood his ground and even ventured to attempt to speak; and the result had been a furious altercation, which, continuing all the way down Ashland Avenue, had added a new swarm of urchins to the cortege at each side street for half a mile.

This passage occurs in the popular novel of Sinclair, the Jungle. Although this passage shows a simple motif that is of language whether it is the mother tongue or second language, the novel shows several other motifs used in the narrative. It is corruption, poverty as shown here, and migration as the use of a second language shows that Marija is not a native American person.

Example # 2

From The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Many jocular comments followed, as did another onslaught of “ heil Hitlering.” You know, it
actually makes me wonder if anyone ever lost an eye or injured a hand or wrist with all of
that. You’d only need to be facing the wrong way at the wrong time or stand marginally too
close to another person. Perhaps people did get injured. Personally, I can only tell you that no
one died from it, or at least, not physically. There was, of course, the matter of forty million
people I picked up by the time the whole thing was finished, but that’s getting all metaphoric.
Allow me to return us to the fire.

Taken from the Book Thief, a novel by Markus Zusak, this passage shows the repeatedly occurring idea of injury and its association with the slogan of heil Hitlering. It clearly indicates that so far in this passage, this is a motif. However, overall, the book shows several other motifs that peep through its different chapters such as death, writing, fear, and night.

Example # 3

From The Kite Runner by Khalid Hosseini

A few months later, we used the advance for my second novel and placed a down payment on a pretty, two-bedroom Victorian house in San Francisco’s Bernal Heights. It had a peaked roof, hardwood floors, and a tiny backyard which ended in a sun deck and a fire pit. The general helped me refinish the deck and paint the walls. Khala Jamila bemoaned us moving almost an hour away, especially since she thought Soraya needed all the love and support she could get—oblivious to the fact that her well intended but overbearing sympathy was precisely what was driving Soraya to move.

This passage occurs in the Kite Runner, an unknown term in the west or the United States. Actually, a kite runner is a child who runs to catch the cut-off kites and fly them. In this novel, it is a recurring motif along with several others such as it is writing and love in this passage.

Example # 4

From Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift

I likewise felt several slender Ligatures across my Body, from my Armpits to my Thighs. I could only look upwards; the Sun began to grow hot, and the Light offended mine Eyes. I heard a confused Noise about me, but in the Posture I lay, could see nothing except the Sky. In a little time I felt something alive moving on my left Leg, which advancing gently forward over my Breast, came almost up to my Chin; when bending mine Eyes downwards as much as I could, I perceived it to be a human Creature not six Inches high, with a Bow and Arrow in his Hands, and a Quiver at his Back.

This passage occurs in the famous satire of Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s Travels. In fact, this passage shows different motifs apart from the entire travelogue. It shows body parts as he tells about everything else that he feels is tied to the land after the Lilliputians catch him. However, overall, this book has several other motifs such as size, politics, abstract emotions, etc.

Example # 5

From Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

“Having thus arranged my dwelling and carpeted it with clean straw, I retired, for I saw the figure of a man at a distance, and I remembered too well my treatment the night before to trust myself in his power. I had first, however, provided for my sustenance for that day by a loaf of coarse bread, which I purloined, and a cup with which I could drink more conveniently than from my hand of the pure water which flowed by my retreat. The floor was a little raised, so that it was kept perfectly dry, and by its vicinity to the chimney of the cottage it was tolerably warm.

This passage occurs in Frankenstein, a novel by Mary Shelley. This shows the motif of a figure that constantly occurs in this passage. It becomes a motif as well as its main character. The second is the season that becomes hot and cold with the twists and turns in the narrative of Victor and the Monster.

How to Create a Motif
  1. If you are reading a work of fiction or a poem, check what words, ideas, or things are repeating. You can use the same as a writer.
  2. Create some specific motifs relevant to your characters.
  3. Use them quite often including the tasks that could be performed or the tasks repeatedly mentioned.
  4. Use them quite often and evaluate their importance in the story.
Benefits of Using Motif
  1. Its use makes it easier to stress upon the main thematic idea.
  2. It helps form secondary themes in the narrative.
  3. It helps readers focus their attention on one character, idea, or point of persuasion.
  4. It helps persuade the readers and the audiences.
Literary Device of Motif in Literary Theory
  1. Motif is part of those literary devices/terms which are considered essential in narratology. The focuser and the narrator focus on specific motifs when the author wants to convey his/her message through such recurrent ideas or events.
  2. Motifs are also important in cognitive stylistics for the stylistic critique of narratives or fiction writing. They let the readers/audiences have a peep into the psyche of the characters as well as the author.
  3. Motifs, specifically, related to power and subjectivity, are an integral part of post-colonialism, specifically, the narratives written to depict colonialism and post-colonialism culture.
  4. They are also part of indigenous studies, indigenous critical theory, and race critical theory to stress upon the idea of indigeneity and racial discrimination.
Suggested Readings

Bennett, Andrew, and Nicholas Royle. Literature, Criticism and Theory. Harlow, UK: Pearson, 2004. Print.

Baldick, Chris. The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms. Oxford University Press, 1996. Print. Freedman, William. “The literary motif: A Definition and Evaluation.” NOVEL: A Forum on Fiction. Vol. 4. No. 2. Duke University Press, 1971.

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Etymology and Meanings of Literary Device of Allusion

Allusion is a literary device that refers to a person, place, thing, or event from history, mythology, religion, or literature. The word “allusion” comes from the Latin word “alludere,” which means “to play with.” An allusion is a type of figurative language that adds depth and complexity to a text by drawing on readers’ existing knowledge and cultural references.

Meanings of Allusion

Here are some of the literal meanings of allusion:

  1. Reference: Allusion is a reference to something else, usually something well-known, such as a historical event, a famous person, or a work of literature.
  2. Context: Allusion adds context to the writer’s work by referring to something that the reader is already familiar with. By making this reference, the writer can deepen the meaning of their own work.
  3. Association: Allusion creates an association between the writer’s work and the thing being alluded to. This association can be positive or negative, depending on the nature of the allusion and how the reader interprets it.
  4. Intertextuality: Allusion is a form of intertextuality, which is the relationship between texts. By making a reference to another work, the writer is creating a connection between their own work and the work they are alluding to.
  5. Subtext: Allusion can also be used to convey a subtext, which is an underlying meaning or message that is not explicitly stated in the text. By using an allusion, the writer can hint at a deeper meaning without directly stating it.
Definition of Literary Device of Allusion

Allusion is a literary device where a reference is made to a person, place, thing, or event from history, mythology, religion, or literature. It is a way for authors to enrich their writing by drawing on readers’ existing knowledge and cultural references to create resonance between the text and the wider world. Allusions can be subtle or explicit, and they are used to add depth, meaning, and complexity to a work of literature. By referencing a familiar person or event, authors can create connections and associations that enhance the reader’s understanding and appreciation of the text.

Types of Allusion

There are several types of allusion, including:

  1. Biblical Allusion: Refers to people, places, events, or stories from the Bible.
  2. Mythological Allusion: Refers to characters, places, events, or stories from Greek, Roman, or other mythologies.
  3. Historical Allusion: Refers to people, events, or places from history, including political, social, and cultural events.
  4. Literary Allusion: Refers to characters, places, events, or stories from other works of literature.
  5. Pop Culture Allusion: Refers to people, places, events, or stories from popular culture, including movies, TV shows, and music.
  6. Geographical Allusion: Refers to specific places or regions, such as cities, countries, or landmarks.
Common Examples of Allusion

There are many common examples of allusion that can be found in literature, movies, and other forms of media. Here are a few:

  1. “I was surprised his nose wasn’t growing” – An allusion to Pinocchio, the wooden puppet whose nose grew every time he told a lie.
  2. “Chocolate was her Achilles’ heel” – An allusion to the Greek myth of Achilles, whose only weakness was his heel.
  3. “I’m no Superman” – An allusion to the comic book superhero Superman.
  4. “This place is like a Garden of Eden” – An allusion to the biblical story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.
  5. “He’s a real Romeo” – An allusion to the Shakespearean character Romeo from the play Romeo and Juliet.
  6. “She’s a modern-day Cinderella” – An allusion to the fairy tale character Cinderella.
  7. “The restaurant was a veritable Garden of Gethsemane” – An allusion to the biblical garden where Jesus prayed before his crucifixion
Literary Examples
Example # 1

T.S. Eliot, “The Waste Land”

Example: “The winter evening settles down With smell of steaks in passageways. Six o’clock. The burnt-out ends of smoky days.”

Explanation: The first three lines of this poem by T.S. Eliot allude to a famous painting by Edward Hopper called “Nighthawks.” The image of a late-night diner in an urban setting is a reference to Hopper’s painting, which features a similar scene.

Example # 2

From “Sympathy for the Devil” by The Rolling Stones

Example: “And, as I watched him on the stage My hands were clenched in fists of rage. No angel born in Hell Could break that Satan’s spell.”

Explanation: The lyrics of this song by The Rolling Stones allude to the biblical story of Satan’s fall from grace. The line “No angel born in Hell” is a reference to the idea that Satan was once an angel in heaven before he was cast out for rebelling against God.

Example # 3

From The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Example: “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

Explanation: This line from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby alludes to a line from a poem by the 19th-century writer Tennyson: “Tis better to have loved and lost / Than never to have loved at all.” In Fitzgerald’s novel, the line refers to the idea that the characters are constantly struggling against the forces of time and the past.

Example # 4

From A Margin of Hope by Irving Howe

Example: “I am a Tolstoyan when it comes to love and a Dostoevskian when it comes to sin.”

Explanation: This sentence alludes to two famous Russian authors, Leo Tolstoy and Fyodor Dostoevsky. The speaker is saying that they believe in the romantic and idealized view of love that Tolstoy portrays in his novels, but they also recognize the darker, more complex aspects of human nature that Dostoevsky explores in his work.

How to Create Allusions

Creating effective allusions involves making connections between different works or events in a way that enhances the meaning of the text. Here are some steps to follow when creating allusions:

  1. Choose the reference: Choose a reference that is relevant to the message you are trying to convey. This could be a literary work, historical event, cultural phenomenon, or artistic piece.
  2. Understand the reference: Before using a reference as an allusion, it is important to understand the context and significance of the reference. This may involve research or reading the original work.
  3. Make the connection: Make a connection between the reference and the message you are trying to convey. This could involve drawing parallels or highlighting similarities and differences.
  4. Use the allusion effectively: Use the allusion in a way that enhances the meaning of the text. Avoid using allusions that are too obscure or that require too much explanation, as this can detract from the message.
  5. Consider your audience: When using allusions, it is important to consider your audience and their background knowledge. An allusion that is familiar to one group of people may be completely unknown to another.
  6. Use allusions sparingly: Overusing allusions can detract from the message and make the text difficult to understand. Use allusions sparingly and only when they add value to the text.
Benefits of Using Allusions

Here are some benefits of using allusions:

  1. Enhance understanding: Allusions can help readers or listeners to better understand or relate to the message being conveyed. It can also make the text more engaging and interesting.
  2. Add layers of meaning: Allusions can add layers of meaning to the text by connecting it to other works or events, providing a deeper understanding of the subject matter.
  3. Save time and space: Allusions can be a quick way to convey information or ideas without the need for lengthy explanations or descriptions.
  4. Build credibility: Allusions can show the writer or speaker’s knowledge of culture, history, and literature, which can enhance their credibility and authority on the subject.
  5. Create emotional connections: Allusions can create emotional connections with readers or listeners who share a common cultural or historical background, leading to a deeper emotional impact.
Literary Device of Allusion in Literary Theory

It is a common literary device used across various literary theories. Here are eight literary theories and how it is used in each:

  1. New Criticism: New criticism emphasizes close reading of the text itself, and allusion is often used to highlight connections within the text, such as referencing a character’s previous actions or words.
  2. Reader-Response Theory: Reader-response theory focuses on the reader’s interpretation of the text, and allusion can be used to evoke the reader’s own personal experiences and associations.
  3. Feminist Criticism: Feminist Criticism often uses allusion to reference female characters or authors, as well as historical or cultural events related to women’s rights.
  4. Marxist Criticism: Marxist Criticism uses allusion to connect the text to social and economic structures, such as referencing historical events or literary works that reflect class struggle.
  5. Postcolonial Criticism: Postcolonial Criticism uses allusion to reference colonialism, imperialism, and cultural domination, such as referencing historical events or literary works that reflect the effects of colonization.
  6. Psychoanalytic Criticism: Psychoanalytic Criticism uses allusion to explore the psychological motivations of characters, such as referencing works related to the character’s subconscious desires or experiences.
  7. Deconstruction: Deconstruction uses allusion to highlight the contradictions and ambiguities within the text, often by referencing other works that expose these contradictions.
  8. Queer Theory: Queer theory uses allusion to highlight LGBTQ+ themes and references, such as referencing works that explore gender and sexuality in different ways.
Suggested Readings

Bloom, Harold. The Anatomy of Influence: Literature as a Way of Life. Yale University Press, 2011.

Hirsch, E.D. Jr. Validity in Interpretation. Yale University Press, 1967. Hutcheon, Linda. A Theory of Parody: The Teachings of Twentieth-Century Art Forms. University of Illinois Press, 2000.

The Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Allen Poe

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A classic short story by Edgar Allan Poe, “The Cask of Amontillado” first appeared in 1846 in the magazine Godey’s Lady’s Book. Since then, it has won fame and popularity to Poe solely due to its exotically terrifying setting. Set in Italy, the story follows Montresor’s twisted plan to seek revenge on his acquaintance, Fortunato, by luring him into the catacombs under the guise of tasting a rare wine. The story’s popularity has endured over time due to its masterful use of suspense, atmosphere, and dark humor, as well as its exploration of themes such as revenge, madness, and the blurred line between reality and illusion. It has become part of anthologies and classroom text booms across the globe, bringing Poe’s reputation tt the top among the master of horror and suspense stories.

Main Events in “The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allen Poe
  1. Montresor, who feels insulted by his acquaintance Fortunato, decides to seek revenge on him.
  2. During Carnival, Montresor encounters Fortunato and tells him he has a rare wine called Amontillado that he needs an expert opinion on.
  3. Fortunato, who is a wine connoisseur, eagerly follows Montresor to the catacombs where Montresor has told him he has stored Amontillado.
  4. On the way to the catacomb, he showers praises on Fortunato, causing him to feel jealous over the mention of another connoisseur, and coaxes him to go with him. He also gives him sips from his cask to keep him drunk and disoriented.
  5. Montresor leads Fortunato deep into the catacombs, eventually bringing him to a small room where he has promised to show him the Amontillado.
  6. Montresor chains Fortunato to the wall and begins to build a wall of bricks around him, effectively burying him alive.
  7. Throughout the process, Fortunato becomes confused in his thrill and excitement of checking Amontillado, and then begins to realize Montresor’s true intentions.
  8. Montresor continues to taunt Fortunato, mocking him for his foolishness and begging for his forgiveness.
  9. Finally, the wall is complete, and Montresor leaves Fortunato to die alone in the darkness.
  10. The story ends with Montresor reflecting on his successful revenge and paying that “May he rest in peace!”
Literary Devices in “The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allen Poe
  1. Alliteration: Repetition of consonant sounds at the beginning of words in a sentence, for example “now no human has touched them” in the story, repeating the sounds of /n/, /h/, and /t/.
  2. Allusion: A reference to a well-known person, place, event, or work of literature, such as the reference to Montresor’s family catacombs.
  3. Antagonist: Montresor, the protagonist of the story, is also the antagonist because he is the one perpetrating the crime, while Fortunato is an innocent connoisseur.
  4. Foreshadowing: The hints and clues that Poe drops throughout the story, such as the description of the catacombs and the reference to the Masons, foreshadow the dark and twisted turn that the story takes.
  5. Hyperbole: An exaggerated statement used to emphasize a point, such as Montresor’s claim that Fortunato’s cough “the cough is a mere nothing; it will not kill me.”
  6. Imagery: Vivid and descriptive language used to create mental images, such as the description of the damp catacombs and the smell of the nitre about which Montresor tells “It hangs like moss upon the vaults.”
  7. Irony: The contrast between what is expected and what actually happens, such as the fact that Fortunato is in a jester’s dress and yet facing the risk of death.
  8. Metaphor: A comparison between two unlike things to highlight a particular similarity, such as the comparison between Fortunato and a “clown.”
  9. Mood: The emotional atmosphere of a story created by the author, such as the eerie and suspenseful mood that Poe creates in the catacombs.
  10. Motif: A recurring theme or image, such as the references to the Masons and the coat of arms.
  11. Personification: The attribution of human qualities to non-human things, such as the personification of the nitre as a “white web-work.”
  12. Point of View: The perspective from which the story is told, in this case, from Montresor’s point of view.
  13. Repetition: The repeated use of a word or phrase, such as the repetition of the word “revenge” throughout the story.
  14. Satire: The use of humor, irony, or exaggeration to ridicule human behavior, such as the irony of Montresor’s twisted sense of revenge.
  15. Setting: The time and place where the story takes place, in this case, during the carnival season in Italy.
  16. Simile: A comparison between two unlike things using “like” or “as,” such as the comparison between Fortunato’s smile and that of a wild animal.
  17. Symbolism: The use of symbols to represent ideas or concepts, such as the coat of arms and the Masons.
  18. Tone: The author’s attitude towards the subject or the audience, such as Poe’s ominous and foreboding tone throughout the story.
Characterization in “The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allen Poe
Major Characters:
  1. Montresor: He is the narrator and protagonist of the story. Montresor is consumed by the desire for revenge against his acquaintance Fortunato, whom he believes has insulted him. He is cold and calculating, manipulating Fortunato into the catacombs under false pretenses and eventually trapping and killing him by building a wall around him after making him sit in a niche.
  2. Fortunato: The victim of Montresor’s revenge. Fortunato is a wine connoisseur who is easily lured by Montresor’s promise of a rare wine called Amontillado. He is depicted as arrogant and foolish, unable to see through Montresor’s manipulations until it is too late.
Minor Characters:
  1. Luchesi: A wine expert whom Montresor mentions as a potential rival to Fortunato. He never appears in the story, but Montresor uses him to manipulate Fortunato’s ego and convince him to continue to check the Amontillado lying in the basement of his catacomb.
  2. Montresor’s servants: They are briefly mentioned as having left Montresor’s home for the evening, allowing him to carry out his plan without any interference.
  3. The Montresor and Fortunato families: Both are referenced in the story, with the implication that there may be some sort of long-standing feud or rivalry between them. However, the story does not show specific details.

Overall, the focus of the story is primarily on the relationship between Montresor and Fortunato, with the other characters serving as supporting elements to the plot.

Writing Style in “The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allen Poe

Edgar Allan Poe’s writing style in “The Cask of Amontillado” shows characteristics of its Gothic elements, including vivid descriptions of the setting and a focus on the darker aspects of human nature. In the first-person point of view, the story presents Montresor as the narrator, which creates a sense of intimacy with the reader and adds to the story’s suspense. Poe’s use of foreshadowing and irony is also notable, as he drops hints throughout the story that build up to the shocking ending. The language used is often poetic and evocative, with descriptions of the damp catacombs and the scent of the nitre adding to the story’s eerie atmosphere. Overall, Poe’s writing style in “The Cask of Amontillado” is masterful in that it creates a sense of tension and unease, making it a classic example of Gothic literature.

Major Themes in “The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allen Poe

Some of the major themes in “The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allan Poe include:

  1. Revenge: The story moves with Montresor’s desire for revenge against Fortunato, who has insulted him. Montresor’s plan to lure Fortunato into the catacombs and murder him is a chilling example of the destructive power of revenge.
  2. Betrayal: Montresor feels that Fortunato once insulted and betrayed him. This fuels his desire for revenge. However, the story also raises questions about Montresor’s own loyalty, as he plans to murder a man who trusts him.
  3. Deception: Montresor is a master of deception, using his intelligence and cunning to lure Fortunato into his trap. The story highlights the dangers of trusting others blindly and the power of manipulation.
  4. Madness: Montresor’s obsession with revenge and his willingness to commit murder suggest that he may be mentally unstable. The story explores the theme of madness and its destructive effects on the human mind.
  5. Mortality: The catacombs are a symbol of death and decay, reminding the reader of the inevitability of death. The story raises questions about the nature of mortality and the limits of human power and control.
Literary Theories and Interpretation of “The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allen Poe

There are various literary theories and interpretations of “The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allan Poe. Some of these include:

  1. Gothic Literature: The story is often seen as a classic example of Gothic literature. It shows Gothic features through its dark and eerie atmosphere with an emphasis on the darker aspects of human nature, and the use of suspense and horror. It also creates a sense of terror in the reader.
  2. Psychoanalytic Theory: Some scholars have interpreted the story through a psychoanalytic lens, suggesting that it reflects Poe’s own psychological struggles and fears. For example, Montresor’s obsession with revenge may be seen as a reflection of Poe’s own struggles with anger and resentment.
  3. Reader-response Theory: This theory focuses on the reader’s interpretation of the text, suggesting that each reader brings their own experiences and perspectives to the story. In this sense, the story may be interpreted in a variety of ways depending on the reader’s background and context.
  4. Postcolonial Theory: Some scholars have interpreted the story through a postcolonial lens, suggesting that it reflects Poe’s own anxieties about power and control. For example, Montresor’s manipulation and abuse of power may be seen as a reflection of the oppressive colonial systems that existed in Poe’s time.
  5. Symbolism: Many elements of the story, such as the catacombs, the nitre, and the Montresor coat of arms, could have symbolic interpretations. For example, the catacombs may represent the dark recesses of the human mind, while the Montresor’s coat of arms may represent the family’s history of violence and vengeance.
Questions-Thesis Statements about “The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allen Poe
  1. What is the psychological motivation behind Montresor’s desire for revenge against Fortunato?

Thesis Statement: Through the use of characterization and symbolism, Poe demonstrates how Montresor’s thirst for vengeance against Fortunato is driven by his own wounded pride and need for dominance.

  • How does Poe use setting and atmosphere to create a sense of dread and horror in the story?

Thesis Statement: By carefully crafting the dark and ominous setting of the catacombs and creating a foreboding atmosphere of suspense, Poe heightens the reader’s sense of terror and anxiety.

  • What role does irony play in the story, particularly in the interactions between Montresor and Fortunato?

Thesis Statement: Through his use of dramatic irony, Poe reveals the true nature of Montresor’s plan to the reader, while Fortunato remains oblivious until it is too late, resulting in a tragic and ironic end.

  • How does Poe use foreshadowing to create tension and anticipation throughout the story? Thesis Statement: By dropping subtle hints and clues throughout the story, such as Montresor’s mention of his family motto and the imagery of the crypts and tombs, Poe builds a sense of foreboding that ultimately culminates in the shocking finale.
  • What is the significance of the title “The Cask of Amontillado” and how does it relate to the themes of the story?

Thesis Statement: The title “The Cask of Amontillado” is significant because it symbolizes the deceptive nature of appearances and how things are not always as they seem. Through this symbolism, Poe explores the themes of revenge, betrayal, and the dangers of unchecked pride.

  • How does Poe’s use of unreliable narration contribute to the impact and meaning of the story?

Thesis Statement: By using Montresor as an unreliable narrator, Poe heightens the ambiguity and moral complexity of the story, forcing the reader to question their own assumptions about justice and revenge.

Short Questions About “The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allen Poe

  1. What is the significance of the carnival setting in the story, “The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allen Poe?

The carnival setting serves as a significant backdrop for the story’s events. It creates a sense of chaos and deception, where things are not what they seem, making it easier for Montresor to lure Fortunato into the catacombs without arousing suspicion. The carnival is also a time of excess and indulgence, where people often abandon their inhibitions and indulge in their desires. This creates an opportunity for Montresor to exploit Fortunato’s love of wine and pride in his connoisseurship to carry out his act of revenge. The carnival atmosphere also provides an ironic contrast to the story’s dark and macabre tone, adding to the sense of horror and foreboding.

  1. What is the role of wine and alcohol in the story, “The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allen Poe?

Wine and alcohol play a symbolic role in the story, representing both pleasure and danger. Fortunato’s love of wine and his desire to taste the rare Amontillado are used by Montresor to lure him into the catacombs and ultimately lead to his downfall. The wine also serves as a metaphor for the intoxicating effects of pride, as both Montresor and Fortunato are consumed by their own sense of superiority and self-importance. Additionally, the consumption of wine leads to Fortunato’s impaired judgment and inability to perceive the danger he is in, making him an easy target for Montresor’s revenge.

  1. What is the significance of the family motto “Nemo me impune lacessit” in the story, “The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allen Poe?

The family motto “Nemo me impune lacessit,” which translates to “No one attacks me with impunity,” serves as a warning to anyone who would dare to insult or cross the Montresor family. It also underscores the theme of revenge and the idea that Montresor feels justified in seeking retribution for Fortunato’s perceived insult. By using the family motto, Poe creates a sense of history and tradition surrounding the Montresor family, emphasizing the importance of pride and honor within their culture. Additionally, the use of Latin adds to the story’s gothic and archaic tone, contributing to its overall eerie atmosphere.

  1. What is the overall message or lesson of the story?

“The Cask of Amontillado” is a cautionary tale about the dangers of unchecked pride and the destructive consequences of revenge. It shows how even the most meticulously planned acts of revenge can ultimately lead to one’s own downfall and suffering, emphasizing the importance of forgiveness and letting go of grudges. Through the characters of Montresor and Fortunato, Poe illustrates the toxic effects of pride and the corrosive nature of revenge. Ultimately, the story serves as a warning against the dangers of succumbing to our baser instincts and allowing our desires for revenge and power to consume us.

You May also like: A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings


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Etymology and Meanings of Literary Device Hyperbole

Etymologically, the term hyperbole is a derivative of a Greek term, huperbole that entered the Latin language as hyperbola. It entered the English language during the Middle Ages and turned into hyperbole that means to exaggerate.

Literally, it means to throw beyond. There was also a Greek verb of hyperbola that was hyperballein which also means throw beyond, or over something. In other words, the term has similar meanings in both Greek and Latin languages.

Grammatically, it is a noun used as a singular having hyperboles as its plural.

Definition of Literary Device Hyperbole

In literature, hyperbole is a term used to exaggerate something. However, it is mostly used in rhetoric, poetry, and oratory to emphasize something or evoke strong feelings about something.

It is a figure of speech that means not to take something literally and exaggerate things to evoke a strong response from the readers or the audience.

Common Examples of Hyperbole
  1. He could have wept buckets over her death.
  2. He is so agile that he could have jumped rivers to reach his home.
  3. My grandfather is ages old now.
  4. You must have run millions of miles to reach him.
  5. He is a matchstick wrestler.
  6. He is as tall as a bamboo.
  7. His color exceeds bitumen in blackness.
  8. The night was scaring him.
Literary Examples of Hyperbole
Example # 1

From The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger

In the first place, that stuff bores me, and in the second place, my parents would have about two hemorrhages apiece if I told anything pretty personal about them.

This sentence occurs in The Catcher in the Rye, a phenomenal novel by Salinger. Holden Caulfield thinks about his parents that had they known his school behavior, they would have had two hemorrhages which do not seem possible. He has rather exaggerated their likely shock at the situation in which he has put himself in.

Example # 2

From “Air and Angels” by John Donne

Twice or thrice had I lov’d thee,

Before I knew thy face or name;

So in a voice, so in a shapeless flame

Angels affect us oft, and worshipp’d be;

         Still when, to where thou wert, I came,

Some lovely glorious nothing I did see.

These verses occur in the poem “Air and Angels” written by a popular metaphysical poet, John Donne. Almost every other verse exaggerates things that are not possible in the world. Donne cannot love a person twice or thrice nor do the angles come to intensify their love. Therefore, this is merely an exaggeration of feelings.

Example # 3

From “The Anniversary” by John Donne

All Kings, and all their favourites,

         All glory of honours, beauties, wits,

    The sun itself, which makes times, as they pass,

    Is elder by a year now than it was

    When thou and I first one another saw:

    All other things to their destruction draw,

         Only our love hath no decay;

    This no tomorrow hath, nor yesterday,

    Running it never runs from us away,

But truly keeps his first, last, everlasting day.

These verses have been borrowed from the poem of John Donne, “The Anniversary.” Every other verse exaggerates things to the extreme. Instead of enjoying their own festivity and counting time, he argues that the sun has gone older and that other things have witnessed decay but their love is still fresh. Almost every other conceit he has used in this poem is a hyperbole.

Example # 4

From Hamlet by William Shakespeare

What a piece of work is man…how like an apprehension, how like a god; the beauty of the world…. And yet to me, what is this quintessence of dust?

These lines occur in the play, Hamlet, by William Shakespeare. He has exaggerated man, equating him to god and the entire beauty of the world. This exaggeration, then, ends on the point that he (man) is a quintessence of dust. This is a beautiful hyperbole he has used in Hamlet.

Example # 5

From Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

Two men stood directly in front of me, one speaking with intense earnestness. “. . . and Johnson hit Jeffries at an angle of 45 degrees from his lower left lateral incisor, producing an instantaneous blocking of his entire thalamic rine, frosting it over like the freezing unit of a refrigerator, thus shattering his autonomous nervous system and rocking the big brick-laying creampuff with extreme hyperspasmic muscular tremors.

This passage occurs in the novel, Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison. Johnson is thrashing Jeffries but it does not occur in such a precise manner as he is stating. Nobody sees the degree of the angel when hitting or nobody makes another one frosty like a refrigerator. These are merely exaggerations. Therefore, these are beautiful hyperboles Ellison has used.

How to Create Hyperboles

  1. Plan using an idea such as light.
  2. Create a similarity between two ideas such as the brightness of the light.
  3. Use a simile such as the light was as bright as the sun itself.
  4. Use it in descriptive writing through a character or a third-person narrator.
  5. A hyperbole must be relevant, direct, clear, outlandish, or outrageous, and deliberate.
Benefits of Using Hyperbole
  1. It leads to the clarity of ideas.
  2. It enhances the impact of the description.
  3. It widens readers’ imagination.
  4. It makes readers aware of the enormity of situations or the reality of things
Literary Device Hyperbole in Literary Theory
  1. As hyperbole is an essential element of figurative language, obviously it is important when taking a formalistic literary review of a poem, story, or novel. Also, when it involves the rhetoric of fiction, it means that hyperbole is part of the rhetoric. Therefore, hyperbole helps readers understand the real message of the writing when analyzed through formalism.
  2. Hyperbole also helps in indigenous critical theory and race critical theory when a piece of art or literature is analyzed from this perspective. The reason is that indigenous linguistic features and indigenous discourse often employ hyperboles to intensify the feelings of oppression and suppression.
  3. Hyperbole is the main element of rhetoric and psycholinguistics. The reason is that rhetoric means to persuade and convince the people about the just or unjust case in the political realm. As every fiction is a political discourse in one or the other way, it is part of rhetoric and hence hyperbole is an essential part of it. Therefore, when doing a rhetorical analysis or doing analysis from a psycholinguistic point of view, it is important to review the role of hyperbole in such writings.
Suggested Readings

Barry, Peter. Beginning Theory: An Introduction To Literary And Cultural Theory. Manchester University Press, 2020. Print.

Bennett, Andrew, and Nicholas Royle. Literature, Criticism, and Theory. Harlow, UK: Pearson, 2004. Print.

Mora, Laura Cano. “All Or Nothing: A Semantic Analysis of Hyperbole.” Revista de Lingüística y Lenguas Aplicadas 4.1 (2009): 25-35. Thompson, Michael, Richard Ellis, and Aaron Wildavsky. Cultural Theory. Routledge, 2018. Print.


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Etymology and Meanings of Literary Device of Onomatopoeia

Etymologically, the literary device of onomatopoeia has entered the English language from the Latin language. In Latin, it has come from Greecian terms onoma and poiein. Onoma means the name and poiein means to create or make. Therefore, it means creating sounds specific to titles or names. The term is in vogue in the English language since the 16th century.

Grammatically, it is a noun. Different dictionaries state that it is an act of creating sounds for different specific things that are akin to those things.

Definition of Literary Device of Onomatopoeia

As a literary term, onomatopoeia means a process of creating sounds through words for specific animals that resemble those animals. For example, the bleating of lambs, the roaring of lions, and the braying of donkeys.

Common Examples of Literary Device of Onomatopoeia
  1. Dogs bark.
  2. Cellphones beep.
  3. Bees buzz.
  4. Leaves rustle.
  5. Birds chirp.
  6. Snakes hiss.
  7. Alligators hiss.
Literary Examples of Onomatopoeia
Example # 1

From ‘Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard’ by Thomas Gray

The breezy call of incense-breathing Morn,

         The swallow twitt’ring from the straw-built shed,

The [rooster]’s shrill clarion, or the echoing horn, (word replace for offensive nuances)

         No more shall rouse them from their lowly bed.

These verses from Thomas Gray’s popular “Elegy” shows the use of the literary device of onomatopoeia in the third verse such as the clarion of a cock and echoing of a horn. The second line also shows the use of twitter with swallow though it is used with almost every other bird. This is a beautiful use of onomatopoeia.

Example # 2

From Macbeth by William Shakespeare

Double, double toil and trouble;

Fire burn and caldron bubble.

Fillet of a fenny snake,

In the caldron boil and bake;

Eye of newt and toe of frog,

Wool of bat and tongue of dog,

Adder’s fork and blind-worm’s sting,

Lizard’s leg and howlet’s wing,

For a charm of powerful trouble,

Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

These verses from Macbeth, a popular play by William Shakespeare, show how Shakespeare is adept in using the literary device, onomatopoeia. Here double, bubble, and its repeated use show that the use of onomatopoeia has created a unique musical quality.

Example # 3

From Tales of Childhood by Rold Dahl

Mr Coombes stood back and took up a firm stance with his legs well apart. I thought how small Thwaites’s bottom looked and how very tight it was. Mr Coombes had his eyes focused squarely upon it. He raised the cane high above his shoulder, and as he brought it down, it made a loud swishing sound, and then there was a crack like a pistol shot as it struck Thwaites’s bottom.
Little Thwaites seemed to lift about a foot into the air and he yelled ‘Ow-w-w-w-w-w-w-w-w-w!’ and straightened up like elastic. ‘‘Arder!’ shrieked a voice from over in the corner.

These lines from Tales of Childhood by Dahl show the use of sounds. Arder and oww are sounds though they are meaningless and are not associated with anything specific. Yet their usage shows that they could become popular when associated with something specific as here with the emotions and mood of Little Thwaites. This is a good use of the literary device of onomatopoeia.

Example # 4

From Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling

So her Mummy most carefully didn’t; and bright and early next morning Tegumai went down to the river to think about new sound pictures, and when Taffy got up she saw Ya-las (water is ending or running out) chalked on the side of the big stone water-tank, outside the Cave.
‘Um,’ said Taffy. ‘These picture-sounds are rather a bother! Daddy’s just as good as come here himself and told me to get more water for Mummy to cook with.’ She went to the spring at the back of the house and filled the tank from a bark bucket, and then she ran down to the river and pulled her Daddy’s left ear—the one that belonged to her to pull when she was good.

Kipling, too, has used Ya-las and Um as specific sounds that are only associated with human beings in Just So Stories. The reason for this use of onomatopoeic sounds is that human beings are inventive and creative and can create and subsequently associate the sounds with specific acts.

Example # 5

From Animal Farm by George Orwell

And then, after a few preliminary tries, the whole farm burst out into Beasts of England in tremendous unison. The cows lowed it, the dogs whined it, the sheep bleated it, the horses whinnied it, the ducks quacked it. They were so delighted with the song that they sang it right through five times in succession, and might have continued singing it all night if they had not been interrupted.

This passage occurs in Animal Farm, a phenomenal fable by George Orwell. Here Orwell has listed the sounds of all the animals such as the winning of the dogs and the bleating of sheep. These sounds show the skill of George Orwell in using the literray device of onomatopoeia.

How to Create Onomatopoeia
  1. Check with the specific idea, thing, plant, or animal and think out about its specific sound.
  2. If there is no specific sound, feel the sound and use your sense to create a new one.
  3. Place the sound in a specific context.
  4. Evaluate whether the sound makes sense in that context and could be used in other contexts, too.
Benefits of Using Onomatopoeia
  1. It helps readers understand things, objects, and animals and their associated sounds.
  2. It helps writers clearly define and present things and events.
  3. It helps writers write distinct and beautiful descriptions.
  4. It shows the dexterity of the writer in his craft.
  5. There are no specific sounds for specific new things such as you could garr for grate or carr for screeching of a wood on the floor.
Literary Device of Onomatopoeia in Literary Theory
  1. As far as literary theory is concerned, onomatopoeia is an integral part of descriptive and figurative language. Therefore, it is important to review and critique the role of the literary device of onomatopoeia in formalism, readers’ response theory, New Criticism, and psychoanalytic literary theory.
  2. It is also important in indigenous critical theory as distinct sounds are different for each indigenous animal or object.
  3. It is an integral part of postmodernism and postcolonialism when it comes to narratives of different cultures to mark the epistemological values of these sounds in native cultures.
Suggested Readings

Abrams, Meyer Howard, and Geoffrey Harpham. A Glossary Of Literary Terms. Cengage Learning, 2014. Print.

Assaneo, María Florencia, Juan Ignacio Nichols, and Marcos Alberto Trevisan. ‘The Anatomy of Onomatopoeia.’ PloS one 6.12 (2011): e28317. Bredin, Hugh. ‘Onomatopoeia as a Figure and a Linguistic Principle.’ New Literary History 27.3 (1996): 555-569.


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Etymology and Meanings of Literary Device Juxtaposition

Etymologically, the literary term, juxtaposition, has originated from the Latin term juxta which means close, near, or at hand. It entered the French vocabulary in 1660, which almost means the same thing that two things are close to each other, or one thing is beside the other, or one thing is near the other.

Definition of Literary Device Juxtaposition

In literature, juxtaposition means to put two ideas or literary or linguistic elements close to each other in the same sentence, showing their comparison and contrast, or for that matter their differences or similarities which are not explicit but implicit.

Common Examples of Juxtaposition
  1. Do what you wish and don’t do what you hate.
  2. Let us demonstrate bravery, but not demonstrate cowardness.
  3. Do not make black white or white black. Let the color stay the same and see the same sameness.
  4. It was the best of the times and it was the worst of the times. (A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens)
  5. Let us not dispel our fear, but expel our cowardness.
  6. Show your guts and remove the ruts.
Literary Examples of Juxtaposition
Example # 1

From Hamlet by William Shakespeare

And to the manner born, it is a custom
More honored in the breach than the observance.
This heavy-headed revel east and west
Makes us traduced and taxed of other nations.
They clepe us drunkards, and with swinish phrase
Soil our addition, and indeed it takes
From our achievements, though performed at height,
The pith and marrow of our attribute.

Hamlet speaks these lines in the first act of the play where he juxtaposes different ideas as shown as “honored in the breach than the observance.” It shows a comparison in the very next line about the east and west as well as “pith and marrow.” This shows how Hamlet differentiates different conventions in different cultures and compares them to his own culture.

Example # 2

From A Pair of Blue Eyes by Thomas Hardy

Elfride had as her own the thoughtfulness which appears in the face of the Madonna della Sedia, without its rapture: the warmth and spirit of the type of woman’s feature most common to the beauties––mortal and immortal––of Rubens, without their insistent fleshliness. The characteristic expression of the female faces of Correggio*––that of the yearning human thoughts that lie too deep for tears*––was hers sometimes, but seldom under ordinary

This passage occurs in the novel of Thomas Hardy, A Pair of Blue Eyes. He presents the character of Elfride and her thoughtfulness as how it looks when compared to mortal and immortal, common and specific, and superficial and deep. The last one is rather implicit as the other two ideas are explicitly compared.

Example # 3

From A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams

Two women, one white and one colored, are taking the air on the steps of the building. The white woman is Eunice, who occupies the upstairs flat; the colored woman a neighbor, for New Orleans is a cosmopolitan city where there is a relatively warm and easy intermingling of races in the old part of town.

This setting in the first scene of the play by Tennessee Williams shows how the author has beautifully compared two ladies with two different cultures putting the ideas in juxtaposition so that the readers fully understand his purpose. This juxtaposition intensifies the understanding of the audience.

Example # 4

From A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

I don’t enjoy it,” I said. He shook his head and looked out of the window.
“You do not mind it. You do not see it. You must forgive me. I know you are
“That is an accident.”
“Still even wounded you do not see it. I can tell. I do not see it myself but I feel it a
“When I was wounded we were talking about it. Passini was talking.”
The priest put down the glass. He was thinking about something else.
“I know them because I am like they are,” he said.

This passage occurs in the novel, A Farewell To Arms, by Ernest Hemingway. It shows how Hemingway has juxtaposed different ideas about knowing, not knowing, enjoying, not enjoying, and looking, not looking in the conversation between Rinaldi and the priest. Rinaldi even states that he does not see but only feels that is an interesting juxtaposition of two different ideas of seeing and feeling.

Example # 5

“Fire and Ice” by Robert Frost

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

This short poem presents the anaphoric juxtaposition of two different ideas as shown in the title. Frost compares both the ideas of fire and ice after equating them with love and hate and survival and destruction though survival is implicit and not explicit.

Example # 6

From Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neal Hurston

Now, women forget all those things they don’t want to remember, and remember everything they don’t want to forget. The dream is the truth. Then they act and do things accordingly.

Zora Neal Hurston has beautifully reversed as well as juxtaposed two ideas remembrance and forgetting in the same sentence, joining them with a conjunction. Although it is a reversal of the same ideas, it is a beautiful juxtaposition that an African American woman writer has used.

How to Create Juxtaposition
  1. Make a plan to compare, contrast, differentiate, or equate two events, characters, ideas, character traits, objects, or abstractions.
  2. Think about where, how, and when you want to employ those two ideas.
  3. Create a sentence with two ideas in it with both in different clauses, each clause having an equal number of words.
  4. Read the sentence again to check that you have compared or contrasted them.
  5. Now relate them to what you have used the idea for.
Benefits of Using Juxtaposition
  1. Showing good or bad traits of a character through the juxtaposition of two characters such as God and Satan in Paradise Lost by John Milton, or Hamlet and Claudius in Hamlet by William Shakespeare.
  2. Showing relations between ideas, races, nations, characters, and objects such as Claudius and Hamlet are related to each other. Black and white color are related to each other in racial discrimination.
  3. Showing a binary opposition in the theoretical lenses.
  4. Showing a sense of humor through comparison and contrast of opposite ideas such as in “A Modest Proposal” by Jonathan Swift.
Literary Device Juxtaposition in Literary Theory
  1. Juxtaposition is an integral part of the formalistic analysis of a literary piece as it shows different ideas compared, contrasted, and equated to each other such as totalitarianism and democracy have been contrasted in Animal Farm by George Orwell and liberalism and authoritarianism have been contrasted in 1984 by George Orwell.
  2. Juxtaposition is also very useful when analyzing a piece of literature from indigenous critical theory, critical race theory, or post-colonialism. It outlines the binary oppositions of different cultures, races, and social structures during the analysis of the texts written in these cultural scenarios.
  3. It also helps in outlining ideas in the reader’s response theory as it juxtaposes the author and the text, the reader and the author, and the author’s ideas and ideas of the society in which he lives.
Suggested Readings

Abrams, Meyer Howard, and Geoffrey Harpham. A Glossary of Literary Terms. Cengage Learning, 2014. Print.

Bennett, Andrew, and Nicholas Royle. Literature, Criticism and Theory. Harlow, UK: Pearson, 2004. Print.

Horrocks, Roger. Mosaic: A Study of Juxtaposition in Literature, As An Approach to Pound’s Cantos and Similar Modern Poems. Diss. ResearchSpace@ Auckland, 1976. Ebook. Sontag, Susan. “Happenings: An Art of Radical Juxtaposition.” Against Interpretation (1966): 263-74.


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Etymology and Meanings of Literary Device of Imagery

Etymologically, the literary term, imagery, seems to have originated from the archaic French word, image. It soon transformed into imager which means making an image, or imagerie that entered the English language as imagery. In Middle English, it meant statuary or carved images. It is also said that the term has originated from a Latin term, imitari which means to copy or imitate something.

Now, it is used as imagery which also means images. In grammar, it is a noun.

Definition of Literary Device of Imagery

As a literary term, imagery means the use of language in novels, poems, short stories, or essays, showing the use of figurative language intended to evoke sensory experiences of the readers. It often appeals to the five senses: sight, smell, touch, sound, and taste. In other words, it means the verbal description of things to create mental images in readers.

Common Examples of Imagery

Imagery is common in everyday language. People often use these images to make their audience picture things.

  • His gait was abnormally dismal like a lame duck.
  • The trees were shedding leaves like a hailstorm.
  • The leaves were making a blanket on the grass.
  • The grass was waving its long arms in the wind.
  • The darkness was threatening their calm walk.
Literary Examples of Imagery
Example # 1

From Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare

“Brutus, I do observe you now of late:
I have not from your eyes that gentleness
And show of love as I was wont to have:
You bear too stubborn and too strange a hand
Over your friend that loves you.”

This is a very good use of descriptive language Shakespeare uses in his play, Julius Caesar. The images that Cassius creates about Brutus and his eyes show that he lacks gentleness. This shows that his hand is not only strange but also stubborn. The metaphorical language creates two powerful images; strange eyes and strange hands that both have turned to their benefactor, though, the owner of both is Brutus. This is a beautiful way of indirectly saying things to a person about another person through the use of imagery.

Example # 2

From Hamlet by William Shakespeare

So, oft it chances in particular men,
That for some vicious mole of nature in them,
As, in their birth–wherein they are not guilty,
Since nature cannot choose his origin–
By the o’ergrowth of some complexion,
Oft breaking down the pales and forts of reason.

These lines from Hamlet show that the readers or audiences see the use of the metaphor of a mole, the personification of nature, and images of color create a strong sense of an evil person. This is the use of images of color, sight, and sound that makes these lines powerful. The sense that the imagery creates is that of an evil.

Example # 3

From Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie

Mrs. Darling Screamed, and, as if in answer to a bell, the door opened, and Nana entered, returned from her evening out. She growled and sprang at the boy, who leapt lightly through the window. Again Mrs. Darling screamed, this time in distress for him, for she thought he was killed, and she ran down into the street to look for his little body, but it was not there; and she looked up, and in the black night she could see nothing but what she thought was a shooting.

This passage occurs in Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie. The images of sound in the second line show the use of figurative language and the sensory experience of sound that the readers will go through. It seems as if Nana is a dog. The response is almost the same as Mrs. Darling shows the same thing. Again, an image of color appears by the end. This passage shows the use of imagery.

Example # 4

From “Past, Present, Future” by Emily Bronte

Tell me, tell me, smiling child,

What the past is like to thee?

‘An autumn evening soft and mild

Wind a wind that sights mournfully.’

Tell, what is the present hour?

‘A green and flowery spray

Where a young bird sits gathering its power

To mount and fly away.’

These verses from the poem “Past, Present, Future” by Emily Bronte show the use of different images. The image of touch “soft and mild,” the image of sight of color “green and spray” and of movement such as “mount and fly” show that Emily Bronte has used balanced imagery to make the children read this rhyming poem as a song.

Example # 5

From “A Birthday” by Christina Rossetti

My heart is like a singing bird

Whose nest is in a water’s shoot;

My heart is like an apple-tree

Whose boughs are bent with thickest fruit;

My heart is like a rainbow shell

That paddles in a halcyon sea;

My heart is gladder than all these

Because my love is come to me.

These lines from “A Birthday” shows the beautiful use of different images. The use of metaphors makes these images accentuate as the singing bird, water, heart, apple, boughs, fruits, and sea seem to create a powerful scene in the eyes of readers.

How to Create Imagery
  1. Select an object, thing, idea, or figure.
  2. Create a metaphor or simile to relate it with.
  3. Write down its features and create and use sound devices and structural devices to bedeck it with more images.
  4. Place that person or object in a setting and write lines about the setting and the relation of the person with the setting in a timeline.
Benefits of Using Imagery
  1. Imagery helps writers to engage readers and audiences.
  2. It helps in making reading interesting.
  3. It helps in clarifying things, events, scenes, and characters.
  4. It helps in associating meanings with symbols and things.
Literary Device of Imagery in Literary Theory
  1. As imagery creates mental pictures, it not only embodies things, persons and events but also gives them a referential position with reference to consciousness and rationality. Having four varieties of mental imagery, it is important for a literary narrative to create an asymmetric relationship between words and referents.
  2. Imagery is an essential element of figurative language. Therefore, it is important in the formalistic analysis of a poem or a piece of prose to draw meanings that the writers put into their writings.
  3. As far as other literary theoretical perspectives, imagery is important in postmodern as well as in indigenous critical theory, as both draw their meanings from the environment as well as descriptive features of characters, objects, and events.
Suggested Readings

Finke, Ronald A. Principles of Mental Imagery. The MIT Press, 1989. Print.

Abrams, Meyer Howard, and Geoffrey Harpham. A Glossary of Literary Terms. Cengage Learning, 2014. Print. Baldick, Chris. The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms. Oxford University Press, 1996. Print.

More from Literary Devices:

A Man Who Was Almost a Man by Richard Wright

Written by Richard Wright, an African American writer, the beautiful short story, “A Man Who Was Almost a Man” first appeared in 1961 as part of his collection of short stories.

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Introduction to “A Man Who Was Almost a Man” by Richard Wright

Written by Richard Wright, an African American writer, the beautiful short story, “A Man Who Was Almost a Man” first appeared in 1961 as part of his collection of short stories titled, Eight Men. The story follows the protagonist, a 17-year-old African-American boy, Dave, as he struggles to assert his manhood and independence in a racially divided society. Through vivid descriptions and realistic dialogue, Wright portrays the challenges young African-American faced in the rural South during the early 20th century. The story highlights themes of power, race, and the quest for personal identity.

Main Events in “A Man Who Was Almost a Man” by Richard Wright
  • Dave, a 17-year-old African American boy, lives in the rural South and works on a plantation.
  • Feeling powerless, he intends to prove his manhood by owning a gun.
  • In this quest, he approaches Joe’s store and lies about his age to buy a gun for two dollars.
  • However, he faces the problem of where to put it away from his family so that nobody could see it.
  • To test the gun’s power by shooting a tree, he accidentally shoots and kills his employer’s mule.
  • In consternation, he tries to cover up the accident and lies to his mother, but she finds out the truth.
  • When his employer confronts him about the dead mule, he runs away from home, thinking he can survive on his own.
  • However, h realizes the harsh realities of being a runaway and returns home, giving the gun to his father.
  • His father whips him for his foolishness, and Dave realizes that true manhood comes from responsibility and accountability and not from the power of weapons or physical power.
Literary Devices in “A Man Who Was Almost a Man” by Richard Wright
  1. Alliteration: Repetition of initial consonant sounds in neighboring words, such as “wrong wid” or “his hands.”
  2. Anaphora: Repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of successive clauses or sentences, such as “And he felt” in the phrase “And he felt a man oughta have a little gun.”
  3. Foreshadowing: Hints or clues that suggest what will happen later in the story, such as the repeated references to Dave’s desire for a gun.
  4. Hyperbole: Exaggeration is used to emphasize a point, such as when Dave says that having a gun will make him treat everybody right.
  5. Imagery: The use of sensory details to create a vivid image in the reader’s mind, such as when the sense of color as “the long rails were glinting in the moonlight.
  6. Irony: A contrast between what is expected and what actually happens, such as when Dave shoots the mule instead of the rabbit.
  7. Metaphor: A comparison between two unlike things suggests a similarity, such as when Dave thinks of the gun as a magic wand.
  8. Onomatopoeia: Words that imitate sounds, such as “pop” and “bang” in the description of the gun firing.
  9. Personification: Giving human qualities to non-human things, such as when the gun is described as “The gun felt loose in hisfingers.”
  10. Point of View: The perspective from which the story is told, such as the third-person limited point of view that allows the reader to see events through Dave’s eyes but still maintain some distance from him.
  11. Tone: The author’s attitude towards the subject matter or the audience, such as the ironic tone that Wright uses to highlight the absurdity of Dave’s behavior.
  12. Rhetorical Question: A question that is asked for effect, rather than to elicit an answer, such as when Dave asks himself, “Wondah did Ah shoot this mule??” This question is intended to underscore Dave’s overconfidence and lack of understanding of the situation, rather than to receive an actual response.
  13. Simile: A comparison between two unlike things using “like” or “as,” such as when Dave thinks himself a mule such as “They treat me like a mule” or “Like a hungry dog.”
  14. Symbolism: The use of objects, characters, or events to represent larger concepts or ideas, such as the gun representing power and masculinity.
  15. Theme: The central idea or message of a work, such as the theme of the dangers of misguided ambition in “A Man Who Was Almost a Man.”
Characterization in “A Man Who Was Almost a Man” by Richard Wright
Major Characters
  1. Dave Saunders:
  2. He is the main character and protagonist of the story.
  3. He is a seventeen-year-old African American boy who works on a plantation.
  4. He is fed and felt frustrated with being treated like a child and desires a gun to prove his manhood.
  5. He Makes a series of poor decisions that have tragic consequences.
  6. Joe:
  7. Dave’s boss on the plantation.
  8. Represents authority and control in the story.
  9. Disapproves of Dave’s desire for a gun and tries to dissuade him.
  10. Jim Hawkins:
  11. Another worker on the plantation who friends with Dave.
  12. Tries to warn Dave about the dangers of owning a gun.
  13. Ultimately unable to prevent Dave from making a fatal mistake.
  14. Dave’s mother:
  15. A minor character who is mentioned briefly.
  16. Represents the voice of reason and caution in the story.
  17. Tries to convince Dave not to buy a gun.
  18. The mule:
  19. A minor character who becomes the unintentional victim of Dave’s first shot.
  20. Represents the consequences of Dave’s reckless behavior.
  21. Serves as a symbol of the dangers of misguided ambition.
Minor Characters
  1. Mrs. Saunders: Dave’s mother who tries to dissuade him from buying a gun.
  2. Sister Carrie: Dave’s sister who appears briefly at the beginning of the story.
  3. Mr. Hawkins: Jim’s father who sells Dave the gun.
  4. Mr. Joe Dixon: The white landowner who employs Dave and the other workers on the plantation.
  5. John: A worker on the plantation who witnesses Dave’s first shot.
  6. The train conductor: The man who sells Dave the gun on the train.
Writing Style in “A Man Who Was Almost a Man” by Richard Wright

The writing style of Richard Wright in this story is characterized by a spare and direct prose style that emphasizes the harsh realities of life of African Americans in the rural South. Wright uses short, declarative sentences and simple, direct language to convey the experiences and emotions of his characters. His descriptions are often gritty and realistic, with a focus on the physical details of the environment and the characters’ actions. At the same time, Wright employs literary devices such as symbolism and irony to add depth and complexity to the narrative, creating a work that is both powerful and thought-provoking.

Major Themes in “A Man Who Was Almost a Man” by Richard Wright

“A Man Who Was Almost a Man” by Richard Wright explores themes such as power, masculinity, and racial discrimination. Some major themes in the story include:

  1. Power: The story explores the desire for power and the lengths that people go to have it. For example,  Dave, the protagonist, believes that owning a gun will give him power and respect in his community, despite being only seventeen years old.
  2. Masculinity: The story also examines the concept of masculinity and how it is tied to power and control. Dave feels pressure to prove his manhood and gain respect from others, especially his family and peers.
  3. Racial Discrimination: The story touches on issues of racial discrimination, with Dave being a young African American boy in a white-dominated society. He experiences racism and feels powerless to fight against it, leading him to seek power in other ways.
  4. Coming of Age: The story can also be seen as a coming-of-age tale, as Dave struggles to navigate his way into adulthood to find his place in the world. He feels torn between his desire for independence and the pressure to conform to societal norms.
  5. Consequences of Actions: The story also highlights the consequences of our actions, as Dave’s desire for power leads to tragic consequences for himself and those around him. It serves as a warning about the dangers of seeking power without considering the consequences.

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Literary Theories and Interpretation of “A Man Who Was Almost a Man” by Richard Wright

The short story “A Man Who Was Almost a Man” by Richard Wright can be analyzed through various literary theories, including:

  1. Marxist Theory: Marxist theory suggests that literature reflects the socioeconomic conditions of a society. In this story, the characters’ desire for power and control can be viewed as a reflection of the oppressive conditions of the society in which they live. Dave’s belief that owning a gun will make him a man and gain him respect can be interpreted as a result of his low social status as a poor, young, African-American male in a white-dominated society.
  2. Psychoanalytic Theory: Psychoanalytic theory focuses on the characters’ subconscious desires and motivations. In the story, Dave’s desire for power and respect can be seen as a manifestation of his repressed desires for independence and autonomy. His desire to own a gun may represent his need for protection and control over his own life.
  3. Reader-response Theory: Reader-response theory suggests that the reader’s interpretation of a text is influenced by their personal experiences and background. Readers can interpret the story differently based on their own experiences with power dynamics and discrimination.
  4. Feminist Theory: Feminist theory demonstrates the examination of role of gender in the characters’ desires for power and control. It presents a male-dominated society in which women are largely absent or relegated to supporting roles. Dave’s desire for power and control may show an attempt to assert his masculinity in a society that values it over femininity.
  5. Postcolonial Theory: Postcolonial theory examines the power dynamics between colonizers and colonized societies. In the story, the white community holds power over the African American community, and Dave’s desire for a gun may be interpreted a way to assert his own power in the face of this oppression. The story also touches on the cultural and linguistic divides between the two communities.
Questions And Thesis Statements about “A Man Who Was Almost a Man” by Richard Wright
  1. What motivates Dave’s desire for a gun? How does his desire for power and respect affect his decision-making throughout the story?

Thesis Statement: Dave’s desire for a gun is motivated by his desire for power and respect, which leads him to make dangerous decisions throughout the story that have tragic consequences.

  • How does the story address issues of race and racism? In what ways do the white characters in the story perpetuate discrimination against the African American characters?

Thesis Statement: The story addresses issues of race and racism by depicting the discrimination faced by African American characters in a white-dominated society, highlighting the power imbalances and injustices that result from this dynamic.

  • What role does Dave’s family play in his desire for a gun? How do their expectations and opinions of him affect his behavior?

Thesis Statement: Dave’s family plays a significant role in his desire for a gun, as their expectations and opinions of him contribute to his desire for respect and independence. This pressure ultimately leads him to make dangerous decisions that have tragic consequences.

  • How does the story explore the theme of masculinity? What does it mean to be a “man” in society as the story depicts, and how does Dave’s understanding of masculinity impact his actions?

Thesis Statement: The story explores the theme of masculinity by depicting a society that values traditional notions of manhood, such as physical strength and dominance. Dave’s desire to prove his masculinity drives his actions and decisions throughout the story, with tragic consequences.

  • What is the significance of the story’s title, “A Man Who Was Almost a Man”? In what ways is Dave still seen as a child, and how does he attempt to prove his maturity throughout the story?

Thesis Statement: The significance of the story’s title, “A Man Who Was Almost a Man,” lies in Dave’s struggle to prove his maturity and independence in a society that views him as a child. Despite his efforts to prove his adulthood by owning a gun, he ultimately fails to achieve true maturity and respect.

  • What message does the story convey about the consequences of seeking power and control? How does Dave’s desire for a gun ultimately lead to tragic consequences for himself and others around him?

Thesis Statement: The story conveys a warning about the consequences of seeking power and control, as Dave’s desire for a gun leads him to make dangerous decisions that result in tragic consequences for himself and those around him. The story highlights the importance of considering the consequences of one’s actions before seeking power and control.

Short Question-Answer “A Man Who Was Almost a Man” by Richard Wright
  1. What is the story “A Man Who Was Almost a Man” about?

“A Man Who Was Almost a Man” by Richard Wright is a short story about a young African American boy named Dave who desires to be treated like a man, but is not yet ready for the responsibilities that come with it. The story is set in rural Southern America in the 1930s, where Dave works as a field hand where his low social status and control of the white community over his life frustrates his ambition for independence.

  1. What is the central conflict in “A Man Who Was Almost a Man”?

The central conflict in “A Man Who Was Almost a Man” is the tension between Dave’s desire to be treated like a man and his inability to take on the responsibilities that come with adulthood. Dave believes that owning a gun will make him more respectable and independent, but he has not prepared himself for the consequences of his actions when he accidentally shoots and kills a mule.

  1. What themes are explored in “A Man Who Was Almost a Man”?

“A Man Who Was Almost a Man” explores themes such as coming of age, identity, power, and the African American experience in the rural South during the 1930s. The story highlights the challenges that young African American men faced in their efforts to assert their manhood and independence in a society that did not value their humanity.

  1. What is the significance of the title “A Man Who Was Almost a Man”?

The title “A Man Who Was Almost a Man” is significant because it highlights the central conflict of the story. Dave desires treatment like a man, but he is not yet ready for the responsibilities that come with it. The title suggests that Dave is on the cusp of adulthood, but he has not yet fully matured. It also highlights the challenges that young African American men faced in asserting their manhood in a society that did not value their humanity.

You may also read: Dead Man’s Path by Chinua Achebe