RHETORICAL DEVICES (from Wikipedia) > print


Repetition is just the simple repetition of a word, within a sentence or a poetical line, with no particular placement of the words.

Anaphora is the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of every clause. Comes from the Greek phrase, "Carrying up or Back".

"We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills, we shall never surrender." (Winston Churchill)

Epistrophe is the repetition of a word or phrase at the end of every clause.

"What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny compared to what lies within us." (Ralph Waldo Emerson)




A metaphor is a comparison used to add descriptive meaning to a phrase. Metaphors are generally not meant literally, and may have little connotative [: betydningsmæssig] similarity to the concepts they are meant to portray.

Example: The man's arm exploded with pain, spiderwebs of fire crawling up and down its length as the tire of a passing car crushed it. (There is no literal explosion, spiderweb, or fire, but the words are used to create images and draw similarities to the way such an event would feel)


The easiest stylistic device to find is a simile, because you only have to look for the words "as" or "like". A simile is a comparison used to attract the attention of the reader and describe something in descriptive terms.

Example: "From up here on the fourteenth floor, my brother Charley looks like an insect scurrying among other insects." (from "Sweet Potato Pie," Eugenia Collier)

Example: The beast had eyes as big as baseballs and teeth as long as knives.

Example: She put her hand to the boy's head, which was steaming like a hot train.


A symbol is a word, picture, or idea that stands for something other than itself. It is used as an expressive way to depict an idea. The symbol generally conveys an emotional response far beyond what the word, idea, or image itself dictates.

Example: A heart standing for love. (One might say "It broke my heart" rather than "I was really upset")

Example: A sunrise portraying new hope. ("All their fears melted in the face of the newly risen sun.")


This is when the name of a character has a symbolic meaning.

For example, in Dickens' Great Expectations, Miss Havisham has a sham, or lives a life full of pretense. In Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, Rev. Dimmesdale metaphorically fades away (dims) as the novel progresses, while Chillingworth has a cold (chilled) heart.


This is when the author drops clues about what is to come in a story, which builds tension and the reader's suspense throughout the book.

Example:The boy kissed his mother and warmly embraced her, oblivious to the fact that this was the last time he would ever see her.


This is when the author invokes sensory details. Often, this is simply to draw a reader more deeply into a story by helping the reader visualize what is being described. However, imagery may also symbolize important ideas in a story.


When a word, phrase, image, or idea is repeated throughout a work or several works of literature.

For example, in Ray Bradbury's "There Will Come Soft Rains," he describes a futuristic "smart house" in a post-nuclear-war time period. All life is dead except for one dog, which dies in the course of the story. However, Bradbury mentions mice, snakes, robins, swallows, giraffes, antelopes, and many other animals in the course of the story. This animal motif establishes a contrast between the past, when life was flourishing, and the story's present, when all life is dead.

Motifs may also be used to establish mood (as the blood motif in Shakespeare's Macbeth), for foreshadowing (as when Mary Shelley, in Frankenstein, mentions the moon almost every time the creature is about to appear), to support the theme (as when, in Sophocles' drama Oedipus Rex, the motif of prophecy strengthens the theme of the irresistibility of the gods), or for other purposes.

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