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List of Literary Device and Definitions

Literary Device and Definitions

This lesson studies some of the more common literary devices found in the literature. Devices studied include allusion, diction, epigraph, euphemism, foreshadowing, imagery, metaphor/simile, personification, point-of-view, and structure.

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When an author sits to write a story, she doesn't simply write what happened. Instead, she uses what are called literary devices which are narrative techniques that add texture, energy, and excitement to the narrative, grip the reader's imagination, and convey information.

While there are literally hundreds of literary devices at an author's disposal, what follows is a handful of the most common.


Sonnet is a lyric poem, which consists of fourteen iambic pentameter lines linked to a definite rhyme scheme. In English literature, the sonnet is divided into two categories’ (1) ‘Italian’ or ‘Petrarchan’ (named after the fourteenth-century Italian poet, Petrarch) (2) The English sonnet or the Shakespearean sonnet.

The Petrarchan sonnet falls into two parts: an octave (eight lines) rhyming abba ‘abba’ and a sestet (six lines) rhyming, cde, ‘cde’ or some variant, such as edc. Thomas Wyatt first introduced Petrarch’s sonnet in England in the early sixteenth century. The Petrarchan form was later used by Milton, Wordsworth, D.J. Rossetti and other sonneteers. The Earl of Surrey and other English Experimenters in the sixteenth century also developed a new form called the English or the Shakespearean sonnet. The stanza form in this type of sonnet is different from that of Petrarchan sonnet. This stanza falls into three quatrains and a concluding couplet” a b a b, c d c d, e f e f, g g. There was one especially important variant, the Spenserian sonnet, in which Spenser links each quatrain to the next by a continuing rhyme: a b a b, b c b c, c d c d, e e. ‘The Lotus’ by Toru Dutta is Petrarchan sonnet.



In Greek and Roman literature, an Elegy was any poem composed in a special Elegiac meter; and in England, the term was often applied to any poem of solemn meditation. In present critical usage, however, an elegy is a formal and sustained poem of lament for the death of a friend. E.g., Tennyson’s ‘In Memoriam’ which was written on the death of Arthur Hallam, Sometimes the term is more broadly used for meditative poems, such as Gray’s ‘Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard’. The Pastoral elegy which represents both the mourner and the one he mourns, who is usually a poet as Shepherd. Nature also joins in the mourner and the one he mourns, who is usually a poet as Shepherded. Nature also joins in the mounting. Finally, the poet realizes that death is a reunion with God. The most notable English Pastoral elegies are Milton’s “Lycidas”, Shelley’s “Adonais” and Arnold’s “Thyrsis”

Goldsmith’s “An Elegy on the Death of a Mad Dog” is an example of a modified version of the conventional concept of Elegy. He mixes humor to make fun of the cunningness in human behavior. Conventionally, an Elegy on the death of an animal would be impossible.

Improve You Grammar: Reported Speech (Direct-Indirect)


Simile involves a direct comparison between two objects and can be recognized by the use of the words ‘like’ and ‘as’. In a simile, the objects brought for comparison should be of different species for examples, if the beautiful physical features of a girl being compared to those of a beautiful film actress cannot be cited as an instance of a simile, since both the objects belong to the same species; both are human beings. The dissimilarity of objects is necessary for a simile. 


1.As idle as a painted ship/Upon a painted ocean.

2.The ice is as green as emerald.

3.Her lips are as tender as petals of a rose.

The use of a simile enables the poet to convey his idea effectively. In the first example cited above the poet has related the real ship to a painted one so as to enable the reader to imagine how motionless the ship is. In the second example, the image of the bright ice floating in the green water of the ocean has been created which gives the impression of a shining emerald.


The metaphor is a figure of speech belonging to sense devices in English literature. It is rather like a simile except that the comparison is not direct but implied. The words ‘like’ and ‘as’ are not used as marks of identification. The poet does not say that one object is like another; he says it is another. The examples” He is as cruel as a tiger” illustrates the use of a simile, but the examples “He is the tiger of this town” illustrates the use of metaphor.


Alliteration is a figure of speech belonging to sound devices in English literature. It involves repetition of the same sound at a frequent interval in the same line; for examples, in the lines from “The Ancient Mariner’ by S.T. Coleridge “The fair breeze blew, the white foam flew. The furrow followed free” the repeated “bs” and “fs” make the lines run quickly and give the impression of a ship traveling at high speed. At the same time the lines, when read aloud, create a great musical effect and sooth the ears of the listeners.


This is very important blog-related Literary Terms. Practice all the terms of English Literature.

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Rajesh Bhatia

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