Match the following motifs/literary devices to the literary examples.
- Defamiliarization – when the normal doesn’t seem entirely normal, creating a surreal, alienated or spooky atmosphere
- Overstatement – exaggerating for emphasis or comedic effect, or a narrator psychologically compensating for an inadequacy
- Understatement – being dismissive or making something seem less important than it actually is, for comedic effect or for psychological reasons
- Foreshadowing – providing an omen or a sign of something that is to come, to build suspense or to suggest some message from a supernatural force
- Oxymoron/paradox – mixing opposites to describe the indescribable, or to suggest the abnormal
- She was hideously beautiful.
- ‘It’s just a scratch!’ the soldier snorted, as he sought to stop the jetting blood. Jack felt queasy.
- He came to a corner of sorts and found himself at the start of a new ‘street’. The way ahead was dark, with the buildings leaning in too close. And the darkness seemed to be cluttered, as if to block any progress.
- He was the size of a planet, and others had a tricky orbit to negotiate if they wanted to avoid any sort of crash-landing. He knew he shouldn’t have had that extra cream bun.
- In Hardy’s Tess of the D’Ubervilles, Tess is on the way to meet her rich lascivious cousin. On route, her wagon loses a wheel and the traces of her wagon penetrate the stomach of her poor horse. As it dies, its eyes implore her to let it run free. Tess continues on foot to her cousin’s mansion, where he proceeds to force his attentions upon her.
Answers: a5, b3, c1, d2, e4
What all the devices have in common, of course, is that they both help to distort reality and create a supernatural or emotional atmosphere/connotation. Therefore, when we use literary device, the writing becomes far richer in terms of theme, world-building and reading experience.
The technique of defamiliarization was first identified in Sigmund Freud’s essay entitled ‘The Uncanny’. He gave the specific example of using quotation marks around a word, as with the ‘street’ in passage c) above. He pointed out that the quotation marks help us think of the way forward as both a street and not-actually-a-street. Therefore, the way forward is two things at once, familiar and unfamiliar, like déjà vu. The narrative perspective is therefore also dualistic, as if ego and id are in conflict, or the rational and the emotional, or the physical and supernatural.
At the end of the day, the use of literary device is a hallmark of richer or ‘better’ writing. And yet… it also tends to be a matter of a writer’s general style, or the type of literature a reader might or might not prefer to consume. Therefore, do not feel that you ‘have to’ use device in your writing if you don’t want to.
Imagine some situations of your own, and then try use one or more of the literary devices listed above.
If you’d like me to look at how successful your attempt is, please do feel free to email me (Adam): adz_d2003 @ yahoo.co.uk – deleting the two spaces either side of the @ sign.
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