Literary Techniques| A List of Devices You Might Have Missed

By Lindsey Dang

Why literary devices? Are they that necessary? Well, no. You would not fail if you do not include them in your essays but they will definitely help! They often give you that extra edge and some teachers refer to them as ‘next level analysis.’ They often set apart the A+ students from the rest of their cohort and allow you to show off your insightful knowledge of the text.

Compare the following

Without With
Example 1:  As Hecuba ‘howls for [her] burning home,’ her genuine despair is captured by Euripides, evoking the audience’s pathos towards the protagonist of the play and reinforces her portrayal as ‘the true face of misery’.Example 2:  In capturing Hecuba’s desperate plight through the zoomorphic ‘howl,’ Euripides associates her expression of agony with that of an animal. Through this animal imagery, he intensifies the magnitude of her grief, vilifying the barbaric Greeks inflicting a pain that ‘no animal can endure’ and reinforcing Hecuba’s portrayal as ‘the true face of misery’.

Super similar, aren’t they? However, example 2 does explore the quotes in greater depth – which would allow the student to gain some extra marks.

What did VCAA say about this?

  1. Demonstrates a close and perceptive reading of the text, exploring complexities of its concepts and construction
  2. Demonstrates an understanding of the implications of the topic using an appropriate strategy for dealing with it, and exploring its complexity from the basis of the text
  3. Develops a cogent, controlled and well-substantiated discussion using precise and expressive language

From the words “close and perceptive,” “complexities of its … construction,” we can infer that VCAA does want us to look closely into how the text is written rather than just the plot and the interactions between characters.


  • Juxtaposition: This is literally everywhere – authors like drawing similarities and differences between two ideas or two characters to emphasise a point. This is when a writer places two things side by side to make out the contrast between them.
    • The Women of Troy: Hecuba “dragged as a slave” vs Hecuba as the “Queen of Troy”; Troy as “the most prosperous of cities” vs a “smoking ruin”
    • Rear Window: Lisa’s haute couture dresses vs Jeff’s plain set of PJs; the relationship between Jeff and Lisa vs the relationship between the Thorwalds.
    • The Crucible: The appearance of Abigail as a “strikingly beautiful girl” vs her true character and her “endless capacity for dissembling”
  • Symbolism: This is when the writer uses an object, an animal and at times a person to represent an abstract idea. I haven’t seen a book that does not contain symbolisms so keep an eye out for them – just find an object and give it meaning..?
    • I am Malala: The burqa can be seen as a symbol of oppression
    • The Women of Troy: Astyanax can been seen as a universal symbolism of innocence
    • The Crucible: Paper (the warrant, confession paper, etc) may represent the authority in power
  • Zoomorphism: Giving a human animalistic qualities. Think about what an animal does that an ordinary human would not do
    • A person howling? – Wolf or human?
    • A person flying? – Bird or human?
  • Personification: Giving an object/ animal/ idea human qualities.
    • “Prisoner of your own lust” – I didn’t know lust can imprison people..?
    • “fate is laughing at you” – fate cannot laugh either!
  • Oxymoron: It is when the writer use two opposite ideas to create an effect. They usually are contradictory – bit confusing but you will see what I mean. It usually is a two-word paradox
    • Bitter-sweet: This is a classic example – they mean completely opposite things but together they make sense.
    • Cruel kindness: Kindness is not supposed to be cruel, but in this story it might be.
    • A joy that kills: I found this in my uni reading – it is also a good example because joy does not go with death.
    • Living death: It does help the writer portray how miserable the person, doesn’t it?
  • Repetition: Did you know that there are actually many types of repetition? The table below only contains a few of them but they should be enough for now. The examples are from The Women of Troy but I am sure there are some in your texts as well!
Epizeuxis: Repetition of a word in sequenceWeep, weep for my burning home
Anaphora: Repetition of a word at the beginning of each phrase or clause1. My women, my girls
2. They weren’t being robbed, they weren’t being invaded
3. [The] old life is gone, old god, old hearth
4. All our sacrifices, all our sufferings
5. All for nothing, my labour pains when you were born, all for nothing…..all for nothing
Epistrophe: The repetition of a word at the end of each phraseAh…pain, and still more pain …!
Still agony, and greater agony …!

Anyway, that’s it for today! Please shoot me an email if you got any questions or have any suggestions on what topics I should cover next!

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