Literary Devices Charts

U1 Literary Devices





a comparison that uses "like" or "as"

The sun was red as a tomato.

The backpack is like a giant rock weighing me down. 


a comparison that does not use "like" or "as"

The sun was a tomato.

The abandoned grand piano was a beached orca whale with bad dental hygiene. 


descriptive language that creates an image in the mind of the reader or listener

Where the Pelican Builds [Excerpt]

by Mary Hannay Foott

They had told us of pastures wide and green,

To be sought past the sunset’s glow;

 Of rifts in the ranges by opal lit;

 And gold ‘neath the river’s flow.

And thirst and hunger were banished words

When they spoke of that unknown West;

No drought they dreaded, no flood they feared,

Where the pelican builds her nest!


a word that represents the sound something makes

The Raven [excerpt]

by Edgar Allen Poe

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,

Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,

While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,

As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.

"'Tis some visitor," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door,

Only this, and nothing more."


giving human characteristics to non-human things or animate characteristics to non-animate things

The Star [excerpt]

by Sara Teasdale

A white star born in the evening glow

Looked to the round green world below,

And saw a pool in a wooded place

That held like a jewel her mirrored face.

U2 Literary Devices





an exaggeration 

 He's as old as dirt. 

It's raining cats and dogs. 


a way of saying something that is more polite and often more indirect

 He kicked the bucket. 

Larry is between jobs. 


the choice and use of words used to express an exact meaning

Alice in Wonderland [Excerpt] 

by Alice Gerstengerg Carroll

Yes, here are the Kings and Queens they are fighting for. That’s the Red Queen and here’s the White Queen.


How funny they look!

A Kiss for Cinderella 

by J.M Barrie

mr. bodie (giving his visitor a lesson in manners). I beg your pardon, officer.

policeman (confounded). Not that, sir; not at all.

mr. bodie (pressing his advantage). But I insist on begging your pardon, officer.

policeman. I don’t see what for, sir.

mr. bodie (fancying himself). For walking uninvited into the abode of a law-abiding London citizen, with whom I have not the pleasure of being acquainted.

policeman (after thinking this out). But I’m the one as has done that, sir.

mr. bodie (with neat surprise). So you are, I beg your pardon, officer.


a set of contradictory or opposing words

The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet [excerpt]

by Willam Shakespeare

Alas that love, whose view is muffled still,
Should, without eyes, see pathways to his will!
Where shall we dine? O me! What fray was here?
Yet tell me not, for I have heard it all.
Here’s much to do with hate, but more with love:
Why, then, O brawling love! O loving hate!
O anything, of nothing first create!
O heavy lightness! serious vanity!
Misshapen chaos of well-seeming forms!
Feather of lead, bright smoke, cold fire, sick health!
Still-waking sleep, that is not what it is!
This love feel I, that feel no love in this.
Dost thou not laugh?


a series of words that share the same starting sound

Peter Pan or The Boy Who Would Not Grow Up (The Play) [excerpt]

by J M Barrie

PETER (crowing). Well, then, I am Peter Pan! ....

HOOK. Back, you pewling spawn. I'll show you now the road to dusty death

U3 Literary Devices





a past incident recurring vividly in the mind1

As Lord Jerrom's sword fell, the light caught the edge, and I remembered another sword fight on another sunny day.

Twas not in a hall of stone that we had fought, but in the meadow by the summer house. We were two boys playing knight with wooden swords scavenged from the forest edge before our mothers called us back to safer playgrounds. I was the smaller of the two of us, but being the prince meant I could pick the games we played. Jer never seemed to mind, but perhaps he did, and I never knew. He was always more the politician. Perhaps he had begun perfecting his lying smile even then as we clashed amid the heather while the sun shone. 

Now, Jerrom was not smiling, and the winter sunlight did not warm the flag stones at our feet. His sword finished its arc, and I met it with my own. 


a hint at what is to happen in the future or later in a story

I always left for school at 7:19 with an umbrella and a sack lunch tucked away in my school bag. On the last day of spring, I left a little late, not being able to find my umbrella. I still had my lunch and the bus was coming, so I had to leave without it. The sky looked fair enough, I wasn't worried. ....

I trudged home in the rain. The downpour hid my tears even as it added to my misery. Maybe the world mourned with me. I don't think there would ever be more easy days skipping off to school. The buses weren't running anymore. Maybe there would be no more school. The president's address didn't say how long the state of emergency would last. 


a recurring pattern of a thematic element2

The snow was the barest dusting of white upon the mountains when our journey began. ....

Paul fell into the dirty slush in the town streets. Laura and I helped him stand again, and we plodded on. ....

Winter sent one last sudden blizzard, so we wouldn't think it a coward to slink away unnoticed. We hunkered down, but when the food ran out, Paul set off into the white. I found him later, ten feet away and frozen stiff. ....

We looked up and up to see the roofs of the capital before us at last. Our horses munched on the delicate blue flowers peeking through the melting snow till we urged them on for the last stretch. 


a situation or phrase that seems contradictory but is true

The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark [excerpt]

by William Shakespeare

I must be cruel, only to be kind. 


an indirect reference to something

I rolled back into the driveway at 12:02 in the morning. Lucky my car didn't turn into a pumpkin, I guess. My mother was waiting up for me in the kitchen. 

U4 Literary Devices




epiphora (as called epistrophe)

the repetition of a word or words at the end of a phrase, clause, or sentence1

Apology to Australia's Indigenous Peoples [excerpt]

by The Hon Kevin Rudd

For the pain, suffering and hurt of these Stolen Generations, their descendants and for their families left behind, we say sorry.
To the mothers and the fathers, the brothers and the sisters, for the breaking up of families and communities, we say sorry.
And for the indignity and degradation thus inflicted on a proud people and a proud culture, we say sorry.


the repetition of a word or words at the beginning of a phrase, clause, or sentence

Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death [excerpt]

by Patrick Henry

I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!


the placement of opposing ideas or qualities near each other to emphasize one or both of them through contrast

Quit India [excerpt]

by Mahatma Gandhi

Ours is not a drive for power, but purely a non-violent fight for India’s independence. In a violent struggle, a successful general has been often known to effect a military coup and to set up a dictatorship. But under the Congress scheme of things, essentially non-violent as it is, there can be no room for dictatorship. A non-violent soldier of freedom will covet nothing for himself, he fights only for the freedom of his country. The Congress is unconcerned as to who will rule, when freedom is attained. The power, when it comes, will belong to the people of India, and it will be for them to decide to whom it placed in the entrusted.


the use of one thing to represent another

Inaugural Address [excerpt]

by John F. Kennedy

And if a beachhead of cooperation may push back the jungle of suspicion, let both sides join in creating a new endeavor, not a new balance of power, but a new world of law, where the strong are just and the weak secure and the peace preserved


the attitude of the author towards a topic

Abolition Speech [excerpt]

By William Wilberforce

As soon as ever I had arrived thus far in my investigation of the slave trade, I confess to you sir, so enormous so dreadful, so irremediable did its wickedness appear that my own mind was completely made up for the abolition. A trade founded in iniquity, and carried on as this was, must be abolished, let the policy be what it might,—let the consequences be what they would, I from this time determined that I would never rest till I had effected its abolition.

This content is provided to you freely by EdTech Books.

Access it online or download it at