Literary Devices





Literary Devices

  1. The Lottery

The Lottery is a story by Shirley Jackson that was published in 1948. It tells of a lottery that is run by Mr. Summers and the resulting events. In the text, numerous instances of literary devices are observed. The lottery presents several instances of symbolism. The first is the black box. “…the black box now resting on the stool had been put into use even before Old Man Warner, the oldest man in town, was born…The black box grew shabbier each year: by now it was no longer completely black but splintered badly along one side to show the original wood color, and in some places faded or stained (Jackson 230).” In this case, it represents old traditions that have been outpaced by contemporary life in the village. This is seen through the expression of wear and tear on the box. The stoning also represents another outdated tradition. In this case, the author is successful in the use of symbolism.

The title of the story presents an allegory, relating to common village life. For instance, its rules correspond to how life in the village is. In the events, Mr. Summers breaks down participation by the residents according to their households. In a village, households are the first units of social interactions. In this case, Jackson effectively uses allegory to highlight village life, thus improving the setting of her story. The lottery also features extensive use of irony. The title evokes thought of something positive is about to happen. However, the story takes the opposite direction, and ends up with a violent ending where Tessie Hutchinson is stoned by the villagers. Through this instance, Jackson is able to develop the theme of scapegoating in the story. Jackson has provided her characters with symbolic names. For instance, Mrs. Delacroix’s name means cross in French. Similarly, the author maintains several allusions to Christianity. However, she uses them to highlight irony. For instance, Mrs. Delacroix selects the largest stone that can be hurled at Hutchinson. In the story, “Mrs.Delacroix selected a stone so large she had to pick it up with both hands and turned to Mrs.Dunbar (Jackson 240).”

  1. Yellow Wallpaper

Yellow Wallpaper is a story by Charlotte Perkins Gilman that was published in 1892 in The New England Magazine. It centers on a narrator and her husband during their stay in a beautiful estate, during the summer. Through the text, Gilman attempts to bring forward her views on feminism and individuality. In the story, Gilman uses imagery to develop its setting, with great success. For instance, she describes the location of the estate as “beautiful…quite alone, standing well back from the road, quite three miles from the village (Gilman, 159).” This serves as a representation of isolation, through the creation of mental pictures in the reader’s mind. Through this instance, it is also seen that Gilman has used foreshadowing in the story. The distant location of the house from the village foreshadows the isolation and despair that will be experienced by the narrator during her stay.

The author has used first person point of view. For instance, the narrator states, “I get unreasonably angry with John sometimes. I’m sure I never used to be so sensitive. I think it is due to this nervous condition (Gilman 160).” Similarly, the first person point of view shows the narrator is experiencing an increased state of mental illness. Consequently, Gilman succeeds in developing a deeper portrayal of the narrator’s conflict. This results in better connection with the readers of the story. The wallpaper serves as a symbol in the story. Its pattern represents the societal norms that metaphorically guide our actions. By being confined to staying in the room, the narrator shows the patterns as the manifestation of social restrictions, such as those imposed on her by her husband and brother. By focusing on the wallpaper and its patterns, the narrator represents it as an intellectual challenge. This is attributable to her husband and brothers disapproval of her engagement in other intellectual activities, such as reading and writing. Through such representations, Gilman is able to advance her feminist themes in the story.

  1. Rose for Emily

Rose for Emily is a short story by William Faulkner. The plot focuses on the life and funeral of Emily Grierson. It seeks to answer the townspeople’s questions about the mysterious life of the deceased woman. Faulkner tells the story of Emily through a third person point of view. For instance, he writes, “On a tarnished gilt easel before the fireplace stood a crayon portrait of Miss Emily’s father (Faulkner 59).” Through this literary device, the author is able to avoid the filters that result from Emily’s personality. Consequently, the readers are able to deduce information that was not known to her. For instance, the detail of her funeral and other activities after her death can be known to the reader.

Foreshadowing has also been used by Faulkner. A number of actions may provide insights on how the story ends. In the story, Emily takes a number of questionable actions. For instance, she goes to the town and tells her druggist, “I want some poison (Faulkner 65)”. Similarly, Homer Barron goes into her home. However, he is not seen since that occasion yet nobody questions whether he left or not. After a while, the town complains of the smell emanating from Emily’s house. However, lime is placed around the house thus eliminating it. When these instances are placed in meaningful order, they set the stage for the realization of a dead body in Emily’s house. However, Faulkner places bits and pieces of the events in the plot. He manipulates time in the story, such that the plot takes place over several decades, stretching from Emily’s youth to her death. The story begins with her funeral, and shifts to her distant past. This results in a cryptic foreshadowing of an end that surprises the readers. Through this literary device, Faulkner is able to weave out a complex setting that advances the plot of the story.




















Works Cited

Chase, Thomas, Ken Mitchell, and Michael L. Trussler. The Wascana Anthology of Short Fiction. Regina: Canadian Plains Research Center, 1999. Print.


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