What Is A Paradox?

Many literary devices are often used as an abstract effect to convey various ideas, points of view or in the legal case of poetry, imagery or other methods toward evoking certain emotions or thoughts. In the case of the paradox, this might actually be one of the more obvious devices due to its stark contrast in its ability to grab the attention of readers as often mind-altering propositions for the reader’s consideration. The general definition of a paradox is a statement that appears initially to be self-contradictory or going against certain expectations or opinions.

Some would claim that the very purpose of reading any piece of literature is to be entertained through the reading itself (though many in the modern age might argue this against less engaging activities such as watching television or playing video games). And while the thought of being presented directly with information to absorb and cultivate in one’s mind can itself be pleasurable, in most cases it doesn’t necessarily present the challenge of any sort of critical thought. People tend to read, produce images from the written word in their mind, and take the images and string them together into some sort of coherent story or stream of information, depending on the medium in which they are presented. However, the sharp double-take readers might make after reading a paradox, theoretically, could be interpreted as bringing more pleasure to the reader by initiating a process of critical thinking and analysis in order to reveal some sort of hidden meaning or message within the context of the paradox. For example, one famous line of paradox follows, presented by Oscar Wilde:

“I can resist anything but temptation.”

At the base level, this statement would simply make no sense at all. How can one resist anything that might bear resisting if you can’t resist the temptation of it as a whole? As it turns out, this is the joke behind Wilde’s quote: that while he can resist the urges (or lack thereof) toward things that do not necessarily garner his attention or bear the fruit of any temptation for him whatsoever, the thought of resisting anything that might actually be considered tempting in any capacity is unlikely, if not altogether impossible.

The thought process that one goes through in an effort to discover the underlying meaning of such lines not only is a theoretically active device toward keeping a reader engaged in their reading, but it also induces the pleasure of coming to one’s own conclusions regarding such critical thought. Poetry, often viewed a measure of interpretation in and of itself, also tends to make use of paradox in this way. Through this, the act of analyzing and interpreting poetry to achieve one’s own meaning is amplified by  utilizing paradox: a wrench within the wrench that is often the poem’s cryptic message by itself. William Wordsworth utilizes paradox in this way in his work, “My Heart Leaps Up When I Behold”:

My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began;
So is it now I am a man;
So be it when I shall grow old,
Or let me die!
The Child is father of the Man;
I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety

The paradox noted in the poem, “The Child is father of the Man” may seem confusing to many at first glance, though in the way that fathers bring about children as progeny into the world, children by their virtue of growth through personal experience (as well as basic biology) give way to themselves to become men later in life. In this way, the use of paradox emphasizes the sometimes complex process of human life and growth, and simplifies it from the perspective of nature as a whole.

What Is An Onomatopoeia?

There are many devices within the English language that are used for varying effects in all forms of literature, from prose to poetry to different prompts in plays and scripts.  One of these lesser understood devices is the onomatopoeia, a way to describe sounds within the relevant language at the time.  Several onomatopoeiae that exist in the English language are often associated with the sounds or noises that animals make, such as “moo” for cows, “quack” for ducks, “meow” for cats, and so on, though many of these and other onomatopoeia will vary depending on the language in which they are used; where a native English speaker would use the onomatopoeia “tick tock” to describe the sound of a clock, a Japanese speaker would be more likely to say “katchin katchin.”

Studies show that onomatopoeia are the most commonly used phenomenon within infants while they are in the process of learning a native language. During this process, infants slowly begin to differentiate the use of the most common phonetics within a given language, what experts deem “tame” onomatopoeia, and the entire range of sounds that their vocal cords can produce, also known as “wild” onomatopoeia, to imitate various sounds that they hear within their environment. As the infant grows, the range of “wild” onomatopoeia slowly decreases while the frequency of appropriate use for “tame” onomatopoeia increases along with the formation of the language itself.

Onomatopoeia in the modern world often see use in media such as comic books. Comic books credit writer-artist Roy Crane with popularizing the onomatopoeia within comics to introduce a more fast-paced, action-driven story line.  Crane was also known to create new onomatopoeia to further the effects they might have within the narrative.  Pop culture historian Tim DeForest notes particular choices such as “ker-splash” and “lickety-wop” for variance within comic books. These sorts of use for the onomatopoeia even came to see frequent use in television, most notably in the 1960’s “Batman” series as the words themselves would occasionally appear on the screen similar to the style in which they were used in comic books. The onomatopoeia also sees frequent use within product advertising to describe the sounds various products make as a point of their appeal. Some may remember old jingles such as the Alka Seltzer commercials, “Pop pop fizz fizz, oh what a relief it is,” or the cartoon characters representing the sounds that the breakfast cereal “Rice Krispies” were known to make.

A lesser extent of the use of onomatopoeia nowadays is within literature, poetry in particular. Using techniques such as alliteration and consonance (a rhyming pattern that utilizes similar consonant sounds at the ends of words in lieu of traditional rhyme schemes that tend to utilize similar vowel sounds, typically known as “assonance”), writers are able to mimic the onomatopoeia in purpose even without necessarily or strictly using onomatopoeia themselves. The line “furrow followed free” in Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner is often referred to in this regard, as the line itself mimics the repeated use of an onomatopoeia by way of consonantal technique. In many cases, onomatopoeia are used outright within poetry, to the same effect as consonance or alliteration, as to portray sound within the context of the poem itself, as exemplified by a verse from Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Bells.”

Hear the sledges with the bells –
Silver bells!
What a world of merriment their melody foretells!
How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle,
in the icy air of night!
While the stars that oversprinkle
All the heavens seem to twinkle
With a crystalline delight;
Keeping time, time time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the tintinnabulation that so musically wells
From the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells –
From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells.

Between the uses of the obvious onomatopoeia “jingle” and “tinkle” to the repetitious use of the titular “bells” themselves, one can consider the evocative imagery of bells constantly chiming and ringing about them as if they were being rung from a bell or clock tower. In poetry especially, this use of the onomatopoeia is prominent for this very reason: the evocative where words might otherwise fail.

What Is Alliteration In A Literary Context?

Most people know what alliteration is and almost everyone has an opinion on when, why, or even if it should be used at all in a number of different circumstances. In most cases, alliteration is the stressed first syllable of a word. If every word begins with an “s,” then you’re witnessing alliteration at its finest (or likely just its most common). Alliteration is most often practiced in poetry, and more rarely done in other forms of writing. It is less often used in formal speech or writing. If you are working on your thesis or writing an essay on an unrelated subject, then you should steer clear of the literary device if you prefer to avoid scrutiny.

Symmetrical alliteration is practiced mostly by those who have truly mastered the art of alliteration. Start with four words in order to write yourself an easy example of symmetrical alliteration. The first and last word should begin with the same stressed consonant. The second and third words should begin with a different stressed consonant. This form of alliteration is also most often used in poetry, but is less practiced.

There are different forms of alliteration to which one might refer. If you hear the word “consonance” used, it is a term that falls under the same umbrella of terms. Rather than the stressed syllable or first syllable, consonance is the repeated use of a single consonant sound. The words “sent” and “went” form a consonance pair, as do “strong and swing.”

Alliteration isn’t necessarily used simply to create a certain sound or cadence when writing poetry. More often, it’s used to put emphasis on a certain word. A poet often writes a line of poetry and calls attention to a single word by placing it alone on the very next line, but alliteration allows the poet to create an emphasis that can be heard rather than seen. Sometimes one is better than the other. Then again, alliteration can also be utilized in order to emphasize the mood of a particular song or poem. Some sounds tend to grate on our nerves, while others are much more soothing. Depending on how the writer uses alliteration, he or she can create a whole new meaning simply based on sound alone.

Historically, you’ll hear alliteration used not only in poetry, but also archaic literature. If you study Old English, Old Saxon, Old High German, Old Norse, or Old Irish, then you’ll likely run into it a lot. Popular poets and storytellers like Shakespeare and Walt Whitman often used the literary device in their writing.

Although not often heard in formal speaking, it is used here and there. Much like in poetry, it helps emphasize portions of writing or speech that the author wants remembered. Martin Luther King Jr. used it in his own “I have a dream” speech. One phrase ends “not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” The letter “c” is indicative of alliteration in this case.

Alliteration isn’t for everyone, but when used properly it can completely change the way an audience interacts with a piece of writing.

What’s The Definition Of Trope?

When we use words, we don’t always use them literally. In some cases, we use words or expressions in a figurative way. This is known as a trope. You’ll see tropes appear regularly in fiction, poetry, and in other works as well.

Of course, writers aren’t the only people that use tropes. Tropes are also something that pop-up in normal conversation. Many people find that tropes are the best way to express themselves.

Being Literal Doesn’t Always Allow You To Be Expressive

When you stick to the literal meaning of words, you can’t always be as expressive as you would like to be. Sometimes, you can say what you mean without really conveying any of the emotions or feelings behind those words. People tend to use tropes when they’re looking for a better way to express themselves. If people are feeling a strong emotion, like anger or sadness, tropes may be one of the first things that they turn to.

Why Writers Use Tropes

Writers tend to use tropes because they allow them to express things in a more interesting and engaging way. When something is written in a dry and literal way, it isn’t always fun to read. Using tropes can help to spice up a written work. In a lot of cases, content is more interesting to read because of the tropes that it contains. If you feel like a piece of writing you’re working on is dull, you may want to add some tropes to your work.

Common Tropes

  • Hyperbole – I’ll die from embarassment
  • Irony – Your explanation is clear as mud
  • Litotes – I am not a happy camper
  • Metaphor – You are my sunshine
  • Metonymy – Man of the cloth
  • Oxymoron – Jumbo shrimp
  • Personification – The old car wheezed and complained
  • Pun – Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana
  • Rhetorical Question – How can I reach these kids?
  • Simile – blind as a bat
  • Synecdoche – I just got a new set of wheels
  • Zeugma – He broke my heart and my car.

What Is The Definition Of “Juxtaposition?”

Juxtaposition is a writing device in which two things (places, ideas, or characters and their actions) are put side by side in the prose or poem in order to compare or contrast them with each other.

This useful technique helps to portray characters in detail to create tension. A writer might place a good character alongside an evil character; the juxtaposition of the evil character’s malevolent tendencies against the benevolent traits of the good character will highlight such benevolent traits much better than it would if the writer merely portrayed the good character’s qualities alone. But this is not Staten Island Law, juxtaposition can be used in many different ways.

Examples Of Juxtaposition In Classic Literature

“Paradise Lost”: John Milton’s poem “Paradise Lost” is a classic example of juxtaposition. Two characters “God and Satan” are portrayed side by side, with the traits of each character made more obvious when compared with each other. Because of the contrast between Satan’s bad qualities and God’s good qualities, the reader can easily reach the conclusion that Satan was deserving of being banned from paradise for not submitting to God’s will.

“A Tale of Two Cities”: In this Charles Dickens tale of the French Revolution, the opening paragraph immediately contrasts the best and worst of the socio-economic climate of the times by speaking of wisdom and foolishness, Light and Darkness, hope and despair. This highlights the dichotomy in the story to come, in which the chasm between the “haves” and the “have-nots” becomes too vast to cross, setting the stage for revolution.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

Uses Of Juxtaposition

Writers use the literary device of juxtaposition to pique the reader’s interest, drawing a comparison between two contrary things by placing them side by side. The comparison creates a vivid picture in the reader’s mind and can control the pace of a poem or narrative by offering a sensible connection between two ambiguous ideas.

Just What Exactly Is The Definition Of A Stanza?

The term ‘stanza‘ is most often used in poetry. It is derived from a similarly spelled and pronounced Italian word that translates roughly as “room.”

A stanza is a set of lines within a poem that are grouped together. Stanzas are usually set apart from one another by use of indentation or blank lines. As such, they are much like how articles, stories, and novels are broken down into paragraphs, so in a way, stanzas are the paragraphs of poetry.

Stanzas sometimes have a regular rhyme or even a metrical scheme, depending on the format of the poem and the creative choices of the poet. However, there are no hard or fast rules requiring this to strictly happen.

Stanzas come in many unique forms. Many stanzaic forms prove quite simple, as four-line quatrains are very common. However, something like the Spenserian stanza is actually quite complex. Some poems, particularly fixed-verse poems, like sestinas, are actually defined by the form and number of the stanzas. Shakespearean sonnets are known commonly to have three quatrain stanzas followed by a couplet stanza, often employing iambic pentameter. The quatrains follow an alternating rhyme scheme while the concluding couplet has both lines rhyme with one another for the finishing punch or touch.

In concrete poetry or shape poetry, there are no such things as stanzas. Rather, the typological effect of the words is more important because the words create a shape that reinforces the meaning of the poem. For example, the poem below is entitled The Wine Glass

Who hath wo? Who hath Sorrow!
Who hath contentions? Who
hath wounds without cause?
Who hath redness of eyes?
They that tarry long at the
wine! They that go to
seek mixed wine! Look
not though upon the
wine when it is red,
when it giveth its
color in the
when it
moveth itself
the last
it biteth like a
serpent, and stingeth like an adder

What Is The Definition Of “Assonance?”

Assonance is a literary technique in which a vowel sound or diphthong is repeated in non-rhyming words. In order to be considered assonance, the words used must be close enough for the sound repetition to be noticed. This device is common in prose and poetry, especially in English verse.

Assonance is closely related to other techniques such as alliteration, consonance, and slant rhyme, as all four techniques include a quick succession of repeated sound.

A combination of alliteration (repeating the use of the same beginning consonant sound) and assonance is often used for tongue twisters, which is why they are so difficult to say without mistakes.

Assonance is often used for the same reasons as alliteration. Assonance can affect the tone, rhythm, or mood of the text. For example, repeating certain vowel sounds, such as short u or short o sounds, may create a melancholy feel.

Examples Of Assonance

There are many English proverbs that make use of assonance. The assonance in these examples make them easier to remember, but in a way that is more subtle than it would be if rhyming words were used.

  • A stitch in time saves nine.
  • The squeaky wheel gets the grease.
  • Let the cat out of the bag.
  • The early bird catches the worm.
  • Honesty is the best policy.

Assonance vs. Rhyming In English Verse

Many people believe that rhyme is a foundation of poetry, but in reality, it was uncommon in Old English verse. Old English did not have many words that rhymed, so poetry primarily used the techniques of meter, rhythm, assonance, and consonance. Only after the Germanic language assimilated words from the Romance languages did rhyme become popular in English poetry.

Rhyme remained a favorite technique in poetry for hundreds of years but has since fallen into disuse in contemporary times. However, consonance, assonance, and alliteration are still used in modern poetry today.

Example of Assonance Used In Poetry 

One of our favorite examples of assonance in poetry comes from Dylan Thomas’s famous poem “Do Not Go Gentle Into The Good Night.”

“Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage, against the dying of the light.
Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight,
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

What’s The Definition Of A Rhyme?

Humpty Dumpty sat on a WALL Humpty Dumpty had a great FALL

Rhymes are a pair of words that commonly appear in poetry that have similar vowel sounds. Using rhymes can give lines of prose a more interesting rhythm. Rhymes are a writing technique that has been in use for centuries.

Traditional Rhymes

In a nutshell, a rhyme consists of two or more words that have the same vowel sound. For example “room” and “boom” are rhymes. “Bat” and “cat” are also rhymes.

However, words don’t need to use the same letters to rhyme. For an example, “ocean” and “motion” rhyme even though they are spelled differently and have different vowels. They rhyme because their vowel sound is the same when read or spoken out loud.

Rhymes can also consist of multiple words. You could rhyme “beach” with “freedom of speech” or “rabbit” with “bad habit.”

Approximate Rhymes

There are in fact other types of rhymes besides vowel sound. Approximate Rhymes are a pair of words that don’t necessarily sound exactly the same. They
sound fairly similar.

Approximate rhymes allow writers to rhyme words that they wouldn’t be able to rhyme otherwise. “Orange” is a word that is famous for not rhyming with anything. However, there are several words that sound similar to “orange.” You could try rhyming “orange” with “abhorrence” and “porridge” and get the effect that you want.

Another example is the pair of words “love” and “grudge”. In songs, “girl” and “world” are commonly used.

Is Rhyming Essential?

A lot of people think that you have to use rhymes when writing a poem. However, that isn’t actually the case. The choice of whether or not to use a rhyme is entirely up to the writer. The writer also has to decide how the rhyme is structured.

Some writers rhyme the ending word of every phrase. Others rhyme the ending word of every other phrase. There are many different ways to use rhymes.

Examples of Rhymes in Poetry

Annabel Lee by Edgar Allen Poe is a poem that uses rhyme. Throughout the poem they rhyming structure changes. In the first stanza, it’s an ABABAB patter. In Stanza’s 2-4 its just the B lines that rhyme. In Stanza 5 its ABBABCB and the last stanza is ABABCCBB.

It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of ANNABEL LEE;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.

I was a child and she was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea;
But we loved with a love that was more than love-
I and my Annabel Lee;
With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven
Coveted her and me.

And this was the reason that, long ago,
In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
My beautiful Annabel Lee;
So that her highborn kinsman came
And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulchre
In this kingdom by the sea.

The angels, not half so happy in heaven,
Went envying her and me-
Yes!- that was the reason (as all men know,
In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of the cloud by night,
Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.

But our love it was stronger by far than the love
Of those who were older than we-
Of many far wiser than we-
And neither the angels in heaven above,
Nor the demons down under the sea,
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee.

For the moon never beams without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise but I feel the bright eyes
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling- my darling- my life and my bride,
In the sepulchre there by the sea,
In her tomb by the sounding sea.

The Definition Of Metaphor

Writers don’t always say exactly what they mean. Sometimes, writers use vivid expressions so that they can more accurately convey the feeling behind their words. This is known as a metaphor. A metaphor is one of many different types of literary devices. When a writer uses a metaphor, they use words or phrases to describe a situation even if those particular words don’t literally apply to the situation.

Metaphors can be found in the work of nearly every writer. As a matter of fact, metaphors are considered to be an essential component of writing. With that said, you need to select the metaphors that you use with care.

Find Metaphors That Other People Can Understand

Metaphors should make your intent more clear, not less clear. The metaphors you use need to be something that your reader can understand.

When you select a metaphor, you need to think about whether or not that metaphor makes sense to other people. Have people read over your work. Ask them if they understand your metaphors. If your intent isn’t coming through, you may have to use a different metaphor in your work.

Find Metaphors That Are Vivid And Expressive

While you should pick broad metaphors, you shouldn’t use a metaphor to say something bland or cliché. You should try to pick metaphors that are vivid and expressive. When people read over your metaphors, a clear image should appear in their head.

We do tend to discuss metaphors in song lyrics but metaphors are used in poetry quite often.

Common Metaphors

  • a sheet of snow
  • a heart of gold
  • elephant in the room
  • love is a battlefield
  • stench of failure

Metaphors in Poetry

One of the most famous metaphors used in Poetry is found in William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18 also known as Shall I Compare Thee To A Summer’s Day.

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature’s changing course, untrimmed;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st,
Nor shall death brag thou wand’rest in his shade,
When in eternal lines to Time thou grow’st.
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

In this poem, Shakespeare is using a Summer’s Day as a metaphor for love.

The Definition Of Simile

A lot of people get the terms “simile” and “metaphor” confused. When writers use a simile they are making a comparison between two things directly usually using the words “like” or “as”.

All similes are metaphors because you are making a comparison between two things, but not all metaphors are similes because similes refer to a comparison as previously mentioned with using the words “like” or “as”.

Similes are usually used by writers to help describe something. For example, a simile to describe the rain that was falling down from the sky and it was painful, you might say something along the lines of “the rain was like sharp needles pouring down from the sky.” If you wanted to use a metaphor, but not a simile, you could say something like “razor sharp needles poured down from the sky.” Because we know that rain falls from the sky, we still understand that the razor sharp needs are rain and not to take it in the literal sense. But to be safe and to make sure the reader doesn’t misinterpret the work, a lot of writers prefer to use similes over metaphors.

Examples of Similes In Everyday Language

  • as cute as a kitten
  • as busy as a bee
  • as light as a feather
  • fought like cats and dogs
  • boring as watching paint dry
  • sitting like a bump on a log

Example of Similes in Poetry

One of the most famous examples of a simile in a poem is none other than Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. The last line of the poem compares the star to a diamond. And based on science, we know that he’s not far off as carbon is what makes diamonds and is also found in stars! But of course, we know that stars are not diamonds in the literal sense.

“Twinkle, twinkle little star,
How I wonder what you are.
Up above the world so high,
Like a diamond in the sky.
Twinkle, twinkle little star,
How I wonder what you are.”