Literary Devices

This page was first published on the 24th of November, 2016 and last updated on the 17th of March, 2017 by Patrick Carpen.

Literary devices light up your writing.                   Photo Thanks To:

A device is something we use to get a particular task done. The word “device” has its roots in “devise”. To devise means to seek out a means of getting something done. When you devise something that you can use to accomplish a particular task, that thing you devised is a called a “device”.

In everyday life, we use all kinds of devices. For example, we use a physical, mechanical device to open the cork on a bottle of soft drink. Try to imagine what it would be like trying to open a bottle of soft drink without this simple, mechanical device called the “drinks opener”. You would probably have to hit the edge of the cork against an object such as a desk, or bite it with your teeth – if they are strong enough, or something like that.

Sure enough, you are cunning enough to be able to open a soft drink bottle without a drink opener; but it is sometimes a clumsy task and you risk breaking the bottle or injuring yourself. How much smoother and easier it is to open the bottle with the simple, mechanical device called the drinks opener.

Can you imagine how hard it would be to get your clothes smooth without a clothes iron? What would you do? Why do you think mankind “devised” the electrical “device” called the clothes iron? Sure, we can survive without well-pressed clothes, but how much nicer we appear when our clothes are well ironed!

A clothes iron is a good example of an electrical device which makes our life better. What other electrical devices can you think of that make our lives better?

Just as mechanical, electrical and other devices enhance our lives in the real world, so also do “literary devices” enhance our abilities to express ourselves. Without literary devices, our writing may still carry the meaning across, but it would be dull, boring and unexpressive. It would sort of be like showing up to an office job as though your clothes iron broke: you would still be there, still get the job done, but you wouldn’t look that sharp!

Literary devices light up our writing, just as the light bulb light up our houses. Literary devices carry our meanings across sharply, just as well ironed clothes help us to look sharp. Literary devices make our writing cooler and enjoyable, just as the refrigerator makes our beverages cooler and more enjoyable.

Some of the most common literary devices are:

The simile.

The metaphor.

The Personification.



On this page, I will try to define and give examples of as many literary devices as possible, with links to further reading.


One of the books I would like to quote in this write-up on literary devices is a book whose very name is a literary device. It is called “My Heart is Africa” by Canadian author Scott Griffin. In the book, Scott Griffin writes of his two-year visit to Africa as a medical rescue pilot. He worked for the charitable organization “Flying Doctors”.

In the book, Scott Griffin describes his sentiments and adventures in a land that has always intrigued and fascinated him.

In October 2016, I visited the Takutu Hotel in Guyana and made friends with some American visitors. One was a Christian Evangelist, Joe Evangelista. The other was a retired English teacher, and the third one was a pilot. His name was Ken. Ken was volunteering with the Remote Area Medical charity organization, which provides free emergency air services in remote areas across the world. At this time, Ken was volunteering in the Rupununi Savannahs of Guyana. I had seen the book “My Heart is Africa” lying on the table in the hotel lobby several times before, when I was visiting the hotel. I had picked it up and skimmed through it. But I had no idea whose book it was, so I just put it down again when I had to go.

But that night, as I was chatting with the three Americans, the book was there again. I held it in my hands and asked “whose book is this”?

“It’s mine”, Ken replied with a smile.

“And you just left it here? I absolutely love this book by the way. So you just left it here for someone to pick it up?”

“Yes,” Ken chuckled. “I was finished reading it so I left it there so that whoever liked it could take it.”

I could take a hint. And that’s how I became the proud owner of “My Heart is Africa” by Scott Griffin. And the reason I mention this book in this article is, as I told Ken, the book is “richly strewn with literary devices”. I’ll be extracting some of those literary devices here and explain them for my readers to understand.

And I’ll start with the very title:

My Heart is Africa.

The above expression is a very powerful example of symbolism in literature. The writer says that his heart is Africa. In English literature, as well as global tradition, the heart has been used to symbolize love.

Related: Do not confuse symbolism with metaphors.

The writer states “my heart is Africa”, and suggests a strong connection between his love and Africa. The writer suggests that Africa, this intriguing and fascinating land, has captivated his heart to the point of consummation. The writer uses symbolism to denote his strong love for Africa based on his earlier fascination and later adventures there.

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