Home Education 4 Frequently Used Literary Devices Every College Students Must Know About

4 Frequently Used Literary Devices Every College Students Must Know About


“If you can look into the seeds of time, and say which grain would grow and which will not speak then to me”- Macbeth, William Shakespeare

Brilliant and mind-blowing, isn’t it?

But do you understand what made this sentence so ‘brilliant’? The simple and strategic use of metaphor.

You may have always wondered how certain reputed writers and even essay writers manage to leave us in awe. You might think that it is impossible for you to achieve, but it isn’t with the right literary devices and techniques.

Exemplary literary devices, like metaphors and similes, form the building blocks of literature. Since they are analyzed in such antiquated ways, most people tend to come out of high school with much disdain for what English classes teach.

However, for bibliophiles like me, literary devices make the literature magical. To me, these are the exemplary tools that writers use to heighten their narrative, evoke emotions, and convey their message. Instead of merely stating things for what they are, literary devices bring writing to life and leave a stronger impact on readers.

Forget everything that high school has taught you till now, and consider this your crash course on common literary devices. Whether you are looking to improve your creative writing by notches or studying for the AP Lit exam, this post is crammed with literary devices, examples, and analysis.

Without any further ado, let’s straight away get into the deets. Shall we?

  • Metaphors

A metaphor compares two similar things by stating that one of them is the other. It is mainly a statement in which two objects, often unrelated, are compared to each other. According to most essay writers, this one is a heavy hitter among all literary devices.

If a standard metaphor doesn’t do the trick, you can always use an extended metaphor. It is a metaphor that expands on the initial comparison achieved through more elaborate parallels.

Example 1: In Andrew Marvell’s famous poem ‘To His Coy Mistress’, the author uses the following metaphor to describe his fear of pending death.

“But at my back, I always hear,

Time’s winged chariot hurrying near.”

Here, the author is able to convey the horror and strength of imagining his demise by comparing death to a ‘winged chariot’.

Example 2: “This tree is the god of the forest”.

Of course, the tree is no god. It is just a tree. However, by saying that the tree is the god, the writer makes an effort to portray the image of something strong, large, and immovable. Further, using ‘god’ to describe the tree, rather than using words like ‘gargantuan’ or ‘giant’, makes the tree seem like a spiritual center of the forest.

However, there is one problem when using metaphors. Using the common ones like ‘It is raining cats and dogs’ or ‘Life is a rollercoaster ride’ doesn’t create the impact they should. Thus, before using a metaphor, make sure you do not use a cliché one.

  • Simile

Similes are also known as indirect comparisons. They are similar in constructions like a metaphor but imply a different meaning. It is a kind of metaphor in which an object, idea, character, action, etc., is compared to another thing using the words ‘as’ or ‘like’.

If you go through tutorials of eminent essay writers, you would understand that using similes makes your writing more descriptive and intriguing. What’s more, coming up with new similes lets you push your creative boundaries.

Example 1:  

“What light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.”

In this line from Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare, Romeo compares Juliet to the sun. But, as Romeo doesn’t use the words ‘like’ or ‘as’, it is just a metaphor and not a simile.

Now, consider this line- “He is as vicious as a lion”.

Since this statement uses the word ‘as’ to make a comparison between ‘he’ and the ‘lion’, it is a simile.

Example 2:

“I wandered lonely as a cloud

That floats on high o’er vales and hills.”

  • Daffodils, William Wordsworth

Here, Wordsworth uses ‘lonely as a cloud’. He makes use of this simile to compare the states of isolation.

  • Allusion

An allusion is a figure of speech that references a person, thing, place or an event in the real world. Writers often use allusion to paint a vivid picture or connect with the readers. This figure of speech doesn’t describe an individual or a thing explicitly and is considered a passing comment.

The reader is often required to possess in-depth knowledge to detect the allusion and grasp its importance in a text, opines the most reputed stalwarts of essay help services.

While allusions are common, the use of it is quite risky. This is primarily because the author has no way of knowing that the reader is familiar with the story. To limit such risk, allusions are often used in well-known works like the Bible or Shakespearean plays.

Example 1:  

“I don’t support this quixotic idea.”

This particular word is derived from Cervantes’s ‘Don Quixote’, a gripping story of a foolish knight and his miseries. It means stupid and impractical.

Example 2:

“Night after night, our hero lay in bed with the flu, hacking mucus and blood and seeing behind his eyelids, the angels or devils come to collect him. But one morning, like Lazarus, he was whole again…”

One of the most alluded texts in the history of literature is the New Testament of the Bible. The above example is an illusion that a writer has made to the Biblical story of Lazarus, who famously rose from the dead. Here, notice how this allusion intensifies the character’s recovery.

  • Euphemism

Often in literature, for taste or the humor, essay writers desire to describe a particular graphic or offensive event using milder imagery or phrasing. When an author wishes to do this, it’s popularly known as the euphemism.

Euphemism heavily depends on the social content of the author, where they feel the need to replace certain words that may seem embarrassing for certain listeners or readers in a specific situation.

Example 1: The term ‘kick the bucket’ is a euphemism that mainly refers to a person’s death.

Example 2: Let’s say a sports broadcaster calling the action in a basketball game has to say into the microphone that a player has just been struck in the genitalia with a line drive. Undoubtedly, in the interests of the taste, he doesn’t wish to say ‘genitalia’ on air. So, he simply says:

“….it’s a line drive up the middle and, oh my goodness, ladies and gentlemen, he seems to have taken one just below the belt…’

If you look closely, you will notice how below the belt conveys the message where the ball has hit the player but strategically avoids using the explicit term.

Final Note,

Last but not least, I would strongly advise you not to get overwhelmed by the number of literary devices and be pressurized to use all of them in your college essays. While there is no limitation rule, what’s crucial is to maintain a healthy balance and use this remarkable tool sparingly. Further, you must use literary devices in the proper places to truly add value, enhance the description, and engage the readers.

Happy writing, Mates!

Author Bio: Clara Smith is an eminent author and active blogger hailing from the USA. She is a popular essay writer at Allessaywriter.com, providing quality services to students for 10+ years. Charlotte is also a doting mother to two daughters and loves to spend time with them when she is free.