The key difference between literary devices and figures of speech is that the literary devices involve all literary elements in a literary work while the figures of speech mainly involve language and style of a literary work.
A figure of speech is a form of expression where writers use words out of their literary meaning or out of ordinary use. However, a literary device can be broadly defined as a literary or linguistic technique producing a specific effect, especially a figure of speech, narrative style, or plot mechanism. Though figures of speech are a type of literary device, not all literary devices are figures of speech.
What are Literary Devices?
Literary devices refer to devices or manoeuvres writers use in their writing to relay information and develop the narrative, i.e., to make his or her work complete, interesting or complex. In other words, it is a “literary or linguistic technique that produces a specific effect, esp. a figure of speech, narrative style, or plot mechanism”.
While figures of speech are a major component of literary devices, they are only one aspect of literary devices. Literary devices also include techniques that enhance elements such as setting, plot, and characterization of a literary work. Below are some examples of literary devices one can use to improve the plot and characterization:
Flashback – depicting an occurrence that happened before the current point of the story
Deus ex-machine – an unexpected character, an unlikely concept or a divine character is introduced into the story to resolve the conflict
In medias res – beginning the narrative in the middle of the story, not at the beginning
Hamartia – fatal flaw in the protagonist that leads to his downfall
Archetype – recurring symbols or motifs that represent universal patterns of human nature (ex: hero, villain, damsel in distress)
Foil – juxtaposing two characters to highlight the differences in their nature
What are Figures of Speech?
A figure of speech is a form of expression where words are used out of their literal meaning or out of their ordinary use. Figures of speech often offer emphasis, the freshness of expression, or clarity to a work of literature. Furthermore, their main aim is to use the language creatively to heighten the effect of what is being said. There are many types of figures of speech.
Some Examples of Figures of Speech
- Similes – making a direct comparison between two things
- Metaphors – making an implicit comparison between two unrelated things
- Alliteration – same consonant sound occurring at the beginning of adjacent or closely connected words
- Consonance – repetition of consonant sounds in words that are in close proximity
- Synecdoche – using a word or phrase that refers to a part of something to represent the whole or vice versa.
- Oxymoron – using two contrasting words together
- Hyperbole – deliberately using exaggeration for the sake of emphasis
What is the Difference Between Literary Devices and Figures of Speech?
A literary device is a literary or linguistic technique that produces a specific effect, esp. a figure of speech, narrative style, or plot mechanism. A figure of speech, on the other hand, is a form of expression where words are used out of their literal meaning or out of their ordinary use. As reflected by these definitions, a figure of speech is a literary device, but not all literary devices are figures of speech. Writers use literary devices to enhance various elements such as setting, style, plot, and characterization. Figures of speech are mainly related to language and style of a work of literature. In other words, figures of speech mainly enhance the style and language of a work. This is the main difference between literary devices and figures of speech.
Summary – Literary Devices vs Figures of Speech
Literary devices refer to a broad category referring to literary or linguistic techniques in a work of literature that produces a specific effect. Moreover, figures of speech are a type of these literary devices. This is the primary difference between literary devices and figures of speech.
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