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Sunday, January 1, 2017

Stream of Consciousness


Stream of Consciousness (often called interior monologue) is an immensely intricate modernist technique of narration. Hence no precise or acceptable definition of the method prevails up till now. However, in general sense, stream of consciousness is a mode of narration that attempts to reproduce the full and uninterrupted stream or flow a character’s mental process in which thoughts, ideas, reactions, memories, and sense impressions may intermingle without coherent or logical transitions.


Stream of consciousness is a narrative technique in non-dramatic fiction which is particularly preferred by the writers of psychological novels. By means of words the technique describes the continuous flow of thoughts in the minds of the characters. Therefore, Stream of consciousness technique features a trip from the outer world into the inner world of a character. It puts Over-emphasis on the latter since it is more important than the former.

Stream of consciousness presents the character’s thoughts and feelings in the way people actually think. In real life the flow of human thoughts occur in a non-linear manner without having any beginning or end. As a result, it lacks chronological or logical pattern, which ultimately results in fragmentary thoughts and sensory feelings. Since stream of consciousness follows this very disjointed or randomized sequence, the audience may face difficulty to comprehend the narrative. However, if executed masterfully, stream of consciousness can make the text really enjoyable.

Salient Features

The salient features of stream of consciousness are as follows:
  • Description of the continuous flow of unspoken thoughts or perceptions of the character.
  • The character's thoughts and feelings are depicted as overheard in the mind or addressed to oneself.
  • Chiefly concerned with subjective description of life.
  • The flow of character’s thoughts often appears without a coherent structure or cohesion.
  • Use of informal and colloquial language.
  • Abandonment of conventional rules of syntax and punctuation.
  • Use of the cinematic device of montage, i.e., the shift of thoughts randomly from one thing to another.


Stream of consciousness technique has two major stylistic forms:
  1. Narrated Stream of Consciousness: Also called indirect interior monologue or psycho-narration wherein the character’s thoughts are presented by a third person omniscient narrator who serves as selector, presenter, guide, and commentator. Narrated stream of consciousness renders the narrative report of the character's psychological states, i.e., the remote, preconscious state that exists before the mind organizes sensations. Consequently, the re-creation of a narrated stream of consciousness frequently lacks the unity, explicit cohesion, and selectivity of direct thought. It shifts from third person omniscient narration to interior monologue by using verbs of perception such as “he thought” to enter the character’s mind, thus providing some context for the character’s mental flow of description and commentary. For instance, Virginia Woolf uses indirect interior monologue in her novels Mrs. Dalloway (1925) and To the Lighthouse (1927).
  2. Interior Monologue: Also called quoted stream of consciousness. The term interior monologue is often mistakenly used as a synonym for stream of consciousness. In essence, it is a type of stream of consciousness. It entails the presentation of consciousness in a seemingly transparent, uninterrupted way, from the first person point of view of a character, without guidance or commentary from a third person narrator. More specifically, in interior monologue the author seems not to exist and the interior self of the character is given directly. For example: James Joyce employs direct interior monologue in the final chapter of his groundbreaking novel Ulysses (1920).


  • Stream of consciousness technique enables the writer to portray the inner status of a character in an effective and convincing way. In this way the author takes the reader inside the mind of the character to follow his or her thought patterns.
  • Stream of consciousness often presents rapid shifts in the character’s thought processes, such as memories, feelings, etc. by means of flashback and foreshadowing. That means the characters’ mind is shifted from one position to another seemingly discontinuous one so that the audience need to draw an inference about their connection and also about the upcoming twists. In this way the author is able retain the reader’s interest till the end of the text.
  • Stream of consciousness technique sometimes contributes to the overall development of the plot.

Stream of Consciousness Vs. Interior Monologue

Although often used interchangeably, a number of distinctions could be made between stream of consciousness and interior monologue:

Sl. # Stream of Consciousness Interior Monologue
First coined by William James in the thesis The Principles of Psychology in 1890. First used in Les Lauriers sont coupés by Édouard Dujardin in 1887.
Presentation of the flow of the character’s mind combining unorganized or irrational thoughts, feelings, memories and reactions. The relatively rational and orderly compilation of thoughts and memories, wishes, and ideas that the character has reunited throughout the different events of his life.
Manifests the inner workings of a character. Attempts to dramatize a conflict using thoughts.
Does not maintain formal syntax, vocabulary, or punctuation. Does not violate formal syntax, vocabulary, or punctuation.
Usually presented by third person narration. Typically presented by first person narration.
Is a separate mode of narration. Is a form of stream of consciousness.


The term stream of consciousness has been transferred in literary context from the field of psychology. It was first used by the American philosopher and psychologist William James (1842 –1910) in his book The Principles of Psychology (1890) to describe the unbroken flow of thought and awareness of the waking mind. In Chapter XI he provided a phenomenological description of this sensation of consciousness:

“Consciousness, then, does not appear to itself chopped up in bits. Such words as 'chain' or 'train' do not describe it fitly as it presents itself in the first instance. It is nothing jointed; it flows. A 'river' or a 'stream' are the metaphors by which it is most naturally described. In talking of it hereafter, let us call it the stream of thought, of consciousness, or of subjective life.”

The Freudian theories of psychoanalytic findings exerted tremendous influence in modernist literature, no doubt. However, William James’s theory about the nature of consciousness had a much profound influence than that of Freud's. In 1918 the English novelist and critic May Sinclair (1863 –1946) first applied the term stream of consciousness, in a literary context, when discussing Dorothy Richardson's novels.

The technique was perhaps brought to its highest point of development in Ulysses (1922) and Finnegans Wake (1939) by the Irish novelist and poet James Joyce (1882 –1941). Other exponents of the form were American novelist William Faulkner (1897–1962) and British novelist Virginia Woolf (1882–1941). The British writer Dorothy Richardson 1873–1957) is considered by some actually to be the pioneer in use of the device. Her novel Pilgrimage (1911–1938), a 12-volume sequence, is an intense analysis of the development of a sensitive young woman and her responses to the world around her.

Although strongly associated with the 20th century modernist movement, some earlier works also share similar technique. The earliest precursor of any literary work using this technique is possibly Ovid's (43 BC – AD 17/18) Metamorphoses (8 AD). Other works include Sir Thomas Browne's (1605–1682) discourse The Garden of Cyrus (1658), Laurence Sterne's (1713-1768) The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman (1759), Edgar Allen Poe’s (1809-1849) “The Tell-Tale Heart” (1843), Édouard Dujardin's (1861 –1949) Les Lauriers sont coupés (1888), and Leo Tolstoy's (1828 -1910) Anna Karenina (1877). Moreover, some of the books by Henry James (1843 – 1916), the younger brother of William James also reflect this technique: What Maisie Knew (1897) and The Golden Bowl (1904). Last but not least TS Elliot's (1888 – 4 1965) "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" (1915) is also an early paradigm of stream of consciousnesses narrative technique.


 Abrams, M.H. A Glossary of Literary Terms. 7th ed. USA: H & H, 1999

Griffith, Benjamin W. A Pocket Guide to Literature and Language Terms. New York: Barron's, 1976

Gupta, A.N. and Satis Gupta. A Dictionary of English Literature. 2nd ed. Bareilly: PBD, 1995

Harmon, William and Hugh Holman. 10th ed. A Handbook to Literature. Upper Saddle River, N.J: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2006.

"Stream of Consciousness”. Literary Devices. 2016. Literary Devices. 2 December 2016

"Stream of Consciousness”. Encyclopædia Britannica. 2016. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. 2 December 2016

"Stream of Consciousness”. New World Encyclopedia. 2016. NWE. 2 December 2016

"Stream of Consciousness”. Narrative Wiki. 2012. Narrative Wiki. 2 December 2016
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"Stream of Consciousness”. Literary Devices. 2016. Literary Devices. 2 December 2016

"Stream of consciousness (narrative mode)”. Wikipedia. 2016. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. 2 December 2016

"Stream of Consciousness in Modernism”. Shmoop. 2016. Shmoop University. 2 December 2016

Watt, Homer A. and William W. Watt. A Handbook of English Literature. New York: Barnes & Noble, 1946

"What Is the Role of Stream of Consciousness in Literature?”. wiseGEEK. 2016. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. 2 December 2016


Thursday, December 1, 2016



Paradox is a statement, proposition, or situation that seems to be absurd or contradictory, but in fact is or may be true.



The English term paradox was borrowed during the mid-16th century from the Late Latin noun paradoxum, which the Latin speakers adopted from the Greek adjective paradoxos meaning "contrary to expectation" which was combined from Greek prefix para- "contrary to" + doxa "opinion," the latter derived from dokein "to appear, to seem, to think, to accept".

Origin of Paradox


adj. Paradoxical
adv. Paradoxically


Paradox is a literary device wherein two seemingly contrasting ideas or statements are juxtaposed. A paradox may seem like a self-contradictory, silly statement at first, but upon further analysis, it will reveal a latent truth. Therefore, paradox consists of two levels:
  1. Basic/surface level: the function of surface level is to conceal the rational meaning of a statement.
  2. Higher/deeper level: the function of higher level is to reveal the actual truth behind a statement.
Thus paradox is understood when the surface meaning is distinguished from its deeper level, for example:

“Failure is the pillar of success.”

In the above sentence the surface meaning appears self-contradictory and silly as generally failure means lack of success. However, when we make a deeper analysis we find that failure helps us to determine whether we are moving in the right direction for success.


  1. Paradox helps develop reader's creativity by compelling them to ponder over a subject in an innovative way.
  2. Paradox is employed to create unconventional imagery.
  3. Authors use paradox to draw reader's attention.
  4. Paradox makes the text more interesting.
  5. Paradoxical statements often sum up the main ideas of the work.


Paradoxes could be categorized into the following ways:
  1. Rhetorical Paradox: rhetorical paradox is a seemingly contrasting comment or statement made by a character. A well-known example of paradox appears in George Orwell’s Animal Farm (1945):
“All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others”.
  1. Situational Paradox: situational paradox is a situation or circumstance that is contradictory. The following passage from Joseph Heller’s novel Catch-22 (1961) consists of an instance of situational paradox:
“There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one’s safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions.”

Paradox vs. Oxymoron

Sl. # Paradox Oxymoron
Paradox may consist of a sentence or even a group of sentences. Oxymoron is a combination of two contradictory or opposite words.
Paradox refers to actual conditions or concepts which appear to present an impossible situation. Oxymoron refers to word combinations which are contradictory.
Paradox arrests attention and provokes innovative thought. Oxymoron creates a dramatic effect.
Paradox is not solely a witty or amusing statement, often it can prove to be very revealing about human nature and the way that we speak. Oxymoron is just the juxtaposition of two words for amusement.
Paradox can be created using an oxymoron. Oxymoron can be used to create a paradox.






“Difference Between Paradox and Oxymoron.” Pediaa.Com. 2016. Pediaa.Com. 4 November 2016

“Examples of Paradox.” Your Dictionary. 2016. LoveToKnow, Corp. 4 November 2016

“Paradox.” 2016. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 4 November 2016
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“Paradox.” Literary Devices. 2016. Literary Devices. 4 November 2016


Tuesday, November 1, 2016



Mock-epic (also called mock-heroic or heroi-comic) is a long narrative poem written in mock-heroic style, intended to be humorous. More specifically, mock-epic is a parody of the epic style or manner by treating a trivial subject seriously.


The terms mock-epic, mock-heroic, or heroi-comic are virtually interchangeable and are generally applied to literary works which involve either:
  • imitation and burlesque of the structure, attitudes and conventions of the true epic, or
  • ridicule of subject matter by handling an elevated subject in a trivial manner, or
  • treatment of a low subject with epic dignity.
Satire is a fundamental technique used in all mock-epics. Several literary devices such as, irony, exaggeration, and sarcasm are extensively used to achieve the desired satiric effect. During its heyday mock-epic became the favorite genre for a number of notable poets to satirize the contemporary ideas and conditions.

Although used synonymously, the terms mock-heroic and mock-epic exhibit slight difference. In essence the former is a much broader term than the latter. To be specific, mock-heroic refers to any work (either prose or poetry) treating a trivial subject in embellished formal language and elevated vocabulary. Therefore, the term mock-heroic is not merely tagged with mock-epic rather it is applied to any works composed in the aforesaid style and manner. In fine, mock-heroic style is the ridiculed version of traditional heroic style.

Salient Features

A mock-epic usually consists of the following features:
Mock-heroic Characteristics:
  • A sarcastic tone.
  • A trivial or insignificant subject.
  • A protagonist with exaggerated heroic qualities such as, stupidity, amorality, etc.
  • Mockery of heroic style.
Epic-specific Conventions:
  • Invocation in epic tradition.
  • A formal statement of theme.
  • Elaborate descriptions of battles, warriors and their weapons.
  • Use of supernatural machinery.
  • Journeys on water and down to the underworld.
  • Long discussions.
  • Boasting speeches.
  • Use of grand and exalted style of the serious epic.
  • Use of epic similes, or elaborate comparisons similar to Homer.
  • Division of the work into books and cantos.


Mock-epic flourished in England during the late 17th and early 18th-century Neoclassical period as a reaction to traditional epic poetry. This genre created ample scope for the poets to expose the follies, vices, and affectations of the contemporary English society. John Dryden (1631–1700) is one of the earliest poets to popularize this genre with his Mac Flecknoe (1682). The poem is a direct attack on Thomas Shadwell (c. 1642–1692), a major contemporary of Dryden.
Alexander Pope

In the 18th century the mock-epic was brilliantly executed in the works of Alexander Pope (1688–1744). Pope's The Rape of the Lock (1712; revised edition 1714) is deemed to be the finest paradigm of mock-epic in any literature. The poem accounts the stealing of a lock of hair of a pretty young lady that resembles the kidnapping of Helen of Troy portrayed in The Iliad. Pope treated the incident as if it were comparable to events that instigated the Trojan War. In this poem Pope did incredibly well in handling a trivial subject in the dignified style of a traditional epic. He incorporated almost all basic conventions of an epic, including the formal invocation, the supernatural machinery, a journey on water, a visit to the underworld, the arming of the epic hero, description of weapons, and a heroically scaled battle.

The Dunciad (1728–1743) is another famous mock-epic by Pope having many qualities of an epic. The poem accounts the conquest of England by Dulness, the daughter of Chaos and eternal Night. Beginning with an invocation to the Muse, Pope mockingly shows how her chosen hero brought decay, imbecility, and dullness to the kingdom of Great Britain.

During this time several prose works were also written in this form, including Henry Fielding's Joseph Andrews (1742), which is described by its author as “a comic epic ... in prose.”

In the 19th century Romantic age Lord Byron wrote his long narrative poem Don Juan (1819–1824), which is also considered a mock-epic to some extent. By employing wit, humor, irony, exaggeration, etc. he exposed and satirized the hypocrisy and the corruption of higher society and in turn criticized the poetic tendency of the time as well. It is a mock-epic since his central character neither possesses any heroic property nor does he participate in any genuine adventure other than a few amorous ones.

Although chiefly considered to be flourished in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, its literary lineage reverts back to antiquity. It is assumed that the genre originated with the Batrachomyomachia or The Battle of the Frogs and the Mice, an anonymous burlesque and imitation of Homer’s Iliad. The aforesaid poem shows some tenets of treating a trivial subject by the heroic manner.

Epic vs. Mock-epic

Sl. # Epic Mock-epic
Retells an important episode in the life of a hero who embodies the values and ambitions of a particular society. Relates the exploits of a character who shows individualistic traits that the society does not officially approve of.
The hero and major characters hail from upper class or nobility. The hero is often a commoner, usually from lower social stratum, though sometimes upper class characters are also chosen.
Treats a subject which is important and sublime, having a national interest. Treats an essentially silly or trivial subject infused with personal interest.
Intends to narrate the past through the life and heroic deeds of the hero. Intends to expose the foibles and malpractices of society through the outlandish deeds and actions of the hero.
Consists of several volumes and much longer in length. Consists a fewer volumes and usually much shorter than the traditional epic.






Abrams, M.H. A Glossary of Literary Terms. 7th ed. USA: H & H, 1999

"Characteristics of A Mock Epic”. Reference. 2016. Reference An IAC Publishing Labs Company.
15 October 2016

Cody, David. “The Mock Epic as Genre”. Victorian Web. 2016. Victorian Web. 15 October 2016

"Epic". Microsoft Encarta. DVD-ROM. Redmond: Microsoft, 2005.

Griffith, Benjamin W. A Pocket Guide to Literature and Language Terms. New York: Barron's, 1976

Gupta, A.N. and Satis Gupta. A Dictionary of English Literature. 2nd ed. Bareilly: PBD, 1995

" Mock-heroic”. Wikipedia. 2016. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. 15 October 2016

" Mock- epic”. Encyclopædia Britannica. 2016. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. 15 October 2016

 “Mock Epic”. 2016. 15 October 2016

“Mock Heroic”. 2016. 15 October 2016

Watt, Homer A. and William W. Watt. A Handbook of English Literature.
New York: Barnes & Noble, 1946


Tuesday, October 11, 2016



Hyperbole is a figure of speech through which a statement or assertion is made with an obvious exaggeration of fact. In other words, it is a way of expression that makes a person or thing better or worse, or larger or smaller than he/it really is.


The term hyperbole originated in the late Middle English period via Latin hyperbolē, from Ancient Greek huperbolḗ, meaning “excess, exaggeration”, from hupér, meaning "to throw" + bállō, meaning "over or beyond".


Noun: hyperbolism
Adjective: hyperbolic; hyperbolical
Verb: hyperbolize
Adverb: hyperbolically


Hyperbole is not meant to be taken literally. It is primarily intended for understanding from figurative level only. The figurative level represents an unreal or exaggerated comparison to emphasize an actual situation or possibility. For example:
“I climbed mountains for this”

In the above sentence the speaker makes a point that he climbed mountains to accomplish certain goal, although it is apparent that actually he did nothing like that. He used this overstatement to emphasize the hard work and effort he put towards his goal. Let us consider the following illustration for further clarification:
In the above illustration Part-A represents the actual situation, whereas Part-B represents an overstatement of Part-A. Therefore, Part-B is the hyperbole of Part-A.

Hyperbolic Comparison: © Tanvir Shameem

Hyperbole is a favourite rhetorical device in literature and writers use it extensively in fictional works, such as poetry, stories, etc. However, hyperbolic comparisons are rarely used in serious non-fictional works. Although hyperbole is generally tagged with literature, it is also very common in everyday speech.

A hyperbole may employ other figures of speech such as simile and metaphor to produce the exaggeration. For example, the following simile consists of a hyperbole:

"My soul has grown deep like the rivers."

Function of Hyperbole

  • Hyperbolic exaggeration emphasizes a certain point.
  • Hyperbole incorporates humour to the story.
  • Hyperbole makes the story more interesting and arresting.
  • Encourages the readers to retain interest.


Gupta, A.N. and Satis Gupta. A Dictionary of English Literature. 2nd ed. Bareilly: PBD, 1995

Griffith, Benjamin W. A Pocket Guide to Literature and Language Terms. New York: Barron's, 1976

"Hyperbole”. Literary Devices. 2016. Literary Devices. 5 September 2016

"Examples of Hyperboles”. YourDictionary. 2016. LoveToKnow, Corp. 5 September 2016

"Hyperbole”. Literary Terms. 2016. Literary Terms. 5 September 2016
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"Hyperbole”. Wikipedia. 2016. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. 5 September 2016


Thursday, September 22, 2016



Allusion, in literature, is a figure of speech, which refers to a brief implied or indirect reference to a person, event, thing, or to a part of another text. In other words, allusion is an inexplicit hint to some piece of knowledge that the author presumes the reader will know. Most allusions serve to illustrate or expand upon or enhance a subject. For example:

“She is another Helen

In the above sentence the subject has been expanded by alluding to Helen of Troy, a mythological figure who was well-known for her matchless beauty. Therefore, the aforesaid allusion implies that the subject is outstandingly beautiful.



The term allusion was borrowed into English in the middle of the 16th century. It derives from the late Latin word allūsiō meaning “a play on words” or “game” and is a derivative of the Latin word allūdere, meaning “to play with” or “to refer to” or “to joke”.


Noun: allusiveness
Verb: Allude
Adjective: allusive
Adverb: allusively


Allusion presents a reference in a literary work to something outside of the work. It functions on the basis of background knowledge of the reader, usually on a famous literary or historical person, place or event, or ancient stories, or other literary work. Although little details are provided, the referenced phenomena are readily recognizable by the audience for their historical, literary, or cultural significance. Most frequently allusions are made to past events such as, references to the Bible and Greek or Roman mythology. However, allusions may also be made to contemporary persons or events. Although incompliant with traditional definition, less frequently allusion may also present a reference to something inside of the work.

Allusions are often used within a metaphor or simile. Such a comparison alludes to an event or person that every individual should understand without much explanation. For example: “Your backyard is a Garden of Eden.” (Metaphor); “Your backyard is like a Garden of Eden.” (Simile)


Based on the above discussion allusions could be categorized in the following manner:
  1. External Allusion: This is the principal and most traditional allusion type. It is called external allusion since it refers to something outside of the text. The audience can easily catch an external allusion since it refers to a person, thing, or event which has been popularly known for an extensive period of time. External allusions are of four types:
  1. Biblical Allusion: A brief and indirect reference to something in the Bible, which may include a particular scripture, character, or story. For instance, “You are a Solomon when it comes to making decisions.”
  2. Literary Allusion: An indirect reference to other famous literary works. Often literary allusion is employed to refer to a separate story, legend, myth, and mythological or literary character. For example, “He was a real Romeo with the ladies”; “Chocolate was her Achilles’ heel.”
  3. Historical Allusion: An indirect reference to history such as, a historical event, character, etc. For example, “He was acting more like Franklin Roosevelt than Adolf Hitler.”
  4. Pop Culture Allusion: Also called cultural allusion. An indirect reference to a person, place, or event within a specific community or culture. Most cultural allusions are made from popular songs, movies, cartoon shows, TV shows, video games, etc. For example, “You are acting just like Mr. Magoo!
  1. Internal Allusion: This is a less frequent allusion type. It is called internal allusion since the author refers to something that has been mentioned in the same work earlier. Internal allusions are hard to catch since the referenced knowledge either lacks popularity or its usage is restricted in the current work only.

Related Terms

  1. Foreshadowing: Foreshadowing refers to something that hasn’t happened yet. With this device the author gives clues about events that will happen later in the story. Often these clues are so subtle that they can only be noticed or fully understood upon a second reading.
  2. Quotation:  Quotation is a group of words taken from a text or speech and repeated by someone other than the original author in another text. The quoted expression is usually explicitly attributed by citation to its original source, and it is punctuated with quotation marks.
  3. Citation: Citation is the way by which a formal reference is made to another text. It gives the readers information necessary to validate the source of a fact, or quotation used from another text. With a sharp contrast to allusion, citation is always explicit and direct.


  • Allusions enable the writer to express an idea or emotion in a condensed and simple manner.
  • Allusions increase the trustworthiness of an argument.
  • Allusions help the reader to understand new information such as characters, setting, plot, etc. by relating them to previous knowledge.
  • The religious, mythological, and cultural references make the story more engaging and help the reader grasp the message of the text.
  • Allusions make a story grand, fanciful, funny, and surprising.


The chief disadvantage of allusion stems from its manner of description, which involves a brief reference to a person, thing, or event. Therefore, in order to understand an allusion the audience must have a prior knowledge of the stated reference. If the audience is unaware of it then he will fail to understand the author’s intended message. In such case the text will surely lose its coherence. Hence, sometimes allusions may appear suitable for cultured or educated audience only.

Allusion, delusion, or illusion?

Although sound closest, allusion and illusion are dissimilar in meaning. While allusion is an indirect reference to a person, thing, or event, an illusion is a false or misleading impression or perception, either by the senses or by the mind. Contrariwise, delusion refers to false idea or belief caused by mental illness rather than a wrong impression that somebody receives.



Abrams, M.H. A Glossary of Literary Terms. 7th ed. USA: H & H, 1999

"Allusion”. Literary Devices. 2016. Literary Devices. 18 September 2016<>.

"Allusion”. Literary Terms. 2016. Literary Terms. 18 September 2016<>.

"Allusion”. Wikipedia. 2016. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. 18 September 2016
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"Allusion Examples”. Softschools. 2016. 18 September 2016

"Examples of Allusion”. YourDictionary. 2016. LoveToKnow, Corp. 18 September 2016

Griffith, Benjamin W. A Pocket Guide to Literature and Language Terms. New York: Barron's, 1976

Gupta, A.N. and Satis Gupta. A Dictionary of English Literature. 2nd ed. Bareilly: PBD, 1995


Monday, September 5, 2016



Personification is a frequently employed figure of speech in literature. With this device the human traits are attributed to inanimate objects or abstract ideas. More specifically, personification refers to treating objects and intangible things as persons without giving them human shape.

Let us consider the following instance of personification to understand its structure:

“Love stabbed him in the heart"

In the above sentence the subject "love" is an abstract idea while the verb "stab" is a human-specific attribute. The aforesaid human attribute has been transferred into the subject to realize the personification process. The output is a personified version of "love" along with its still-intact nonhuman form. Herein "love" is conceived as if it were a living person and is capable of stabbing someone's heart. The structure of  personification can be further clarified by the following illustration:

Structure of Personification


Based on the different cases of occurrences, personification could be classified in the following manner:
  1. Non-human entities performing human actions: e.g. "The flowers danced in the gentle breeze"; "The pistol glared at me from its holster".
  2. Non-human entities expressing human emotions: e.g. "The sea was boiling with rage"; "The trees sighed in the wind".
  3. Abstract ideas are given human qualities: e.g. "Hunger sat shivering on the road"; "Misfortune never comes alone".

Determinants of Personification

  • Careful reading of sentences.
  • Identifying words containing nonliving object or idea in the sentences.
  • Identifying description of any lifeless entity treated as living a person.
  • Identification of any implied meaning against any inanimate object or ideas.
  • Analyzing the imagery in the passages thoroughly.
  • Identification of a comparison between an object or idea with human traits.


  • Personification gives life to lifeless entities.
  • Personification generates vivid imagery.
  • Personification helps to emphasize certain point.
  • Personification makes the text more dramatic and complex.
  • Personification increases the reader's interest in the story and helps to retain his attention till the end.
  • Personification incorporates deeper meanings to ordinary objects.
  • Personification inspires the audience to see things from different angles.
  •  Personification helps to express human thoughts and motivations in a creative way.
  • Personification makes an abstraction clearer and more real to the reader by defining or explaining the concept in terms of everyday human action.

Related Forms

Anthropomorphism is an extended form of personification in which human shape, traits, and actions or abilities are attributed to nonhuman things and beings like animals, deities, and lifeless objects. To be specific, anthropomorphism is the treating of animals and objects as if they were human in appearance, character, or behaviour.

Structure of Anthropomorphism

The word anthropomorphism derives from the Greek words ánthrōpos, meaning "human" and morphē, meaning "shape" or "form". The term originally used to give human qualities to a deity. The Greeks and Romans used the idea in stories about their gods to bestow them human traits. Anthropomorphism is a recurring personification device in Aesop's Fables by the ancient Greek fabulist Aesop.  In English literature this device has been employed in Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland (1865), Anna Sewell's Black Beauty (1877), Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book (1894), George Orwell's Animal Farm (1945), etc. Anthropomorphism has always been a favorite device for cartoonists. Some notable classic anthropomorphic cartoon characters include Mickey Mouse (1928), Goofy (1932), Daffy Duck (1937), Bugs Bunny (1938), Garfield (1978), etc. A more contemporary example includes SpongeBob, the title character in SpongeBob SquarePants (1999).
Personification Vs Anthropomorphism
In majority of mainstream definitions the terms are used interchangeably and the result is an overlap of functions from the both ends.  Even most teachers as well as students are unfamiliar with the term anthropomorphism. What teachers label as personification in class rooms is actually a hybrid of personification and anthropomorphism. Again, the majority of textbooks also present a mixed-up definition.

Although their functions appear to be analogous from general point of view, in essence they exhibit slight differences:

Sl. # Personification Anthropomorphism
1. Personification is the attribution of human characteristics such as, emotions, sensations, etc. to abstract ideas like love, hate, anger, death, peace, etc. Anthropomorphism is the attribution of human characteristics and qualities to animals, deities and objects.
2. Personification occurs when human characteristics are ascribed to non-human entities without altering their non-human form. Anthropomorphism, occurs when a non-human entity fully and clearly embodies human traits, emotions and personalities, including a human form. That means anthropomorphized subjects look like human and they can walk, talk and act like humans.
3. Personification is a narrower term since its coverage of association of human traits is limited to object and abstract ideas only. Anthropomorphism is a much broader term since it can associate human traits to a wide variety of subjects, including animals, deities, natural and supernatural phenomena, and objects.
4. The imagery drawn by personification presents a connotative or figurative meaning. The imagery drawn by anthropomorphism presents a literal meaning.
5. Personification is gender-neutral since we can describe an object without naming it or specifying its gender. Anthropomorphism is gender-specific since we use name and ascribe gender-specific human shape to describe animals, objects, etc.
Pathetic Fallacy
The term pathetic fallacy was coined by John Ruskin in 1856. It is the technique for ascribing the mood and temperament of one or more characters in relation to a natural phenomenon. For example,

 “The sky darkened as the young damsel wailed for her deceased lover.”

In the above instance, the human emotion “wailing” has been attributed to a natural phenomenon i.e., the “sky” in order to reflect the character’s state of mind.

Structure of Pathetic Fallacy
Pathetic Fallacy Vs Personification
Personification is often confused with pathetic fallacy, which is illogical since it is distinct and different form personification in terms of function:

Sl. # Pathetic Fallacy Personification
1. Pathetic fallacy describes a temperament of the human mind referring to nature. Personification is used to convey a human emotion or quality directly attributing it to an object or abstract idea.
2. Pathetic fallacy often occurs by accident. Personification occurs on purpose.
3. Pathetic fallacy is a narrower term since it ascribes human quality only to natural phenomena like weather. Personification is a broader term since its attribution of human ideas is not only restricted to objects but also to abstract ideas.
Apostrophe refers to a direct address to an absent person (either dead or alive), inanimate or abstract entity as if the addressee is capable of understanding the addresser's feelings. The word "O" is often used to indicate such an invocation.

A classic example of apostrophe includes John Donne’s Death, be not proud (1609), where the speaker talks to death throughout the poem as if it were a person capable of comprehending his feelings:

“Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou are not so;
For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.”

In his 1807 poem London, 1802  the English poet William Wordsworth apostrophizes the dead poet John Milton:
“Milton! thou shouldst be living at this hour:
England hath need of thee: she is a fen
Of stagnant waters: altar, sword, and pen,
Fireside, the heroic wealth of hall and bower,
Have forfeited their ancient English dower
Of inward happiness. We are selfish men;
Oh! raise us up, return to us again;”

Shelley employs apostrophe in his celebrated poem Ode to the West Wind (1820):

“O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn's being,
Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead
Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing,”

The following illustration demonstrates how an absent addressee is being apostrophized by the addressee:

Structure of Apostrophe
Apostrophe Vs Personification
Apostrophe is different from personification to the following extent:

Sl. # Apostrophe Personification
1. An apostrophe makes reference to something or somebody who is absent in the scene. In personification the object under reference does not necessarily need to be absent from the scene.
2. Persons, objects, and abstractions are directly addressed as if they can understand human emotion. Objects and ideas are attributed human qualities.
Metaphor Vs Personification
Although both metaphor and personification is a type of comparison, yet they apply different techniques. In metaphor a comparison is made between two different objects with an implication that they are similar on single or some common characteristics. On the other hand, in personification human characteristics are attributed to an object or idea to describe it as human with an implication that they are literally the same thing.


Abrams, M.H.. A Glossary of Literary Terms. 7th ed. USA: H & H, 1999

" Anthropomorphism”. Shmoop. 2016. Shmoop University. 2 August 2016

“Anthropomorphism.” Microsoft Encarta. DVD-ROM. Redmond: Microsoft, 2005.

“Apostrophe (figure of speech)”. Wikipedia. 2016. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. 2 August 2016

" Characterization”. Wikipedia. 2016. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. 2 August 2016

Griffith, Benjamin W. A Pocket Guide to Literature and Language Terms. New York: Barron's, 1976

" Personification”. Literary Devices. 2016. Literary Devices. 2 August 2016

" Personification”. Literary Devices. 2016. Literary Devices. 2 August 2016

" Personification”. Simple English Wikipedia. 2016. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. 2 August 2016

“Pathetic Fallacy”. Wikipedia. 2016. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. 2 August 2016

“Metaphor”. Tanvir’s Blog. 2016. Tanvir Shameem. 2 August 2016


Monday, August 15, 2016

Character in Literature


A character refers to a fictional person portrayed by the author in a play, novel, short story, or poetry. Sometimes animals and objects are also adopted as characters, but they are presented by means of personification. Characters play a vital role in the development of the central theme of a literary work through their dialogue, actions, mood and attitude.

Types of Characters

  1. Dynamic Character: A dynamic character is one who undergoes significant change in his traits/qualities such as, personality or outlook, etc. throughout the story. Through suffering, mistakes and experiment a dynamic character gains new experience which in turn makes him a changed man. For example, initially Ebenezer Scrooge from Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol (1843) is portrayed as a mean, bitter, and covetous personality. However, after his encounter with the three ghosts he becomes a generous, kind, and beloved man. In fact, the term "dynamic" doesn't define the character's qualities, but rather refers to how those qualities change over time. Dynamic characters are usually central characters.
  2. Static Character: A static character is one who does not undergo any significant transition in his traits/qualities such as, personality, outlook, etc. throughout the events in the story's plot. In other words, a static character is mostly the same person at the end of the story as he was in the beginning and all his actions in between stay true to that personality. Mr. Collins from Pride and Prejudice (1813) by Jane Austen is an example of static character since his character does not change until the end of the novel. Static characters are generally the minor characters.
  3. Round Character: A round character is a major character in a story that encounters conflicts and undergoes transformation by these with a sign of emotional and psychological development. The character is complex and it increases in complexity throughout the story. Although many people place the dynamic and round characters in one category, yet they are not the same thing.  A dynamic character does not tell about the traits of the character rather only tells about the traits that change over the time. A round character, on the other hand defines the complex traits of the character.
  4. Flat Character: A flat character is relatively uncomplicated and does not transform too much from the start of the narrative to its end. Flat characters are constructed round a single idea or quality and often said not to have either surprising ability or emotional depths, hence such characters are easily recognizable. Although both the static and the flat characters remain unchanged throughout the story, there is a slight difference between them. Whereas the former has two dimensions and can be as interesting as the central character, the latter generally has only one dimension and is only capable of playing a minor role.
  5. Protagonist: The protagonist is the main character or leading figure in a story, novel, drama, or poetry. Sometimes the protagonist is represented as an antihero. However, even as antihero the protagonist is able retain the audience’s interest and keeps propelling the story forward. For example, In Shakespeare’s play, Romeo and Juliet (1597), Romeo is the protagonist.
  6. Antihero: An antihero is a protagonist who is devoid of all conventional qualities such as, bravery, strength, charm, intelligence etc. Such character usually possesses traits like clumsiness, dishonesty, aggressiveness, fearfulness, etc.
  7. False Protagonist: A false protagonist is a trick used by the authors to bring about an unexpected twist in the plot. The false protagonist is presented in such a way that the audience takes him to be the central character. However, this misconception is resolved when the character is unexpectedly removed by killing or changing his role, often into a lesser character or antagonist.
  8. Antagonist: The antagonist is a major character in a story who stands in opposition or creates obstacles to the protagonist. The conflict between the antagonist and the protagonist often generates the action or plot of the work. However, an antagonist must not be confused with a villain. The role of an antagonist is to oppose and create obstruction to the protagonist's goal, while a villain is a character who acts in opposition of the hero with evil intentions. While not every antagonist is a villain, it is generally true that all villains are antagonists to the main character.
  9. Villain: A villain plays the role of the principal bad character in a work of fiction. The villain usually is the antagonist who acts in opposition of the protagonist. However, in some cases the protagonist may assume the role of a villain.
  10. Stock Character: A stock character is a stereotypical person who is instantly recognizable to most readers. These characters are types and not individuals. A Stock character is based on clichés and social prejudices. Examples include: the professor, the wise old man, the everyman, the gentleman thief, etc. They are not focus characters nor are they developed in the story. The stock character does almost nothing to affect the main characters and can be easily replaced with a new character.
  11. Foil: A foil is employed to enhance the qualities of another character through contrast. Usually a foil is the antagonist or an important supporting character whose personal traits contrast with the protagonist or a major character. However, foils are not focus characters nor are they developed in the story. They help us learn more about another character or aspect of a story. For instance, In Hamlet (1603), Laertes has been portrayed as a foil to Hamlet.
  12. Confidante (masc: Confidant): A character in a drama or fiction, such as a friend or servant, who the protagonist confides in and trusts. A confidant serves as a device for revealing the inner thoughts or intentions of a main character. Her role is to listen to the protagonist's secrets, examine his character, and advise him on his actions. Rather than simply acting as a passive listener for the protagonist's monologues, the confidant may himself act to move the story forward, or serve to guide and represent the reactions of the audience. For example Horatio in Shakespeare’s Hamlet (1603).
  13. Viewpoint Character: Also called narrator. A type of character by whose perspective or eyes the audience witnesses the events in a narrative. Generally the narrator narrates the events from several points of view or perspectives. Based on perspectives a narrator  is categorized in:
    1. First Person Narrator: A first person narrator is said to have used when the story is told someone who identifies himself or herself as “I". This "I" can be the main character, a less important character witnessing events, or a person retelling a story they were told by someone else.
    2. Second Person Narrator: In second person, the narrator addresses the protagonist as "you." Often, this kind of story has the narrator speaking to a younger version of his self.
    3. Third Person Narrator is used when the story is told by someone who is not a participant in the action and who refers to the characters by name or as ‘he‘ 'she" and "they". In this case the narrator is not a character in the story. Third person narrator has two variations:
      1. Omniscient Narrator: This type of narrator knows everything about the characters and events, can move about in time and place as well as from character to character at will, and can, whenever he or she wishes, enter the mind of any character.
      2. Limited omniscient narrator: Also called central intelligence. In this variation the narrative elements are limited to what a single character sees, thinks, and hears.


In fiction, characterization refers to the artistic representation of a person. It is the step by step process wherein the author introduces and then describes a character.  With its help the author makes a fictional character seem like a real person. Generally authors resort to the following processes to shape and form their characters:
  1. Direct Characterization: Also called explicit characterization. It is a type of characterization in which the details and personality of a character are revealed in a direct manner. In other words, in such process the author makes straightforward comments about specific traits of a character, which may include but not limited to love, hatred, fear, habits, etc. An outstanding instance of direct characterization could be traced in Sonnet 130 by the English poet and playwright William Shakespeare:
“My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.”

Direct Characterization
  1. Indirect Characterization: Also called implicit characterization. It is a process of character creation in which the author reveals the details and personality of a character by indication rather than by direct statement. Too be specific, it is the audience's task to study the character and draw a conclusion about it. Through his imagination the audience portrays a true and vivid image of the character. Hence, it is a more creative and engaging process than the direct characterization. However, it is not devoid of shortcomings since the audience may make an erroneous or inappropriate inference about a character. The audience generally infers what a character is like by analyzing:
  • his appearance.
  • his thoughts.
  • his actions.
  • his speech.
  • his interaction with other characters.
  • his manner of speech.
  • others’ remarks about him
  • what others do to him
  • his reaction to others.
  • his reaction to himself.
  • his or her environment.


Indirect Characterization

Character Traits

In literature each character reflects certain traits that guide the audience to draw conclusion about their specific roles. Some common character traits are as follows:
  • Greedy
  • Rude
  • Pessimistic
  • Wicked
  • Selfish
  • Funny 
  • Talkative
  • Shy 
  • Evil
  • Brave  
  • Cunning
  • Deceptive
  • Ambitious 

Importance of Characters

Literature is an artistic representation of the real world. More like the real world the fictional world is also incomplete without characters. Therefore, characters are inevitable elements in a literary work. The importance of characters could be outlined as under:
  1. Characters help the audience to understand the overall message or theme in a particular literary work.
  2. Characters are akin to an engine driving the whole narrative in a coherent scheme.
  3. Characters provide ample scope for developing unique plots.
  4. Well-drawn characters compel the readers to retain interest till the end of the story.
  5. Characters help the audience for better understanding of human motivations in the real world.
  6. Characters help the author to maintain the gradual flow of the story.
  7. Characters’ dialogues, actions, attitudes, etc. are considered important elements for development of the theme.



Abrams, M.H.. A Glossary of Literary Terms. 7th ed. USA: H & H, 1999

" Characterization”. Wikipedia. 2016. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. 26 July 2016
< >.
“Characterization”. Literary Devices. 2016. Literary Devices. 26 July 2016
“Characterization 1”. English 250. 2016. English 250. 26 July 2016
Gupta, A.N. and Satis Gupta. A Dictionary of English Literature. 2nd ed. Bareilly: PBD, 1995



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