What is difference between literary techniques and literary devices?

A literary device is any specific aspect of literature, or a particular work, which we can recognize, identify, interpret and/or analyze. Both literary elements and literary techniques are literary devices.

What is difference between rhetorical devices and literary devices?

The way we use them. We use Rhetorical devices for communication on a day to day basis while literary devices, as the name suggests in used in literature to tell stories.

Any rhetorical device can be used in storytelling whereas not all literary devices can be used in speech.

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24 Literary Techniques

Literary techniques are specific, deliberate constructions of language which an author uses to convey meaning. An author’s use of a literary technique usually occurs with a single word or phrase, or a particular group of words or phrases, at one single point in a text. Unlike literary elements, literary techniques are not necessarily present in every text


Extending a metaphor through an entire narrative. An allegory is a complete narrative that seems to be about one thing but is actually about another. A metaphor is a sentence or short segment that equates two seemingly unrelated things. A simile is a metaphor without poetry, like making a comparison. An analogy is used to express a point of view, an example of how something is like something else, whereas an allegory is used to give moral or ethic meaning.

Animal Farm, the novella by George Orwell is a satirical allegory of the Russian revolution know as Bolshevik revolution.

In Margaret Atwood’s novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, Atwood uses allegories to deeper the meaning of the story. In the novel, an egg cup is used to symbolize the womb of the mother, and within it is an egg which represents a potential child.

See how to learn satire with examples here!


Juxtaposition is the placement of two things side-by-side in order to reveal a contrast. The most used examples are: night and day, black and white as well as good and evil.

Literary Example: A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens,
“For some people, it’s the age of light, while for others, it’s the age of darkness.” This passage is perhaps the most famous example of juxtaposition in literature along with its opening line “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”

Dramatic Example: Juxtaposition in Stephen Spielberg’s Jaws (1975). The viewer is unsure who will be the shark’s target, but this juxtaposition between the cheerful world above the water and the frightening creature underneath it creates a sense of fear and anticipation of what’s to come.

Shakespeare gifted us with a more subtle example that many do not associate with the technique because of its unusual format: Kill them with kindness. An oxymoron is a figure of speech in which two seemingly opposing and contradictory elements are juxtaposed. Oxymorons, a type of juxtaposition that uses a contradiction to heighten the meaning of each component of the comparison like “deafening silence” or “sweet sorrow”.


Foreshadowing is the technique of hinting at future events in a story using subtle parallels, usually to generate more suspense or engage the reader’s curiosity. 

One of the most famous dialogue foreshadowing examples is in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, when Romeo says, “My life were better ended by their hate, than death prorogued, wanting of thy love.” The line foreshadows Romeo’s eventual destiny: committing suicide over the perceived loss of Juliet.

Types of Foreshadowing

Prominent foreshadowing, sometimes known as “prophecy”, connects a future event to something that a particular character wishes for, receives, or says outright.

Literary Example: In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, when a prophecy about Harry and Lord Voldemort is revealed:

Born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies… and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not… and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives…

A fallacy or a “Red Herring” is deliberately planted information that’s intended to lead the audience to the wrong conclusion. Misled by false clues, readers suspect certain future outcomes but are surprised by an unforeseen plot twist.

The classic Alfred Hitchcock-produced psychological thriller, “Psycho” led film viewers to believe that Norman’s mother was the killer and were shocked to find out that Norman’s alternate personality was the actual culprit.

Dramatic Examples: In The Empire Strikes Back, Luke Skywalker’s vision of himself wearing Darth Vader’s mask foreshadows the later revelation that Vader is in fact Luke’s father. Early on in ‘The Shining,'(1980) A teddy bear in red lies on the ground foreshadowing a death later in the film.

Also called “Chekhov’s Gun”, concrete foreshadowing is the deliberate introduction of details that help develop the narrative’s plot.

Abstract foreshadowing uses subtle hints in stories that are seemingly impertinent to the plot of the story, especially when they’re initially disclosed. Such signs, omens, or sudden changes (like weather or mood) symbolically foreshadow future events.

Screenwriter Quentin Tarantino built-in symbolic orange references (like a balloon and colored bottles) throughout his first film, “Reservoir Dogs” to hint at the significance of the mole, Mr. Orange.


Writing that invokes the reader’s senses with descriptive word choice to create a more vivid and realistic recreation of the scene in their mind. Example:

“The barn was very large. It was very old. It smelled of hay and it smelled of manure. It smelled of the perspiration of tired horses and the wonderful sweet breath of patient cows. It often had a sort of peaceful smell­ as though nothing bad could happen ever again in the world.”

—E. B. White, Charlotte’s Web 


A motif is a recurring element in a story that holds some symbolic or conceptual meaning. It’s closely related to theme, but motifs are specific objects or events, while themes are abstract ideas. 

Example: In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Lady Macbeth’s obsession with washing her hands is a motif that symbolizes her guilt. 

Symbolism: Closely related to motifs, symbolism is when objects, characters, actions, or other recurring elements in a story take on another, more profound meaning and/or represent an abstract concept. 

Example: In J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy (and The Hobbit), the ring of Sauron symbolizes evil, corruption, and greed, which everyday people, symbolized by Frodo, must strive to resist. 


A story’s mood is the emotional response the author is targeting. A writer sets the mood not just with the plot and characters, but also with tone and the aspects they choose to describe. 

Example: In the horror novel Dracula by Bram Stoker, the literary mood of vampires is scary and ominous, but in the comedic film What We Do In Shadows, the literary mood of vampires is friendly and light-hearted. 

Tone: the attitude that a character or narrator or author takes towards a given subject. A key distinction between Tone and Mood is that tone is centered on what the author feels, while mood is centered on what the reader feels. One way to remember the difference is by connecting tone with voice and mood with atmosphere.

Often authors use adjectives to describe tone, such as: cynical, depressed, sympathetic, cheerful, outraged, positive, angry, sarcastic, prayerful, ironic, solemn, vindictive, intense, excited.


The organization of a story’s various elements, including plot, characters, and themes. It forms a frame that helps a reader understand how a story’s elements tie together. See types of poems here!

Anthropomorphism: when non-human things like animals or objects act human, exhibiting traits such as speech, thoughts, complex emotions, and sometimes even wearing clothes and standing upright. 

Example: While most fairy tales feature animals that act like humans, the Beauty and the Beast films anthropomorphize household objects: talking clocks, singing teapots, and more.

Circumlocution: when the writer deliberately uses excessive words and over complicated sentence structures to intentionally convolute their meaning. In other words, it means to write lengthily and confusingly on purpose.

Example: In Shrek the Third, Pinocchio uses circumlocution to avoid giving an honest answer to the Prince’s question.  


An independent, pre-existing quotation that introduces a piece of work, typically with some thematic or symbolic relevance.

Example: “He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man,” a quote by Samuel Johnson, is the epigraph that opens Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, a novel that deals largely with substance abuse and escapism. 

Portmanteau: the literary device of joining two words together to form a new word with a hybrid meaning. People often confuse compound words with blended words, also known as portmanteaus, but the two are very different. In compound words, each individual word remains unchanged. However, in portmanteaus, or blended words, only parts of each word are used.

Example: Words like “blog” (web + log), “paratrooper” (parachute + trooper), “motel” (motor + hotel), and “telethon” (telephone + marathon), (web + seminar) = webinar, (brother + romance) = bromance, are all portmanteaus in common English.

Anagram: a word puzzle where the author rearranges the letters in a word or phrase to make a new word or phrase. 

Example: In Silence of the Lambs, the antagonist Hannibal Lector tried to trick the FBI by naming the suspect Louis Friend, which the protagonist realized was an anagram for “iron sulfide,” the technical term for fool’s gold. 

Alliteration: The repetition of consonant sounds within close proximity, usually in consecutive words within the same sentence or line. See other types of rhyme here!


Where animals or inanimate objects are portrayed in a story as people, such as by walking, talking, or being given arms, legs and/or facial features. (This technique is often incorrectly called personification.)

The King and Queen of Hearts and their playing-card courtiers comprise only one example of Carroll’s extensive use of anthropomorphism in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Blank verse: Non-rhyming poetry, usually written in iambic pentameter. Blank verse is part of structure. Much of Shakespeare’s dialogue is written in blank verse, though it does occasionally rhyme. See other types of poems here!

Creative license: Exaggeration or alteration of objective facts or reality for the purpose of enhancing meaning in a fictional context. Similar to the rhetorical device of hyperbole or amplification.

Dickens took some creative license with the historical events of the French Revolution in order to clarify the ideological conflicts.


Where characters speak to one another; may often be used to substitute for exposition. Since there is so little stage direction in Shakespeare, many of the characters’ thoughts and actions are revealed through dialogue.

Shakespeare wrote most of his dialogue in iambic pentameter, often having to adjust the order and nature of words to fit the syllable pattern, thus endowing the language with even greater meaning.

Dramatic irony: Where the audience or reader is aware of something important, of which the characters in the story are not aware.

Macbeth responds with disbelief when the weird sisters call him Thane of Cawdor; ironically, unbeknownst to him, he had been granted that title by king Duncan in the previous scene.Literary Devices, Techniques, and Elements

Exposition: Where an author interrupts a story in order to explain something, usually to provide important background information.

The first chapter consists mostly of exposition, running down the family’s history and describing their living conditions.

Figurative language

Any use of language where the intended meaning differs from the actual literal meaning of the words themselves. There are many techniques which can rightly be called figurative language, including metaphor, simile, hyperbole, personification, onomatopoeia, verbal irony, and oxymoron.

Irony (a.k.a. Situational irony): Where an event occurs which is unexpected, and which is in absurd or mocking opposition to what is expected or appropriate. See also Dramatic irony; Verbal irony.

Jem and Scout are saved by Boo Radley, who had ironically been an object of fear and suspicion to them at the beginning of the novel.

Verbal irony: Where the meaning is intended to be the exact opposite of what the words actually mean. (Sarcasm is a tone of voice that often accompanies verbal irony, but they are not the same thing.) Orwell gives this torture and brainwashing facility the ironic title, “Ministry of Love.

Repetition: Where a specific word, phrase, or structure is repeated several times, to emphasize a
particular idea. See our list of repetition techniques in literature with examples here.



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