Rhetorical Devices

Rhetorical Devices Definition

Rhetorical devices are literary elements used to convince or persuade audiences using logos, pathos, and ethos. Their appropriate use makes the text rich, lifelike and enjoyable in prose and poetry. When carefully inserted, they transform an ordinary piece of writing into a memorable, evocative and pleasant literary work. It is due to these devices the readers feel aligned to the character or the writer. Also, the audiences understand the uniqueness and depth of the text. However, rhetorical devices appeal to one’s sensibilities in four ways: logos, pathos, ethos, and kairos.

Types of Rhetorical Devices

There are many types of rhetorical devices such as:

  1. Alliteration: Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds in the first letter of the word in the same line.
  2. Antithesis: An antithesis is a figure of speech that refers to the juxtaposition of opposing or contrasting ideas.
  3. Anaphora: It refers to the repetition of a word or expression in the first part of some verses.
  4. Refrain: The lines that are repeated at some distance in the poems are called refrain.
  5. Metaphor: It is a figure of speech in which an implied comparison is made between the objects different in nature.
  6. Parallelism: Parallelism is the use of components in a sentence that is grammatically the same; or similar in their construction, sound, meaning, or meter.

Examples from Literature

 Example #1

 God’s Grandeur by Gerard Manley Hopkins

“The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.”

God’s Grandeur is a famous poem of the 19th century which illustrates two things: the poet’s excitement on the everlasting presence of God and his resentment on the ruination caused by mankind. The first part of the poem deals with Hopkins’s feelings about God’s presence and his power in the world. While, in the second part, he shows resentment on the approach of a modern man whose excessive alteration in nature has brought destruction in the world. Hopkins has used many rhetorical devices to grab the reader’s attention.

Parallelism is used in the first stanza where, “And all is seared with trade” is paralleling with “bleared, smeared with toil.” Anaphora is used in the fifth line where Hopkins has repeated the words “have trod” to emphasize the ruination caused by men on the earth. He has also used metaphor, assonance consonance and alliteration to create a special effect in the poem.

Example #2

A Psalm of Life by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

The poem deals with the subject of life and the possibilities it offers to mankind. It also evokes and instructs them to live life at its maximum. He presents a highly optimistic view of life and argues that it is full of chances and opportunities. Therefore, we should try to seek them. Wadsworth has used many rhetorical devices in this poem to present his idea convincingly. For example, allusion is used in the opening line of the poem such as, “Tell me not, in mournful numbers.” Here, the numbers refer to the chapters and sections of the Bible. Parallelism device is used in the second stanza where “Life is real” is paralleling “Life is earnest.” He has also used assonance, consonance, alliteration, and anaphora in the poem to engage the readers.

Example #3

The Second Coming by William Butler Yeats

“Surely some revelation is at hand
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?”

The Second Coming revolves around the political, cultural and spiritual issues. The poet predicts that some kind of “Second Coming” is arriving and that the chaos in the world manifests that the arrival is not so far. To him, the Second Coming would lead humanity to more catastrophes. Yeats has implied plenty of rhetorical devices in the poem to express his fears. For example, he has used hyperbole in the tenth line where it is stated as, “Surely the second coming is at hand,” as if he is very much sure about the arrival of the beast. There are many metaphors used in this poem such as, “the falcon” and “the falconer” that stand for the world and the controlling force that directs the humanity and “the rough beast” is also the metaphor of second coming.

Functions of Rhetorical Devices

Rhetorical devices are used as tools to evoke responses on the reader’s part. It provides them an opportunity to understand the emotions, feelings, and ideas of the poet or the writer at a deeper level. Also, using rhetorical devices help writers to sketch a vivid experience for the audience. They also persuade the audiences about the writers’ perspectives. They make the texts to be loaded with messages to be conveyed to the r. Use of different rhetorical devices make the objectives of the writers clear to the readers.