Narrative Devices

Stylistic Devices – Points of View

first or third person narration

First-person narrator

The narrator tells the story from his / her point of view (I). It is a limited point of view as the reader will only know what the narrator knows. The advantage of the first person narration is that the narrator shares his / her personal experiences and secrets with the reader so that the reader feels part of the story.


  • Charlotte Bronte: Jane Eyre

Third-person narrator

The narrator is not part of the plot and tells the story in the third person (he, she). Usually the narrator is all-knowing (omniscient narrator): he / she can switch from one scene to another, but also focus on a single character from time to time.


  • Charles Dickens: Oliver Twist

The third-person narrator can also be a personal narrator (point of view of one character) who tells the story in the third person (he, she), but only from the central character’s point of view. This point of view is rarely used.


  • James Joyce: Ulysses

Stylistic Devices – Onomatopoeia

word imitating a sound

The pronounciation of the word imitates a sound. Onomatopoeia is used because it’s often difficult to describe sounds. Furthermore, a story becomes more lively and interesting by the use of onomatopoeia.


  • The lion roared.
  • The steaks sizzled in the pan.
  • The bomb went off with a bang.

Stylistic Devices – Parenthesis

additional information

The normal progression of a sentence is interrupted by extra information or explanations enclosed in commas, brackets or dashes. The extra information can be a single word, a phrase or even a sentence.


  • We (myself, wife Lorraine and daughters Caroline and Joanna) boarded our boat ‘Lynn’, a Duchess class vessel barely a year old, at Black Prince Holidays’ Chirk boatyard. (4)
  • The boats have remarkably few controls and we were given a thorough briefing about ‘driving’ ours–along with advice on mooring, lock operation and safety considerations–by Pauline, who even set off with us for a few minutes to ensure we were confident. (4)

Depending on the importance attached to it, additional information can be enclosed in brackets, commas or dashes.

Brackets – not important
Connor (Amy’s boyfriend) bought the tickets.

Commas – neutral
Connor, Amy’s boyfriend, bought the tickets.

Dashes – emphasized
Connor–Amy’s boyfriend–bought the tickets.

Stylistic Devices – Personification

attribution of human characteristics to animals, inanimate objects or abstractions

Animals, inanimate objects or abstractions are represented as having human characteristics (behaviour, feelings, character etc.). Personification can make a narration more interesting and lively.


  • Why these two countries would remain at each other’s throat for so long. (3)
  • I closed the door, and my stubborn car refused to open it again.
  • The flowers nodded their heads as if to greet us.
  • The frogs began their concert.

Stylistic Devices – Repetition

repeating words or phrases

Words or phrases are repeated throughout the text to emphasise certain facts or ideas.


  • Down, down, down. Would the fall never come to an end! »I wonder how many miles I’ve fallen by this time?« she said aloud. […]
    Down, down, down. There was nothing else to do, so Alice soon began talking again. […] (5)
  • America, at its best, matches a commitment to principle with a concern for civility. A civil society demands from each of us good will and respect, fair dealing and forgiveness. […]
    America, at its best, is also courageous. Our national courage […]
    America, at its best, is compassionate. In the quiet of American conscience, we know that deep, persistent poverty is unworthy of our nation’s promise. […] (2)

Stylistic Devices – Rhetorical Question

question without a direct answer

The author / speaker raises a question, but doesn’t answer it directly as he/she sees the answer (usually Yes or No) as obvious.

Rhetorical questions are used to provoke, emphasise or argue.


  • When public money brings windfalls to a few, why should the state not take a share? (6)
  • But was the best way to win them over to threaten to ignore them altogether? Like so many things this week, the adminitstration’s diplomacy needs a smoother touch. (6) (Note that the sentence following the question is not an answer to it.)

Stylistic Devices – Simile

direct comparison

Two things are compared directly by using ‘like’ (A is like B.).

Other possibilities are for example:

  • A is (not) like B
  • A is more/less than B
  • A is as … as B
  • A is similar to B
  • A is …, so is B
  • A does …, so does B


  • conrete box-style buildings are spreading like inkblots (3)
  • The rabbit-hole went straight on like a tunnel (5)
  • Personality is to a man what perfume is to a flower. (Charles Schwab)
  • My friend is as good as gold.

Stylistic Devices – Synecdoche

using a part instead of the whole or vice versa

Synechdoche is some kind of generalization or specification that uses a part, a member or a characteristic of what is meant. The following possibilities are common:

Part used instead of the whole


  • Turning our long boat round […] on the last morning required all hands on deck … (hands = people) (4)

Whole used instead of a part


  • Troops halt the drivers (troops = soldiers) (3)

Specific term used instead of a general one:


  • Kashmir is their Maui, Aspen, and Palm Springs all rolled into one. (3) (siehe Anmerkung)

Stylistic Devices – Understatement

weaken or soften a statement

A statement is deliberately weakened to sound ironical or softened to sound more polite.

Note that understatement is a common feature of the English language (especially British English) used in everyday-life situations.


  • I know a little about running a company. (a successful businessman might modestly say.)
  • I think we have slightly different opinions on this topic. (instead of: I don’t agree with you at all.)

2 Responses to Narrative Devices

  1. Mae Ann says:

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  2. Supra Shoes says:

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