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Literary Devices in The Dead

Literary Devices Examples in The Dead:

The Dead

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"A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window. It had begun to snow again...."   (The Dead)

This paragraph reveals Joyce’s penchant for highly poetic prose, or—arguably—poetry disguised as prose. One subtle and easily overlooked technique is contained in this first sentence. There is a delicate alliteration of p sounds in “taps upon the pane" which is suggestive of the sounds of the few light taps of the snow. The alliteration needs to be delicate because snowflakes would make lighter taps than raindrops. In the next sentence, the choice of the adverb in the words "falling obliquely against the lamplight" shows Joyce’s keen eye for imagery. Rain and snow do indeed fall at an oblique angle in relation to both the vertical lamp post and to the street below. As the paragraph progresses, the description of the snow seems to carry the reader all the way across Ireland, as in a panoramic motion picture aerial shot, until the reader can imagine white flakes falling into the "dark mutinous Shannon waves" off the coast. The adjective “mutinous” serves two purposes, describing both the roiling sea and the tumultuous history of Irish politics. As the story comes to a close, additional examples of alliteration include “crooked crosses,” “soul swooned slowly,” and “faintly falling.” Finally, Joyce twice uses identical pairs of words which he then mirrors: “falling softly” turns into “softly falling,” just as “falling faintly” turns into “faintly falling.” The effects is somewhat hypnotic in its subtle repetition.

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