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Literary Devices in Friendship

Oxymorons, Nature-based Metaphors, and Allusions: Throughout “Friendship,” Emerson employs various literary techniques to convey his message. He uses oxymoronic language and phrases to demonstrate the paradoxical nature of friendship, nature-based metaphors and similes to signify the importance of developing and maintaining impermeable friendships, and allusions to touch on themes regarding the virtues of friendship. Detailed explanations for each of these various literary techniques can be found in their respective analysis sections.

Literary Devices Examples in Friendship:


🔒 7

"We will meet as though we met not, and part as though we parted not...."   ("Friendship")

This paragraph is replete with dichotomies, expressed in parallel structure: “I go in that I may seize them, I go out that I may seize them” and “We will meet as though we met not, as part as though we parted not.” This diction creates a sense of ambivalence. On the one hand, Emerson imagines a friendship where he treats his friends as distant gods and finds the ultimate friend within himself; on the other, he imagines that his friends were by his “side again.” At once desiring closeness and distance, Emerson speaks to the multiple facets of friendship, which he describes as “evanescent intercourse.”

"It is..."   ("Friendship")

With the use of anaphora, repeating “It is” at the beginning of each sentence, Emerson states the various ways in which friendship can serve as a comforting presence. It helps those during “rough roads” and during “serene days,” as well as serving as a form of entertainment against boredom through sallies, or quips.

"lucre..."   ("Friendship")

The noun “lucre” means monetary gain. This and the repetition “by” when listing the damaging ways faux friendships develop emphasize Emerson’s claim that what differentiates the sacred from the superficial friendship is tenderness and pure love. Friendships which grow out of tenderness provide greater fortune than those which develop in the name of profit.

"One is truth...."   ("Friendship")

This terse sentence, composed of entirely monosyllabic words, creates a pause amid the otherwise meandering diction Emerson uses. The brevity of the phrase, along with the direct meaning it conveys, stands out in this paragraph, which emphasizes Emerson’s belief that one of the main tenets of a strong friendship is being able to tell the truth.

"Happy is the house that shelters a friend!..."   ("Friendship")

In this section of his essay, Emerson exclaims triumphantly, “Happy is the house that shelters a friend!” Inserting this pithy interjection highlights the importance of the phrase, which intimates that those who are happiest are those who cultivate relationships that combine geniality with respect.

"Thine ever, or never...."   ("Friendship")

The writer mirrors the same hesitancy of the letter’s beginning at the end by writing, “Thine ever, or never,” or in other words, “Yours, or not yours.” To Emerson, friendship is about the dichotomy of yours and not yours, closeness and distance, and familiarity and reservedness. Friendship is volatile—a continuous process of oscillation and fluctuation.

"DEAR FRIEND,..."   ("Friendship")

By inserting a hypothetical letter written to a friend, Emerson reveals the complicated nature of friendship. The subjunctive “if,” which opens the letter, followed by the repetition of the phrase “sure of” indicate the writer’s uncertainty about whether they should be friends and, if so, how to characterize their love.

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