Literary Devices: Why Are They So Important?

Caroline Carter, Staff Writer

At one point or another, whether we like it or not, we must find literary devices for our English/Language Arts assignments. For some, finding and interpreting an author’s hidden message comes naturally; others find these assignments repetitive and mind-boggling. Other than SAT, ACT, and standardized testing material, what is the point of using and understanding literary devices?

The simplest explanation for this material is that the authors want to connect with their readers, and they do so my using metaphors, allusions, hyperbole, themes, etc. It can be easy to identify certain devices but difficult to decipher them. Many argue that literature is subjective, with no wrong answers. However, for the assignment’s sake, there are wrong interpretations. How is a student wrong if he/she identifies a theme and has concrete evidence to support his/her claim? This is completely dependent upon the one grading the assignment. 

Books, poems, and short stories can be enjoyed by all, but being forced to identify every literary device within the text tends to ruin the fun reading brings. When reading for pleasure, one would not normally annotate every single line he/she reads. One would simply follow the plot and enjoy the great escape that is reading. While imagery and figurative language sets the scene in the mind’s eye, those devices would be a mere afterthought for the average reader.

Assignments that require the identification of literary devices often create stress for students. Most of the time, they are more focused on finding and interpreting these devices the way their teacher wants, rather than the actual plot of the text before them. It is important to understand what the author wants to convey to his/her audience, but what a certain object in a particular paragraph means should not take away from the author’s overall messages. 

Authors use literary devices to relate to their readers. It is rather interesting how a novel written in the 19th century can still pertain to people and events today. Literary devices add depth, meaning, and overall interest to all works of literature, and it is important to understand the significance of their role. However, as students are taught to recognize these devices, they tend to overanalyze something that doesn’t have a double-meaning. Perhaps teachers and test developers intuit literary tools too much; on the other hand, maybe students are thinking too deeply about a passage to really focus on it. Students should be able to enjoy reading without worrying whether or not their interpretations are correct. Literature should be considered subjective, open to any and all analyses.