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Stylistic Devices of Different Levels Used in Convergence

Her mother, a severe, prim German woman, died when she was only three, leaving her to the care of her father and his sister... (Th. Drieser)

In the analysed sentence, two nonfigurative epithets ("severe" and "prim") appear in detached apposition. This provides them with additional emphasis, produced by independent stress and intonation.

Although nearly perfect, Mr. Murchinson had one little eccentricity, which he kept extremely private. It was a mere nothing, a thought, a whim; it seems almost unfair to mention it. The fact is he felt that nothing in the world could be nicer than to set fire to a house and watch it blaze.

What is the harm in that? Who has not had a similar bright vision at some time or another? There is no doubt about it, it would be nice, very nice indeed, absolutely delightful. But most of us are well broken in and we dismiss the idea as impracticable. Mr. Murchinson found that it took root in his mind and blossomed there like a sultry flower. (John Collier. "Incident on a Lake')

The extract is on the whole highly ironical. Ridiculing the "little eccentricity" of Mr. Murchinson, the author brings into play a number of various stylistic devices: the detached ironical epithet "nearly perfect" is followed by effective climax of meotical nature, which is combined with asyndeton ("a mere nothing, a though, a whim... unfair to mention"). The striking discrepancy between the monstrous idea and the way it is perceived by the character is realized through anti-climax ("... nothing in the world could be nicer than set fire to a house...") and further reinforced by two rhetorical questions ("What is the harm...? Who has not had a similar vision...?"). To crown it all, we had another case of climax ("nice, very nice indeed, absolutely delightful").

To stress the personage's obsession, the author resorts to metaphor and simile, which are used in convergence: "... it took root in his mind and blossomed there like a sultry flower".

Functional Analysis

"Ever do any writing?" he asked.

"Only letters," answered Anna, startled from her marking. It was obvious that Mr. Forster was disposed to talk, and Anna put down her own marking pencil. "Why? Do you?" she asked.

Mr. Foster waved a pudgy hand deprecatingly at the exercise book before him.

" Oh! I'm always at it. Had a go at a pretty well everything in the writing line."

"Have you had anything published?" asked Anna with proper awe. She was glad to see that Mr. Foster looked gratified and guessed, rightly, that he had.

"One or two little things," he admitted with a very fair show of insouciance.

"How lovely!" said Anna enthusiastically. ("Fresh from the Country ")

The passage represents an informal dialogue between a young school teacher and her colleague. The personage's discourse is interspersed with instances of the author's narration, which is marked by the use of bookish words (" deprecatingly", "gratified", " awe", "insouciance", etc.) and well-organized lengthy sentences, such as the following one, complicated by detachment: "She was glad to see that Mr. Foster looked gratified and guessed, rightly, that he had." The dialogue, on the contrary, abounds in short, one-member and elliptical, sentences ("Ever do any writing?" "How lovely!"). The vocabulary, too, participates in conveying the atmosphere of colloquial informality. Alongside with standard colloquial "had a go", it includes interjections ("Oh!"), contracted forms ("I'm"), the colloquial intensifier "pretty", and a word of highly generalized meaning ("little things").

A case of understatement ("One or two little things") in the end of the passage is used to render the affected modesty of the speaker, which is becomes clear from the subsequent author's remark.

A Sample of Complex Stylistic Analysis


J. Galsworthy. The Broken Boot (E.M. Zeltin et. Al. English Graduation Course, 1972, pp.88-89: finishing with the words ".. .walked side by side.")

Text Interpretation

The passage under analysis is taken from John Galsworthy's story "The Broken Boot". It is about an actor whose name is Gilbert Caister. For six months he had been without a job and a proper meal. He ran into a man whom he had come to know in a convalescent camp, a man who thought a lot of him as an actor and was tremendously happy to see him again.

To convey Caister's state of mind on the noon when he "emerged" from his lodgings, the author brings into play an abundance of expressive stylistic means and means of speech characterization.

Caister was humiliated by having been out of job, by having to wear old clothes and being hungry. He did not want to acknowledge his poverty and fought the humiliation by assuming an ironic attitude towards himself and things happening to him. The irony is conveyed by lexical means: the epithet "faint" and the bookish word "regard" (instead of "look at"). The stylistic effect is increased by the verb "long for" used in the context inappropriate with its high-flown connotations. Cf. Fixing his monocle, he stopped before a fishmonger's and with a faint smile on his face, regarded a lobster.... One could long for a lobster without paying....

The metaphoric epithet "ghost" and the euphemistic metonymy "elegance" add to the stylistic effect: Yet he received the ghost of aesthetic pleasure from the reflected elegance of a man long fed only twice a day.... The epithet "the ghost of .. .pleasure" forms a specific structure characterized by reversed syntactic-semantic connections (inverted epithet). "Elegance" replaces "gauntiness" because Caister does not like to think of himself as "gaunt".

Irony is accentuated by a mixture of styles (formal, intentionally well-bred vs highly colloquial) in the following: "/ shall be delighted." But within him something did not drawl: "By God, you are going to have a feed, my boy!"

To show Caister's attitude to his own distress and worry over his worn-out clothes, the author makes use of numerous stylistic devices: mixture of styles (cf. the use of colloquial "fancy himself and bookish "refitted" in close context); the vulger intensifier "damned"; the anaphoric repetition of "very" and "on", combined with parallelism: The sunlight of this damned town was very strong, very hard on sems and button-holes, on knees and elbows! Together with the actual tweeds, in which he could so easily fancy himself refitted...."

The list of devices employed in the second paragraph is by no means exhaustive. Find and interpret the meaning and function of the following.

of a man long fed... of an eyeglasses well rimmed... of a velour hat salved...;

under it was his new phenomenon... ;

meche blanche;

Was it an asset or the beginning of the end?

that shadowy face;

atrophy, nerve, tissue;

…perhaps, but.

When Caister ran into Bryce-Green, it was the latter's face that attracted his attention. This idea is emphasized by the use of metonymy. ...he had passed a face he knew. A chain of post-positive attributes with the metaphoric epithet "cherubic" gives a vivid and colourful description of Bryce-Green's appearance: Turning, he saw it also turn on a short and dapper figure - a face rosy, bright, round, with an air of cherubic knowledge, as of a getter-up of amateur theatricals." This description sets Bryce-Green at once in an opposition to Caister, as a prosperous well-fed, well-clothed man to a poor and nearly starving one. This idea is reinforced by the use of antithesis: And - elegantly threadbare, roundabout and dapper - the two walked side by side. It is a complex stylistic device, in which the first opposed part is constituted by another figure of speech, an oxymoron ("elegantly threadbare"). The antithesis is made prominent by detachment, which is marked in writing by paired dashes.

To conclude, one may say that within a mere page of the story Galsworthy displays an abundance of though and feeling, proving himself once again a brilliant stylist. The extract is a wonderful example of the author's consistency in the realization of his creative scheme - to achive and sustain ironic effect.

Functional Analysis

The text begins with the author's discourse which constitutes the first paragraph of the story. The second paragraph is the author's discourse intersperced with instances of Caister's represented speech. At the end of the chosen extract, there is a fragment of the conversation between Caister and Bryce-Green (the personages' discourse).

The author's discourse is marked by lengthy sentences of complex structure, such as the following: The actor, Gilbert Caister, who had been “out” for six months emerged from his east-coast seaside lodging about noon in the day, after the opening of the "Shooting the Rapids", on tour, in which he was allying Dr. Dominic in the last act. The bookish type of speech is also signalled by general bookish words: emerge, remake, jauntiness, regarded; fitted, aesthetic, elegance, phenomenon, reclined, conspicuous.

The use of words pertaining to the theatrical world creates a professional background: opening, on tour, act, production, amateur, theatricals, etc. Titles of plays, such as "Educating Simon", "Gotta-Campus ", etc., add to the stylistic effect.

Caister's represented speech is a peculiar blend of bookish and colloquial elements. On the one hand, there are no contracted forms in it, some sentences are rather lengthy and there are instances of bookish words; on the other hand, it contains elliptical sentences (Ages since he had eaten a lobster! Rather distinguished, perhaps...) and the vulgar intensifier damned.

Colloquial elements abound in the personages discourse -Caister and Bryce-Green's dialogue. Among them we find contracted forms (aren't, haven't); interjections (By George, Jove, By God); colloquial words (What sport we had..., here "sport" stands for the neutral "fun"; .. .you are going to have a feed, my boy! "feed" replaces "meals"); elliptical sentences (Haven't seen you... Doing anything with yourself?). All these elements serve to render the unofficial character of communication.


1. Choose the right answer to define the stylistic device in an underlined word:

I went back to the novel I had been reading, a Simenon.

a) metaphor c) personification

b) antonomasia d) metonymy

2. The stylistic device which is defined as “a figure of speech based on such an arrangement of parts of the utterance which secures a gradual increase in semantic significance or emotional tension” is:

a) inversion c) climax

b) enantiosemy d) euphemism


3. Give the definition of a functional style and single out the main functional styles according to Prof. Galperin’s classification.

4. Name the particular stylistic device, which is defined as “a figure of speech based on the use of the similar syntactic pattern in two or more sentences or syntagms”.

5. Define the particular type of euphemisms in the following phrases:

a) a woman of certain type c) children with specialneeds

b) a mighty reaper d) a sanitary engineer

e) Native Americans

6. Define the structural type of epithets in the following:

a) golden shoulders с) a devil of a woman

b) deep dark-blue crazy crying eyes d) unbreakfasted morning

e) a please-don't-touch-me-or-I-shall-cry look

7. Oxymoron is:

a) a trope which is based on the use of an evaluative word in the
opposite meaning;

b) a trope based on the transfer of meaning;

c) a figure of speech based on the play upon words similar in spelling
but different in meaning;

d) a figure of speech and a trope based on the combination of words with
contradictory meaning.

8. Adduce illustrative examples of:

a) grammatic inversion

b) emphatic inversion

c) stylistic inversion

9. Enumerate the main types of detachment and adduce illustrative examples of each type.

10. What are the main structural and semantic differences between the metaphor and simile? Adduce examples to illustrate your viewpoint.


1. Choose the right answer to define the stylistic device in an underlined word: Не took little satisfaction in telling each Mary something.

a) personification c) antonomasia

b) simile d) oxymoron

2. A stylistic device “based on the deliberate exaggeration of a quality or quantity essential to an object or phenomenon” is:

a) metaphor c) pun

b) zeugma d) hyperbole

3. Give definitions of a trope and a figure of speech and adduce illustrative examples.

4. Name the stylistic device which is defined as: “a figure of speech based on the repetition of the syntactical pattern with the reversed word order”. Give illustrative examples of each type of repetition.

5. Define the particular kind of metonymy in the following:

a) from the cradle to the grave

b) hands wanted

с) I don't like either Jack London or O'Henry.

d) She wears only tweed and cashmere.

e) I prefer gold to silver with my evening dress.

6. Define the particular semantic type of metaphor in the following:

a. the branch of the bank

b. Ploughing is surgery.

с Life is full of dangerous corners if you drive at a high speed.

7. Detachment is:

a) a trope based on the use of a common noun instead of a
proper name;

b) a stylistic device based on the play upon words;

c) a figure of speech based on the inverted word order in the

d) a figure of speech based on the separation of the secondary
members of the sentence by punctuation marks.


8. Adduce illustrative examples of the main types of climax and define them.

9. Enumerate the main stylistic types of syntactic connection between the parts of the utterance and adduce illustrative examples.

10. State the difference between hyperbole and meiosis. Adduce illustrative examples.


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