An oxymoron is a phrase that seems self-contradictory or incompatible with reality. By juxtaposing two opposite words (that is A + Not A as in "living dead"), writers seek to achieve dramatic contradiction or vivid imagery.
An apostrophe is a figurative device in which the speaker calls out an absent person or an inanimate object or concept in order to express his or her emotion. Hence, you may see the apostrophe is often used alongside an exclamation mark.
Oh wind, caress me with your many nurturing hands.
Calling out an inanimate object (the wind) to address it = apostrophe
Ascribing human features (hands) to the wind = personification
Attributing human emotions (nurturing) to the wind = pathetic fallacy
Oh clouds, cover my shame with your forgiving arms.
Calling out an inanimate object (clouds) to address them = apostrophe
Ascribing human features (arms) to clouds = personification
Attributing human emotions (forgiving) to clouds = pathetic fallacy
Daisy, what a splendid smile you bounteously bestow on me.
Calling out an inanimate object (daisy) to address it = apostrophe
Ascribing human features (smile) to a daisy = personification
Attributing human emotions (bounteous = generous) to the daisy = pathetic fallacy
Rain, you messenger of sad tidings with teary eyes.
Calling out an inanimate object (rain) to address it = apostrophe
Ascribing human features (eyes, playing a role as a messenger) to rain = personification
Attributing human emotions (ability to deliver sad news) to rain = pathetic fallacy
Ye chaste stars, stop crying over the night.
Calling out inanimate objects (stars) to address them = apostrophe
Ascribing human features (tears and eyes) to stars = personification
Attributing human emotions (chaste meaning pure, innocent) to stars = pathetic fallacy
Parody, as a literary genre, is an imitation of a particular writer, artist or a genre, exaggerating it deliberately to produce a comic effect.
Parody imitates or exaggerates a subject directly to produce a comical effect. Satire, on the other hand, makes fun of a subject without a direct imitation. Moreover, satire aims at correcting shortcomings in society by criticizing them.
Literary Examples of Parody
Shakespeare's “Sonnet 130” parodies the Petrarchan conceit.
My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
Unlike Petrarch's Laura, Shakespeare's "Dark Lady" does not have starry eyes, coral lips, or a snow-white complexion. Poking fun at the Petrarchan clichés, Shakespeare breathed a new life into the English language.
Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels
Synecdoche is a literary device in which a part of something represents the whole.
Synecdoche may also use larger groups to refer to smaller groups. It may also call a thing by the name of the material it is made of or it may refer to a thing in a container or packing by the name of that container or packing.
Synecdoche is often misidentified as metonymy (another literary device). Both may resemble each other to some extent but they are not the same. Synecdoche refers to the whole of a thing by the name of any one of its parts. For example, calling a car “wheels” is a synecdoche because a part of a car “wheels” stands for the whole car.
However, in metonymy, the word we use to describe another thing is closely linked to that particular thing, but is not necessarily a part of it. For example, “crown” that refers to power or authority is a metonymy used to replace the word “king” or “queen.”
Examples of Synecdoche:
The word “bread” refers to food or money as in “Writing is my bread and butter” or “sole breadwinner.”
The phrase “gray beard” refers to an old man.
The word “sails” refers to a whole ship.
The word “suits” refers to businessmen.
The word “boots” usually refers to soldiers.
The term “coke” is a common synecdoche for all carbonated drinks.
The word “glasses” refers to spectacles.
“Coppers” often refers to coins.
Literary Examples of Synecdoche:
Coleridge employs synecdoche in his poem "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner":
The western wave was all a-flame.
The day was well was nigh done!
Almost upon the western wave [ = the ocean]
Rested the broad bright Sun.
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand [ = the sculptor] that mocked them.
Joseph Conrad's "The Secret Sharer":
At midnight I went on deck, and to my mate’s great surprise put the ship round on the other tack. His terrible whiskers [ = the whole face of the narrator's mate] flitted round me in silent criticism.
Jonathan Swift's "The Description of the Morning":
Prepar’d to scrub the entry and the stairs.
The youth with broomy stumps [ = the whole broom] began to trace.
The use of synecdoche helps writers to achieve brevity. For instance, saying “Soldiers were equipped with steel” is more concise than saying “The soldiers were equipped with swords, knives, daggers, arrows etc.”
Let's learn the importance of education through the presidential examples of malapropism. Trump uses "unpresidented" in the place of "unprecedented"; "hear by" in lieu of "hereby." What other "presidential" examples of malapropism do you know?
The Rivals (1775) by Richard Sheridan
Act I Scene II
Sir ANTHONY Why, Mrs. Malaprop, in moderation now, what would you have a woman know?
Mrs. MALAPROP Observe me, Sir Anthony. I would by no means wish a daughter of mine to be a progeny (proponent) of learning; I don't think so much learning becomes a young woman; for instance, I would never let her meddle with Greek, or Hebrew, or algebra, or simony (simony, which refers to the corrupt practice of selling religious offices does not fit in the context), or fluxions, or paradoxes, or such inflammatory branches of learning--neither would it be necessary for her to handle any of your mathematical, astronomical, diabolical instruments.--But, Sir Anthony, I would send her, at nine years old, to a boarding-school, in order to learn a little ingenuity and artifice. Then, sir, she should have a supercilious (superfluous) knowledge in accounts;--and as she grew up, I would have her instructed in geometry (geography), that she might know something of the contagious (contiguous) countries;--but above all, Sir Anthony, she should be mistress of orthodoxy, that she might not mis-spell, and mis-pronounce words so shamefully as girls usually do; and likewise that she might reprehend (comprehend) the true meaning of what she is saying. This, Sir Anthony, is what I would have a woman know;--and I don't think there is a superstitious (supercilious) article in it.
Sir ANTHONY Well, well, Mrs. Malaprop, I will dispute the point no further with you; though I must confess, that you are a truly moderate and polite arguer, for almost every third word you say is on my side of the question. But, Mrs. Malaprop, to the more important point in debate--you say you have no objection to my proposal?
What is malapropism? Why do you think Sheridan assigns such abundant malapropisms to Mrs Malaprop?
Chapter 16 of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn depicts the hypocrisy of the slave-hunters, which provides a hilarious solution to Huck's dilemma: whether to honor the social norm of slavery or to follow his own mischievous, yet kindly heart.
In what ways does Mark Twain mock the slave-hunters?
Do you think Huck made the right decision by lying to the authority figures?
I got to feeling so mean and so miserable I most wished I was dead. I fidgeted up and down the raft, abusing myself to myself, and Jim was fidgeting up and down past me. We neither of us could keep still. Every time he danced around and says, "Dah's Cairo!" it went through me like a shot, and I thought if it WAS Cairo I reckoned I would die of miserableness.
Jim talked out loud all the time while I was talking to myself. He was saying how the first thing he would do when he got to a free State he would go to saving up money and never spend a single cent, and when he got enough he would buy his wife, which was owned on a farm close to where Miss Watson lived; and then they would both work to buy the two children, and if their master wouldn't sell them, they'd get an Ab'litionist to go and steal them.
It most froze me to hear such talk. He wouldn't ever dared to talk such talk in his life before. Just see what a difference it made in him the minute he judged he was about free. It was according to the old saying, "Give a nigger an inch and he'll take an ell." Thinks I, this is what comes of my not thinking. Here was this nigger, which I had as good as helped to run away, coming right out flat-footed and saying he would steal his children -- children that belonged to a man I didn't even know; a man that hadn't ever done me no harm.
I was sorry to hear Jim say that, it was such a lowering of him. My conscience got to stirring me up hotter than ever, until at last I says to it, "Let up on me -- it ain't too late yet -- I'll paddle ashore at the first light and tell." I felt easy and happy and light as a feather right off. All my troubles was gone. I went to looking out sharp for a light, and sort of singing to myself. By and by one showed. Jim sings out:
"We's safe, Huck, we's safe! Jump up and crack yo' heels! Dat's de good ole Cairo at las', I jis knows it!"
"I'll take the canoe and go and see, Jim. It mightn't be, you know."
He jumped and got the canoe ready, and put his old coat in the bottom for me to set on, and give me the paddle; and as I shoved off, he says:
"Pooty soon I'll be a-shout'n' for joy, en I'll say, it's all on accounts o' Huck; I's a free man, en I couldn't ever ben free ef it hadn' ben for Huck; Huck done it. Jim won't ever forgit you, Huck; you's de bes' fren' Jim's ever had; en you's de ONLY fren' ole Jim's got now."
I was paddling off, all in a sweat to tell on him; but when he says this, it seemed to kind of take the tuck all out of me. I went along slow then, and I warn't right down certain whether I was glad I started or whether I warn't. When I was fifty yards off, Jim says:
"Dah you goes, de ole true Huck; de on'y white genlman dat ever kep' his promise to ole Jim."
Well, I just felt sick. But I says, I GOT to do it -- I can't get OUT of it. Right then along comes a skiff with two men in it with guns, and they stopped and I stopped. One of them says:
"What's that yonder?"
"A piece of a raft," I says.
"Do you belong on it?"
"Any men on it?"
"Only one, sir."
"Well, there's five niggers run off to-night up yonder, above the head of the bend. Is your man white or black?"
I didn't answer up prompt. I tried to, but the words wouldn't come. I tried for a second or two to brace up and out with it, but I warn't man enough -- hadn't the spunk of a rabbit. I see I was weakening; so I just give up trying, and up and says:
"I reckon we'll go and see for ourselves."
"I wish you would," says I, "because it's pap that's there, and maybe you'd help me tow the raft ashore where the light is. He's sick -- and so is mam and Mary Ann."
"Oh, the devil! we're in a hurry, boy. But I s'pose we've got to. Come, buckle to your paddle, and let's get along."
I buckled to my paddle and they laid to their oars. When we had made a stroke or two, I says:
"Pap'll be mighty much obleeged to you, I can tell you. Everybody goes away when I want them to help me tow the raft ashore, and I can't do it by myself."
"Well, that's infernal mean. Odd, too. Say, boy, what's the matter with your father?"
"It's the -- a -- the -- well, it ain't anything much."
They stopped pulling. It warn't but a mighty little ways to the raft now. One says:
"Boy, that's a lie. What IS the matter with your pap? Answer up square now, and it'll be the better for you."
"I will, sir, I will, honest -- but don't leave us, please. It's the -- the -- Gentlemen, if you'll only pull ahead, and let me heave you the headline, you won't have to come a-near the raft -- please do."
"Set her back, John, set her back!" says one. They backed water. "Keep away, boy -- keep to looard. Confound it, I just expect the wind has blowed it to us. Your pap's got the small-pox, and you know it precious well. Why didn't you come out and say so? Do you want to spread it all over?"
"Well," says I, a-blubbering, "I've told everybody before, and they just went away and left us."
"Poor devil, there's something in that. We are right down sorry for you, but we -- well, hang it, we don't want the small-pox, you see. Look here, I'll tell you what to do. Don't you try to land by yourself, or you'll smash everything to pieces. You float along down about twenty miles, and you'll come to a town on the left-hand side of the river. It will be long after sun-up then, and when you ask for help you tell them your folks are all down with chills and fever. Don't be a fool again, and let people guess what is the matter. Now we're trying to do you a kindness; so you just put twenty miles between us, that's a good boy. It wouldn't do any good to land yonder where the light is -- it's only a wood-yard. Say, I reckon your father's poor, and I'm bound to say he's in pretty hard luck. Here, I'll put a twentydollar gold piece on this board, and you get it when it floats by. I feel mighty mean to leave you; but my kingdom! it won't do to fool with small-pox, don't you see?"
"Hold on, Parker," says the other man, "here's a twenty to put on the board for me. Good-bye, boy; you do as Mr. Parker told you, and you'll be all right."
"That's so, my boy -- good-bye, good-bye. If you see any runaway niggers you get help and nab them, and you can make some money by it."
"Good-bye, sir," says I; "I won't let no runaway niggers get by me if I can help it."
They went off and I got aboard the raft, feeling bad and low, because I knowed very well I had done wrong, and I see it warn't no use for me to try to learn to do right; a body that don't get STARTED right when he's little ain't got no show -- when the pinch comes there ain't nothing to back him up and keep him to his work, and so he gets beat. Then I thought a minute, and says to myself, hold on; s'pose you'd a done right and give Jim up, would you felt better than what you do now? No, says I, I'd feel bad -- I'd feel just the same way I do now. Well, then, says I, what's the use you learning to do right when it's troublesome to do right and ain't no trouble to do wrong, and the wages is just the same? I was stuck. I couldn't answer that. So I reckoned I wouldn't bother no more about it, but after this always do whichever come handiest at the time.
I went into the wigwam; Jim warn't there. I looked all around; he warn't anywhere. I says:
"Here I is, Huck. Is dey out o' sight yit? Don't talk loud."
He was in the river under the stern oar, with just his nose out. I told him they were out of sight, so he come aboard. He says:
"I was a-listenin' to all de talk, en I slips into de river en was gwyne to shove for sho' if dey come aboard. Den I was gwyne to swim to de raf' agin when dey was gone. But lawsy, how you did fool 'em, Huck! Dat WUZ de smartes' dodge! I tell you, chile, I'spec it save' ole Jim -- ole Jim ain't going to forgit you for dat, honey."
Then we talked about the money. It was a pretty good raise -- twenty dollars apiece. Jim said we could take deck passage on a steamboat now, and the money would last us as far as we wanted to go in the free States. He said twenty mile more warn't far for the raft to go, but he wished we was already there.
Hamlet spews out nihilistic conceits in 4.2. and 4.3., and continues to indulge in gallows humor in 5.1. until he wakes up to a new perspective toward afterlife while meditating on Yorick's skull. Since he pretty much moped around in suicidal thoughts, his awakening in 4.4 and 5.1 is so swift and surprising. Now Hamlet is ready to think and act like a king, even though he turns out to be a king we could have had but did not. At this point, the vulgarity, puns, and gallows humor are reassigned to the two grave diggers and one of them, the First Clown, seems to serve as the conventional fool who speaks out to the king (or prince).
First Clown argues that Adam was the first grave digger and grave digging is a noble profession because Adam had (a coat of) arms. Second Clown contends it only to receive an answer that Adam dug with his arms. Here "arms" serves as a pun.
These menial workers further undermine the arbitrary division of class by observing that a gallows maker builds the most durable monument in human history. It is not much different than saying all humans are common criminals and crooks. Hamlet's misanthropic rants seem to echo through the grave diggers' mouths.
No more wading through self-hatred and nihilism, Hamlet banters with the grave digger and plays on the word, "lie." At the beginning, they both use "lie" to mean "stay," but soon its meaning changes and now both start to use it in term of "being laid in the grave." Since both are alive, neither can claim the grave as his and each man starts to accuse the other of lying. This pun introduces a comic relief to the play and also alerts the viewer's attention to the owner of the grave--Ophelia.
Let's begin with Hamlet's dilemma in Act 4: he is the heir apparent (second only to Claudius) and at the same time a murderer to be exiled. Faced with this paradoxical situation, Hamlet spews out ghoulish and misanthropic conceits about life and death. For example,
"The body is with the king, but the king is not with the body" (4.2.25)
In this line, Hamlet argues that Polonius's body shares the same fate as the ultimate fate of King Claudius's body even though Claudius, still alive, cannot join the fate of the dead Polonius.
"The king is a thing--of nothing" (4.2.26-27)
This is a very succinct example of a paradox even though this seems to reveal how low and abject Hamlet feels about life.
Hamlet implies that Claudius is alive for the time being but he is to be reduced to nothing eventually. When dead, all humans--"the fat king and lean beggar"--are subjected to be food for maggots according to Hamlet. This is a truly nihilistic worldview and we witness the nadir of Hamlet's soul (the rock bottom of his soul).
He was a scholar at the University of Wittenberg, the "mould of the [perfect] form" (3.1.153); however, he now wags his tongue at humanity saying "you are all food for maggots and no more." Hamlet's soul is so dark and bleak and a statement like this will surely guarantee a prison cell in Alcatraz or the Tower of London. Whew, this stuff is too explosive.
"Not where he eats, but where he is eaten. A certain convocation of politic worms are e'en at him. your worm is your only emperor for diet. We fat all creatures else to fat us, and we fat ourselves for maggots. Your fat king and your lean beggar is but variable service--two dishes, but to one table. That's the end." (4.3.21-26)
In this gruesome conceit, Hamlet does not lose a beat in making fun of Polonius: due to his political ambition, Polonius turns out to be the best food for political maggots. Hamlet continues to claim that maggots are on the top of food chain because they can choose to eat either the king or a common beggar. In a way, humans fatten themselves only to fatten maggots and nobody can avoid this common end. How "jangled, out of tune, and harsh" the former "rose of the fair state" has become (3.1. 158,152)!
On a different note, the phrase "[a] certain convocation of politic worms" utilizes a pun on "the Diet of Worms," a politico-religious assembly that was held in Worms, Germany, in 1521 to deal with Martin Luther's Reformation movement. "A certain convocation of politic worms" is not only a pun but also a historical allusion. In addition, "fat" as opposed to "lean" and "king" as opposed to "beggar" constitute an antithesis.
"Father and mother is man and wife, man and wife is one flesh, and so, my mother." (4.3.54-55)
Hamlet insists that Claudius is Gertrude because the marriage vow makes the husband and wife one flesh. One plus one is one according to the bible. So, this paradox is also a biblical allusion.
ghoulish: suggesting the horror of death and decay (a ghoul is an evil spirit that feeds on corpses)
misanthropic: hating mankind in general
conceit: a fanciful poetic image, especially an elaborate or exaggerated comparison
nihilism: the philosophical belief that nothing actually exists or that existence is meaningless
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
What time period in human history do you think was so paradoxical?