Literary Devices that Start with O

There are so many fascinating literary techniques that writers use to craft their stories, evoke emotions and convey the complex ideas. In literature, the writer uses the literary devices to add richness and depth the literary creations.

1- Octave

An octave is a stanza consisting of eight lines. Octaves are often used in poetry that follows a structured rhyme scheme and meter. For example, the octave in a Petrarchan sonnet follows an ABBAABBA rhyme scheme.

Example in Literature

Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s sonnet “How Do I Love Thee”

“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right.
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.”

Browning explores the depth and expansiveness of her love. She expresses it in various dimensions. The writer has used the vivid imagery to convey the profound nature of her affection, which describes that how she loves her partner to the ‘depth and breadth and height’ that her soul can reach. The first eight lines of the sonnet are known as the octave. These lines establish the deep and all-encompassing love of the speaker in the sonnet. This section serves as a foundation, which paves the way for the subsequent six lines called the sestet. The octave essentially lays the groundwork for the emotional journey that unfolds expressing the poet’s feelings in a structured and rhythmic manner.

2- Ode

“Ode” is a lyrical poem usually marked by exalted emotions and an elevated style. It was a popular form during the Romantic period. For example: “Ode on a Grecian Urn” by John Keats. The poem reflects on the unchanging, ‘frozen’ scenes on an ancient urn and contrasts this with the transient nature of human life. Another example of the ode is “The Progress of Poesy: An Ode” by Thomas Gray, contrasts the fleeting nature of worldly gains with the enduring nature of knowledge and art.

Examples in literature

“Ode to a Nightingale” by John Keats

“My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains / My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk, / Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains / One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk:”

Keats opens this ode with a declaration of his physical discomfort, which leads him to a state of contemplation about the joy embodied in the song of the nightingale. The melancholy and pain in the beginning is juxtaposed against the ethereal quality of the nightingale’s song.

“Ode on Solitude” by Alexander Pope

“How happy he, who free from care / The rage of courts, and noise of towns; / Contented breathes his native air, / In his own grounds.”

Pope, in this ode, appreciates the peacefulness and comfort brought by a life of solitude. It highlights his desire for a life, unmarred by societal pressures or unwelcome noise, where one can enjoy simplicity and tranquillity.

“Ode to the West Wind” by Percy Bysshe Shelley

“O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn’s being, / Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead / Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing,”

The writer portrays the west wind as both a destroyer and a preserver, symbolizing the power it holds over life and death. It’s a powerful ode addressing the west wind as an embodiment of the mighty natural forces.

3- Onomatopoeia

This is a literary device where the word sounds like what it describes. It adds vividness by imitating real sounds in language. This literary technique connects the language to the real world sounds, which make the words more expressive and allow the readers to experience the text through their senses.

Examples in literature

“The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T.S. Eliot

“Baha! Baha! from the throats of soft-feeding brooks / In springtime, when the wheels of traffic creak.”

Eliot utilizes ‘Baha!’ to reproduce the unique sound of a brook flowing gently in the spring. It not only creates a soothing atmosphere but also highlights the onomatopoeic quality of the word, which emphasizes the poet’s ear for sound and language.

“The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe’s

“Quoth the Raven, ‘Nevermore.'”

Poe employs ‘tinkled’ to describe the sound of the raven’s footfalls, allowing the reader to Picture the melancholic atmosphere of the mysterious midnight hour. It emphasizes the eerie and eerie disposition created by the poem’s atmosphere and language.

4- Oxymoron

An oxymoron merges two contradictory terms to describe something in a novel way. It is a juxtaposition term, which may highlight a paradox, emphasize a point or evoke a thought provoking expression. Examples of oxymorons include, ‘deafening silence’, ‘jumbo shrimp’ or ‘living dead’.

Examples in literature

“Invisible Man” by H.G. Wells.

“And as he lay there, a weak man was pointing a cold stare towards him in the morning, then he opened his eyes in the darkness—”

Wells uses the oxymoron ‘opened his eyes in the darkness’ to depict a strange and interesting scenario. Usually, opening one’s eyes is associated with seeing or perception, but in this context, it is connected with utter darkness or invisibility.

“Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” by J.K. Rowling.

“Not for nothing, though, was Harry the youngest Seeker in a century… He had his eyes narrowed into thin slits against the fiery wind, his hands clenched tightly around the cold Firebolt handle.”

‘Cold’ and ‘fire’ are typically opposing concepts, yet in ‘cold Firebolt handle’, J.K. Rowling creates an oxymoron to highlight the paradox present in the magical world of Harry Potter. This enigmatic phrase implies the unusual reality where the impossible becomes possible.

5- Overstatement

Overstatement, or hyperbole, is a figure of speech that involves exaggeration of ideas for the sake of emphasis. It is involved in making something appear more significant than it actually is. Authors often use overstatement for emphasis to create a vivid effect or to evoke strong emotions.

Examples in literature

“A Modest Proposal” by Jonathan Swift:

“I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed, is, at a year old, a most delicious nourishing and wholesome food.”

The suggestion of the writer regarding eating children to solve overpopulation and poverty problems is a glaring example of overstatement or hyperbole. Although, he never intends for society to adopt such a horrific measure, however, his exaggerated statement effectively sheds light on the graveness of Ireland’s socio-economic issues.

“The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald:

“Across the courtesy bay, the white palaces of fashionable East Egg glittered along the water.”

Fitzgerald uses the term ‘palaces’ to refer to the lavish houses in East Egg. This is an overstatement as the houses, despite being extravagant, are not true palaces. This exaggeration helps to emphasize the excess and opulence of the lifestyle and setting.

6- Olfactory Imagery

Olfactory imagery refers to sensory descriptions relating to smell. Writers use olfactory imagery to create a sensory experience for readers by describing scents, odors and aromas. They incorporate this literary technique into their writing. By employing it, the authors can enhance the vividness and realism of a scene, which make it more immersive for the audience.

Example in literature

“Wuthering Heights” by Emily Bronte

“The shook the air And it trembled to the tone of the mocking-bird.”

Bronte has used the scent of the mockingbird’s song to evoke a sense of nostalgia and longing in the character of Catherine. The olfactory imagery of ‘the shook the air’ creates a vivid picture of the sound of the bird’s call, while the association of the scent of the mockingbird with Catherine’s memories of happier times deepens the emotional impact of the scene.

7- Omniscient

An omniscient narrator knows and describes what any character (including minor characters) is thinking and feeling. An omniscient narrator has a storytelling voice that knows and sees everything including the thoughts, feelings and actions of all characters in the story.

Example in literature

“Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

The writer has used the omniscient narrator to introduce the main theme of the novel. He employs a sarcastic and ironic tone throughout the passage. Austen comments on the indisputable truth of this statement, which highlights the absurdity and hypocrisy of the society in which her characters live.

8- Ordinal Number

An ordinal number indicates order or position (“first”, “fifth”). In fiction, chapters may be labeled with ordinal numbers rather than names. Ernest Hemingway uses numbered chapters in For Whom the Bell Tolls.

Example in literature

“To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee

“Atticus Finch went to his office, where he did his typing each day from eight to eleven.”

In the aforesaid passage, the writer uses the ordinal numbers to specify the time of day when Atticus Finch performs a particular action. He uses the words ‘eight to eleven, Lee provides a clear and specific time frame for Atticus’s typing, which gives the reader a better sense of his daily routine and the passage of time.

Literary Devices that Start with O
Literary Devices that Start with O

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