Literary Devices that Start with R

Literary devices add depth and impact to the stories. Through the powerful techniques i.e. repetition, rhyme and rhetorical question, the writers are able to provoke their thinking. These devices make the stories more engaging. They help to shape the stories, build characters and convey complex ideas, which make them essential for writers in different genres and time periods. Here are the literary devices that begin with letter “R.”

1- Realism

Realism portrays characters, settings and events as they actually exist. It is a style that seeks to portray life and society in its true perspective. It is often focused on everyday experiences and the struggles of ordinary people. In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain uses the harsh realities of slavery and prejudice to critique social norms.

Example in Literature

“Madame Bovary” by Gustave Flaubert

Madame Bovary, who had become thin as a rake, was seized with a fierce thirst. She broke the seals of the cupboard, tore off the paper, and bit into the rosy flesh of the apple, that she crunched noisily.

The writer uses realism to portray the life and emotions of a character i.e. Madame Bovary, in a vivid and truthful manner. The aforesaid passage describes her physical appearance and actions in a very detailed and realistic way. capturing the ordinary and relatable experience of satisfying hunger with a simple apple.

2- Rebuttal

A rebuttal presents counter-evidence opposing an argument. In Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Antony’s funeral speech rebuts the conspirators’ justifications for assassinating Caesar.

Example in literature

In literature, this literary device typically appears in the form of characters or passages, wherein one character or perspective challenges or counters another.

“The Crucible” by Arthur Miller

John Proctor: “I have known her, sir. I have known her.”
Deputy Governor Danforth: “You are a lecher?”

John Proctor is offering a rebuttal to the accusations against him. He asserts his familiarity with one of the accusers namely Abigail Williams. He is challenging the credibility of the witnesses and the court’s judgment. The play has been set during the Salem witch trials and is known for its exploration of mass hysteria.

3- Red Herring

A red herring misleads through an irrelevant diversion. It is a literary device, which is used to divert the reader’s attention from the real issue or plot development by introducing a misleading or distracting element.

Example in literature

“The Hound of the Baskervilles” by Arthur Conan Doyle

The writer introduces the legend of the supernatural and cursed hound that haunts the Baskerville family. Throughout the story, the hound is portrayed as a menacing and deadly creature. It adds an element of horror to the narrative. The readers come to realize that the hound is a red herring, a false threat, which has been created to distract from the real culprits and the actual danger facing the characters.

4- Reductio ad Absurdum

Reductio ad absurdum argues against a claim by showing it logically leads to absurd consequences. Through indirect proof by contradiction, it reduces the argument to absurdity.

Example in Literature

“Animal Farm” by George Orwell

All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.

The aforesaid line can be seen as a form of reductio ad absurdum. This paradoxical statement has been used to justify the unfair and tyrannical treatment of ruling pigs with other animals on the farm. Taking the idea of equality to the extreme, the writer highlights the hypocrisy and corruption of the ruling class.

6- Refrain

A refrain is a repeated verse or phrase that recurs in songs or poems, usually at the end of each stanza. It serves to emphasize a particular idea, create a rhythm or engage the emotions of the readers and listeners.

Example in literature

“The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe

‘Nevermore,’ said the raven.

In the above text, the word “nevermore” is a refrain that is appearing at the end. The raven repeats this word in response to the protagonist’s questions and statements. The refrain “nevermore” not only creates a haunting and melancholic rhythm in the poem but also serves as a reminder of the protagonist’s despair and his inability to escape the grip of his grief.

7- Refutation

A refutation counters an argument by providing contrary evidence. It is a literary device in which an author or character presents arguments or evidence to counter or disprove a claim, argument or belief.

Example in literature

“Julius Caesar” by William Shakespeare

Mark Antony delivers a famous speech to refute the accusations made against Caesar’s assassination. He says:

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Caesar.

In the speech, Mark Antony uses refutation to counter the claims of Brutus and the conspirators who have assassinated Julius Caesar. He appears to start by acknowledging Caesar’s flaws and the accusations against him. He skillfully refutes them by emphasizing the good Caesar did in his life and suggesting that the evil deeds of men often outlive them.

8- Repetition

Repetition repeats words or phrases for rhetorical effect. It is a literary device, which is used for various purposes including emphasis, rhythm and creating memorable phrases.

Example in Literature

“I Have a Dream” by Martin Luther King Jr.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.

In the aforesaid passage, the sentence ‘I have a dream’ has been repeatedly used to create emphasis. This repetition of sentence explores the vision, which he is sharing with the audience. It creates a sense of dream of racial equality and justice. The repetition of phrase throughout the speech helps to create a powerful and memorable message that resonates with the audience.

9- Resolution

The resolution is the segment of a plot, which contains the story’s conclusion. It is the part of a story or play where the conflicts are resolved.

Example in literature

Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare

See what a scourge is laid upon your hate,
That heaven finds means to kill your joys with love.
And I, for winking at your discords too,
Have lost a brace of kinsmen. All are punish’d.

In the resolution of aforesaid novel, the warring families finally recognize the senselessness of their feud after the tragic deaths of their children. The resolution is marked by the decision of the families to put their differences aside and end the feud that has plagued Verona for so long. The speech of the Prince emphasizes the heavy price that have been paid by them due to their hatred and discord.

10- Rhetoric

It refers to the effective and persuasive use of language. It is commonly used in speeches, essays and oratory. This literary device can also be found in literature.

Example in literature

“Julius Caesar” by William Shakespeare

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Caesar.

In Act 3 of ‘Julius Caesar’, Mark Antony delivers a speech to the Roman citizens after the assassination of Julius Caesar. He skillfully uses rhetoric to turn the crowd against the conspirators. His rhetoric aims were to change the initial perception of the crowd qua the assassins and shift their emotions in favor of Caesar. He cleverly points out the contradictions and injustice of the murder of the Caesar while subtly praising his virtues. The speech ultimately turns the crowd against the conspirators and incites a riot.

11- Rhetorical Question

A rhetorical question prompts reflection rather than expecting an answer. Martin Luther King Jr. powerfully asks in his “I Have a Dream” speech: “when will you be satisfied?”

Example in literature

“Hamlet” by William Shakespeare

To be or not to be, that is the question.

In this soliloquy, the character Hamlet has used a rhetorical question. Using this technique, he wants to explore the concept of life and death. The question is not meant to be answered but serves as a means to express the internal struggle of the Hamlet as well as his philosophical reflection on the value of existence. It encapsulates the central theme of the play where Hamlet grapples with the idea of suffering of life and the fear of the unknown in death.

12- Rhyme

Rhyme repeats ending word sounds. For example, “right” and “light” form a rhyming pair. End rhymes frequently occur in rhymed verse poetry.

Example in literature

“Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

In this famous poem, the writer has used rhyme to create a musical and rhythmic quality. The repeated rhyme words i.e. ‘deep’ and ‘sleep’ in the final two lines of the stanza serves to emphasize the sense of closure and finality as well as the idea of responsibilities and obligations that the speaker must fulfill before resting.

13- Rhyme Scheme

The rhyme scheme describes the rhyme pattern in a stanza or poem. Rhyme scheme is an essential element of poetry that creates a sense of structure and rhythm.

Example in literature

“Sonnet 18” by William Shakespeare

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? (A)
Thou art more lovely and more temperate: (B)
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May, (A)
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date: (B)
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines, (C)
And often is his gold complexion dimmed; (D)
And every fair from fair sometime declines, (C)
By chance, or nature’s changing course untrimmed. (D)

Shakespeare uses a specific rhyme scheme to achieve a harmonious and balanced effect. The rhyme scheme contributes to the poem and provides musical aid to convey the admiration of the poet for the beauty of the subject.

14- Rhythm

Rhythm creates a sense of movement through stressed and unstressed syllables. It also creates a sense of flow, melody and music effect in the text. The rhyme scheme of the text is ABABCC.

Example in literature

“I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” by William Wordsworth

I wandered lonely as a cloud (A)
That floats on high o’er vales and hills, (B)
When all at once I saw a crowd, (A)
A host, of golden daffodils; (B)
Beside the lake, beneath the trees, (C)
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze. (C)

In the above excerpt, the rhythm has been created through the alternation of stressed and unstressed syllables, which forms a specific metrical pattern. The first and third lines are tetrameter (four metrical feet), while the second and fourth lines are trimeter (three metrical feet). The rhyme scheme is ABABCC, which contributes rhythm and musicality of the poem.

15- Riddle

A riddle cryptically describes something challenging the listener to guess its meaning. Riddles are used in to create tension, test the intelligence of characters or drive the plot forward.

Example in literature

“The Hobbit” by J.R.R. Tolkien

This thing all things devours:
Birds, beasts, trees, flowers;
Gnaws iron, bites steel;
Grinds hard stones to meal;
Slays king, ruins town,
And beats mountain down.

The aforesaid text is a classic example of riddle. The riddle of Gollum is not meant to be solved by the reader but serves as a challenge for the character Bilbo Baggins. The answer to the riddle is ‘time’. The riddle plays a significant role in the story as it is through cleverly solving riddles that Bilbo escapes from Gollum and gains possession of the One Ring.

16- Rising Action

The rising action of a plot builds suspense and interest leading up to the climax. In Hamlet, the prince’s schemes against Claudius constitute rising action.

Example in literature

“1984” by George Orwell

In 1984, the rising action occurs as the protagonist i.e. Winston Smith begins to rebel against the oppressive government of the Party. He secretly starts a love affair with Julia and becomes involved with a group of rebels who aim to overthrow the Party. The rising action is marked by the increasing tension, surveillance and danger which Winston faces as he challenges the Party control.

17- Romance

The romance genre involves emotional, often exotic stories dealing with love and adventure. Jane Austen’s popular novels like Pride and Prejudice blended romance with early realism.

Example in literature

“Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen

In the novel, the romance between Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy unfolds gradually. Their relationship is marked by initial misunderstandings, pride and prejudice. Mr. Darcy is initially seen as aloof and proud while Elizabeth is prejudiced against him due to his perceived arrogance. As the story progresses, their feelings for each other change and develop, which leads to a deep and genuine love.

18- Romanticism

Romanticism was a literary movement emphasizing imagination, emotion, and individualism. Major romantic poets include William Blake, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Lord Byron, and Percy Bysshe Shelley.

Example in literature

“I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” by William Wordsworth

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,

The aforesaid context is a quintessential example of Romantic literature. The poem shows how Romanticism values feelings of the people towards nature. The appreciation of the writer for the beauty of the natural world is evident as he describes the daffodils as ‘dancing’ and creating a ‘crowd, a host’.

19- Round Character

A round character exhibits complex traits and motivations, seeming lifelike with depth and personality. Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird represents a morally upstanding, fully developed round character.

Example in literature

“Great Expectations” by Charles Dickens

In the novel, the character Miss Havisham is a round character. She is an eccentric and wealthy woman who jilted on her wedding day. She is consumed by her anger and desire for revenge against men. However, she is also shown to be vulnerable and emotionally damaged, which adds depth to her character.

Literary Devices that Start with R
Literary Devices that Start with R

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