Column - Dressing-up with literary devices

HAVE you ever wondered why embellishments in the right context are so important in our lives?

When we embellish ourselves, it is called making-up, with cars for example it is modification, when a property is involved it is called renovation. Whatever name by which it is known, glazing gives the end product a better look and feel.

When preparing and delivering a speech, a language expert's touch will give the speech more relevance, volume and the icing effect.

Former US president Barrack Obama's speeches are dressed-up with quotes which appear nothing extraordinary but he is celebrated for the impact of his speeches.

The "wow" feeling stems from his speeches which are laced with compassion, optimism and the "yes we can" feeling imbued so strongly. Relevance and giving words the human touch makes a whole lot of difference.

When it comes to writing, which we do so little these days and I do not consider texting as real writing, not only are we taking away the beauty of a language, the sheer pleasure is also hijacked all in the name of speed.

In serious writing, there are various ways one can "dress-up" the end product and this can be beneficial including drawing interest or appeal, adding variety and fortification as well as to ornament the string of words with a soft touch.

Then comes the next question as to how we will dress up our inscription and this can be done through style, using different genres and using literary devices.

While language is a means of communication by symbolic sounds and graphics, literary devices further enhance, illuminate and embellish them. Effective speakers and writers have always made good use of literary devices which later on become their personal style.

Obama being a Harvard by-product is deft with using language creatively for his speeches. His intelligent use of rhetorical devices helped him connect with audiences deeply and tellingly.

A notable feature in his speeches is the use of anaphoric phrases which is the repetition of a word or phrase at the start of successive clauses.

This is a powerful tool to reinforce certain messages in a successive manner and the resonation from this helps build the listener's attachment towards the message. Here is an example and note the phrase in italics:

"This country has more wealth than any nation, but that's not what makes us rich. We have the most powerful military in history, but that's not what makes us strong. Our university, our culture are all the envy of the world, but that's not what keeps the world coming to our shores."

Here is another one from Winston Churchill:

"We shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills. We shall never surrender."

In writing, however, since there is no compulsion to be live with the audience and hence the use of literary devices could be planned advantageously for a piece of writing to have the desired impact.

A generous use of imageries will appeal to stimulate one or more of the five senses and it can be presented in the form of similes, metaphors or personification.

Many writers use imagery to convey a picture without saying directly what the image is. Imagery is usually best used in nature but it can also be used for describing inanimate objects.

Imageries can stimulate the imagination and create vivid pictures in the mind and the effect on people can be different according to people and their temperament.

Let us look at the imagery of light and darkness repeated many times in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. As an example:

O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright!
It seems she hangs upon the cheek of the night
Like a rich jewel in an Ethiope's ear

Romeo praises Juliet by saying that she appears more radiant than the brightly lit torches in the hall. He says that at night her face glows like a bright jewel shining against the dark skin of an African. Through the contrasting images of light and dark, Romeo portrays Juliet's beauty.
In the poem I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud William Wordsworth uses imagery throughout:

A host, of golden daffodils;
beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

We are given a wealth of imagery. We can see the "vales and hills" through which the speaker wanders, as well as the "host" of daffodils that cover the landscape.

We can feel the breeze that makes the flowers move, and, if you're familiar with the scent of daffodils, we may even smell the flowers.

We will cover the use of other literary devices in the coming weeks and in the meantime Gong Xi Fa Cai to one and all.

The writer believes that the Malaysian education system will reach greater heights with a strong antidote to revolutionise just about everything. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com