Bashing Literary Devices

Joseph Yang


I’ve never been a fan of literary devices. In fact, I don’t like them all. To me, and probably to a lot of people, literary devices are merely those groups of words that you insert in your essay at the last minute just because the rubric says so. There are many reasons for my dislike against the literary devices, and hopefully after reading this article, I can convince you readers to share my contempt, and at the same time, outrage the English department.

The main goal of writing is to communicate your ideas clearly to the reader, and the use of literary devices doesn’t help. In fact, they just make everything more complicated, and you as the reader have to absorb that device and think for a while to understand what it really means. Who wants to read a whole descriptive paragraph when it can be reduced into two concise paragraphs? Would you rather read, “The narrow mountain road was barely one lane wide with niches blasted in the rock. Descending traffic had the right-of-way and as we drove up we often had to pull into one because of oncoming cars and trucks” or “The road was damn narrow”? We live in a society that is fast-paced and dynamic so it’s always better to keep things short.

For those considering going into a job related to business or sciences, it’s essential that you can communicate your ideas concisely and objectively without comparing or exaggerating. Figuratively, language is simply not welcome in these fields. If we could say that one is like two in math, or that a proton is like a neutron, everyone would be getting 100 in maths and sciences. So by eliminating these literary devices, we’ll learn to communicate clearly and get rid of excessive and unnecessary words which would help you in the future.

Not only are literary devices unnecessary, they can be derogatory and prejudicial because they take the views of one society and consider it universal.  For example, consider this: “The red pepper was as bright as the sun”. (If you paid attention in class, you would know that it is a simile). It seems harmless unless you look at the broader picture. In both the South and the North Pole, there is no sun for 6 months each year, so it would be very difficult to imagine how bright the red pepper is when you haven’t seen the sun for half a year. Not only that, in many countries and continents, they don’t have access to commodities like red peppers. So it is simply impossible for those people to comprehend this simile because they don’t know what it is. Thus, this simile serves to point out that they are denied of this knowledge in their society and make them feel less equal. Although the literary devices are supposed to be harmful and educational, it is clear they are, in fact, very negative.

In addition, the literary devices are pretty sketchy and doubtable. If you think about it, most of them don’t make much sense and I think they teach us to become liars. In school, we always have to identify these devices and describe how they contribute to the overall piece of writing. Well in most cases, they don’t really help at all, but we are obligated to say that they add some sort of flavor to the text to emphasize a certain idea. For example, instead of writing “he’s a coward”, some people will use a metaphor and write “he’s a chicken”. Well, calling someone a chicken is a flagrant mistake by default since chickens are not cowardly creatures. In fact, they’re so fierce that they’ll attack you if you enter their territory. Or take “It was a piece of cake”. Do you think people with braces or elderly with fake teeth think eating a piece of cake is easy? Of course not. And not only are these devices wrong, but they don’t actually make a piece of writing better. But even though we find these devices incorrect and misleading, we still have to say that they are effective on our tests and exams or else face failure. Jonathan Zhao in Grade 12 proudly states, “I didn’t use any literary devices and got a 60 in the course!”

It would be really disturbing if anyone actually reads the newspaper or a book searching for the literary devices. I don’t’ think anyone reads anything and thinks, “Oh, what a nice use of hyperbole! Wow, what an amazing metaphor” even after years and years of studying these literary devices unless they’re nut-bars. So what’s the point of learning these devices when we won’t be using them in daily situations? Not much.

I’m quite confident that many people already believed that literary devices are exterminable and unneeded even before reading my article because on Facebook, only two people liked my status “Like if you think literary devices are cool” and I’m sure that they didn’t actually mean it either. Upon reading my insightful reasons on why literary devices are flawed, I hope this article has ignited the deep resentment in you readers who had to suffer these literary devices for years, and have inspired you to continue challenging their legitimacy.