What are some rhetorical devices in Ethan Frome?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Of course, any work of literature contains a number of rhetorical devices, and this excellent novel is no exception. Let us remember that rhetorical devices allow the speaker to try and persuade their audience to try and see things from their point of view, or convince them about their argument. If we look at the introduction of this novel, we can see that one paragraph contains a number of different rhetorical devices. Consider the following quote:

When I had been there a little longer, and had seen this phase of crystal clearness followed by long stretches of sunless cold; when the storms of February had pitched their white tents about the devoted village and the wild cavalry of March winds had charged down to their support; I began to understand why Starkfield emerged from its six months’ siege like a starved garrison capitulating without quarter.

This quotation is given to us by the narrator to describe the "stark" nature of "Starkfield" (no pun intended!). The narrator's experience of winter where he is sojourning makes the bleak existence of the Starkfield residents clear. He uses a simile to compare the citizens of Starkfield to a "starved garrison" that fight against the winter, and an extended metaphor compares winter to an invading army that is trying to gain access to the garrison. Also note the alliteration in phrases such as "crystal clearness" and "six months' siege." All of these are rhetorical devices that try to show the reader what an oppressive place Starkfield can be in the winter, and how, during the long, cold winter, the snow does not just bury the settlement but also their individual hopes and dreams, as is the case with Ethan Frome.


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