Guide to Literary Terms

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Discuss foregrounding as a major stylistic device amongst creative writer. give examples.

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Foregrounding is used as a major stylistic device by many authors whether that is in plays, novels, short stories or long poems. One of the most illustrative (if a little brash) examples of the use of foregrounding in the short story genre is in the story 'The Scarlet Ibis.' In this story, a stricken bird lands in a tree in a family's yard while the people are having lunch. It is a hot day and gradually the bird slumps, collapses and falls through the branches to the ground in a heap. It's gangly legs and reddish color foreshadow the manner in which the little disabled son will die (perhaps of heart failure or exhaustion) later on, hisĀ  legs and heart similarly depicted.

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"The term foregrounding is borrowed from art criticism. Art critics usually distinguish the foreground of a painting from its background. The foreground is that part of a painting which is in the centre and towards the bottom of the canvas... ... the items which occur in the foreground of a painting will usually appear large in relation to the rest of the objects..." (Exploring the Language of Poems, Plays and Prose, by Mick Short).

Foreground is the antonym of background. In a literary text, in order to highlight something or to put special emphasis on something is the reason of foregrounding. To make a part perceptually prominent, and notable thereby, the authors take help of foregrounding. Deviations, parallelism, repetition - all these are created to foreground different certain parts. According to NTC's Dictionary of Literary Terms, calling attention to something (an idea, a character, a viewpoint) to make it stand out from ordinary by placing it to the foreground is called foregrounding.

For example, look at the following excerpt from e.e. cummings' poem:

pity this busy monster, manunkind,

not. Progress is a comfortable disease.

Here, the poet has created a new word "manunkind" and gone through neologism. This word has been foregrounded because of the fact that it is cummings' own invention. This lexical deviation has emphasised the cruelty or ruthlessness of modern mankind, and to support the theme of the poem, the poet has broken the normal paradigm of a verse by not capitalising the first letters. Thus, through these deviations, he has been able to foreground the feature of modern humans.

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