The Immense Journey

by Loren Eiseley

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In Loren Eiseley's "The Bird and the Machine," what literary device is used in "instead of my having them, they, or rather he, had me"?

Quick answer:

In Loren Eiseley’s “The Bird and the Machine,” this statement is an example of two literary techniques. In a rhetorical context, the lines are an example of chiasmus, a technique in which a writer repeats words or grammatical structures in a reversed order. These lines are also an example of situational irony, a literary term where the reader expects one outcome in a situation and the opposite occurs.

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These lines from the story can be an example of any number of things in literary analysis. It all depends on what terms or elements of literature you are studying.

For example, if you are studying rhetorical devices, this statement is an example of chiasmus. Chiasmus is when grammatical structures are reversed or inverted. One of the most famous examples of chiasmus is seen in John F. Kennedy's Inaugural Address when he says, "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country."

In these particular lines from the story, the idea the speaker presents and the words the speaker uses are reversed. For example, instead of the speaker controlling the bird, the bird is in control of the speaker.

These lines are also an example of situational irony. This type of irony is when what a reader expects to happen in a given situation does not occur. In the story, the speaker captures the bird. This is what the reader expects because the speaker is larger, stronger, and more powerful than the hawk he entraps. However, the hawk's fighting nature is so admirable that it mesmerizes his captor and entrances him. This gives the bird as much or more power than the speaker. Later on in the story, the speaker comes to understand that the powerful actions of the captured bird were the animal's attempts to divert the speaker's attention and allow his mate to go free.

This strategic move by the bird seems to make him more cunning than his captor. Once again, since humans are believed to be the most intelligent of all creatures, the bird's successful manipulation of the speaker is not what most people would expect. Finally, the bird's actions to save his mate are ironic because the bird seems to be nobler than his captor. The speaker hopes to capture the bird to serve his own selfish purposes, but the bird's actions to ensure his mate's escape are completely selfless. This is ironic because most people consider animals creatures of instinct rather than emotion.

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