What literary devices did Mark Twain use in chapters 37 - 40 of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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We can actually find one literary device in the very second sentence of Chapter 37 in Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The device is in general called parallelism, and we can use parallelism, along with many other literary devices, to create rhetoric, making parallelism a rhetorical device as well (Idaho Falls School District 91, "A List of Rhetorical Devices," p. 2). Rhetoric refers to any "technique of using language effectively and persuasively" (Literary Devices, "Rhetoric").

In the second sentence, we see a very specific form of parallelism called polysyndeton, which is created when we very intentionally, repeatedly use far too many conjunctions (Dr. Wheeler, "Schemes"). Typically, the repeated use of conjunctions creates a feeling of being overwhelmed in both the speaker and the reader. Dr. Wheeler gives us the following example of polysyndeton from a battle scene in Tolkien's The Silmarillion:

Then suddenly fire burst from the Meneltarama, and there came a mighty wind and a tumult of the earth, and the sky reeled, and the hills slid, and Numenor went down into the sea .... (as cited in "Polysyndeton in Tolkien").

We can clearly see from the above passage how Tolkien employed polysyndeton to describe the characters being overwhelmed by the ghastly event. In Twain, we see the following polysyndeton being used when describing the characters rummaging through the "rubbage-pile" to find a tin to "bake the pie in," and the narrator catalogs every piece of junk they see as they undertake their seemingly endless search:

So then we went away and went to the rubbage-pile in the back yard where they keep the old boots, and rags, and pieces of bottles, and wore-out tin things, and all such truck, and scratched around and found an old tin wash-pan and stopped up the holes as well as we could, to bake the pie in. (Ch. 37)

As we can see, the repetition of the conjunction "and" serves to express how overwhelmed the narrator felt as he sifted through piles and piles of junk just to find one pan. It also helps to characterize him as a very ordinary person because his repetition of "and" in this particular instance sounds very colloquial.

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