In the poem "The Hero," which literary devices and figures of speech used are significant?

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liesljohnson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The style and language of "The Hero" mimic real speech and natural, straightforward language, so we won't find the kind of dramatic, elevated literary devices or figures of speech that we do in grander war poems. In fact, the diction in the poem is so simple and understated that you won't find a word longer than three syllables! Throughout the poem, we're mostly noticing the subtle powers of short, clipped words found in colloquial discourse. Let's take a look at the important instances of figurative language that we do find in this poem:

1. Subtle onomatopoeia. Words like "choke," "coughed," and "mumbled" all lightly suggest the sound of what they indicate, which adds realism to the poem. It's this realism that brings the topic of war down from the lofty heights of other poems. The event depicted in the poem is an everyday one. So, the grief it conveys is real, something readers can personally identify with.

2. Imagery. Readers envision the mother's "bowed" face and her "white hair." These simple images express the mother's weakened, despondent state. Note the distinct lack of any heavy-handed imagery.

3. Subtle alliteration. The meaning behind the slightly alliterative phrase in the second stanza, "Because he'd been so brave," is absolutely destroyed by its counterpart in the alliterative phrase from the third stanza: "Blown to small bits." Here we see Sassoon's intention to reject the patriotic notion that dying in battle is somehow majestic and noble.

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The Hero

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