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In A Little Princess, Frances Hodgson Burnett tells the story of a little girl brought from India to attend boarding school in England while her father continues military service abroad.
Burnett uses literary devices to support the story's mood—or the emotional feel—of the story. The author purposely endeavors to create an emotional response in the reader. Literary devices are forms of figurative language (figures of speech), and not to be taken literally. For the writer, these devices bring the written word to life, to help the reader more easily imagine what is being described.
A metaphor is the comparison two dissimilar things. "You are the sunshine of my life" compares the subject ("you") to sunshine. It is not to be taken literally: the subject does not blind the eyes, for example. However, the subject of the metaphor (we can assume) has the same qualities of sunshine: making those around him or her feel warm, alive, comforted and uplifted.
Metaphors are the most often used figure of speech.
A simile also compares dissimilar things as if they were the same; however, the words like or as are used to point out an obvious (rather than inferred) comparison.
The phrase "She's like the wind" is from an old song. She does not blow trees or electrical wires down, or knock over lawn chairs. She does, however, move about freely; she is impossible to control or keep in place. She can be imagined to have the characteristics of the wind.
Perhaps the best known simile in English poetry is Robert Burns’s line:
“My love is like a red, red rose.”
The third literary device mentioned is personification. This figure of speech gives human characteristics to nonhuman things. In Samuel Taylor Coleridge's famous "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," personification (as well as these other devices) is artfully used to create a supernatural mood in his epic poem. In this example, the stormy wind is personified, described first as "he" and then as a tyrannous and strong person chasing after—and even striking—the ship on which the Ancient Mariner is traveling:
And now the STORM-BLAST came, and he
Was tyrannous and strong:
He struck with his o'ertaking wings,
And chased us south along.
The mood of A Little Princess is quickly established as Sara and her father, Captain Crewe, travel the dark, unwelcoming streets toward the establishment at which Sara will live and be educated. Upon arriving at Miss Minchin's "Select Seminary for Young Ladies," the author provides details to support this somber tone.
As Sara and her father enter, a metaphor is used.
It was respectable and well furnished, but everything in it was ugly; and the very armchairs seemed to have hard bones in them.
This example compares the frame of the chairs (which are "ugly") to "hard bones."
A simile is used to describe the head mistress of the school:
It was just then that Miss Minchin entered the room. She was very like her house, Sara felt: tall and dull, and respectable and ugly.
Notice the use of like. Miss Minchin (a woman) is being compared to a room. One is flesh and bone; the other is made of wood, plaster, wall paper, etc. But they share similar characteristics.
Finally, the author personifies the doll for which Sara is shopping.
"Oh, papa!" she cried. "There is Emily!"
A flush had risen to her face and there was an expression in her green-gray eyes as if she had just recognized someone she was intimate with and fond of.
"She is actually waiting there for us!" she said. "Let us go in to her."
"Dear me," said Captain Crewe, "I feel as if we ought to have someone to introduce us."
Literary devices such as these allow the author to transport the reader into the world he has created on paper by appealing to the reader's imagination.
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