Typically, authors use different figures of speech (or literary devices) to provide a more beautiful read for the reader. The most common literary devices used by many authors are metaphors, similes, alliteration, assonance, hyperboles, and personifications.
In regards to Virginia Woolf's The Mark on the Wall, one can find many different examples of figures of speech in the text.
1. Imagery: Imagery is
the forming of mental images, figures, or likenesses of things. It is also the use of language to represent actions, persons, objects, and ideas descriptively. This means encompassing the senses also, rather than just forming a mental picture.
Woolf uses imagery in the text in order to allow the reader to form visuals of the scene around the first-person narrator. For example,when the narrator recalls the first time she looked upon the mark on the wall, a very specific image is described.
I looked up through the smoke of my cigarette and my eye lodged for a moment upon the burning coals, and that old fancy of the crimson flag flapping from the castle tower came into my mind, and I thought of the cavalcade of red knights riding up the side of the black rock.
2. Simile: A simile is
a figure of speech in which two things, essentially different but thought to be alike in one or more respects, are compared using “like,” “as,” “as if,” or “such” for the purpose of explanation, allusion, or ornament.
This comparison is made to do two things. One, the use of a simile provides a mental image for a reader. Second, the use of a simile helps the author to convey a message which the reader may not have picked up on at first, but is illuminated when a more recognizable image is provided.
For example, when Woolf compares swarming thoughts to ants, a reader may have an idea about what swarming thoughts feel or look like, simply based upon the image of the ants.
How readily our thoughts swarm upon a new object, lifting it a little way, as ants carry a blade of straw so feverishly, and then leave it.
3. Personification: Personification is
a figure of speech in which abstractions, animals, ideas, and inanimate objects are endowed with human form, character, traits, or sensibilities.
Woolf uses personification in the text when she personifies the pots:
only fragments of pots utterly refusing annihilation.
Here, Woolf is giving the pots an ability only humans typically have: the right to refuse. Pottery cannot refuse anything. Therefore, by stating that the pots are refusing to be annihilated, Woolf is allowing the pots to possess human characteristics.