What kinds of literary devices are used in the novel "Things Fall Apart" by Chinua Achebe.

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Simile: Figure of speech that directly compares two different things using the words "like" or "as."

  • "Okonkwo's fame had grown like a bush-fire in the harmattan" (Achebe, 1). 
  • "Okonkwo was as slippery as a fish in water" (Achebe, 1).
  • "That year the harvest was sad, like a funeral..." (Achebe, 9).
  • The priestess, with Ezinma sleeping on her back, had crawled out of the shrine on her belly like a snake" (Achebe, 41). 
  • The band of egwugwu moved like a furious whirlwind to Enoch's compound and with machete and fire reduced it to a desolate heap" (Achebe, 66). 

Foreshadowing: When the author gives the reader hints about what will happen later on in the novel. Throughout Things Fall Apart, Achebe foreshadows Okonkwo's suicide by mentioning several men who were hanged.

  • "One man tied his cloth to a tree branch and hanged himself" (Achebe, 9). 
  • "I told you on my last visit to Mbanta how they hanged Aneto" (Achebe, 62).

Hyperbole: This literary device involves exaggeration as a way to emphasize something. In chapter 6, Okafo wins a wrestling match and the villagers lift him on their shoulders saying,

"He has thrown four hundred men. Has he thrown a hundred Cats? He has thrown four hundred Cats" (Achebe, 18).

Clearly, Okafo has not fought four hundred men, given the fact that he has only wrestled one person that the reader knows about.

Metaphor: This figure of speech makes an implicit comparison between two seemingly unrelated things that share some common characteristics.

"He was a leper, and the polite name for leprosy was 'the white skin.'" (Achebe. 27).

In chapter 8, Achebe uses a metaphor which equates the disease of leprosy with white skin. Just like the deadly illness, the white colonists are similarly destructive.

Personification: This literary device is when an inanimate object, idea, or animal is given human attributes. Throughout the novel, Achebe tells various folk tales in which animals are personified. In chapter 9, Okonkwo remembers a story from his childhood about why mosquitoes always fly around a person's ear. Achebe writes,

"Mosquito, she had said, had asked Ear to marry him, whereupon Ear fell on the floor in uncontrollable laughter. "How much longer do you think you will live?" she asked. "You are already a skeleton." Mosquito went away humiliated, and any time he passed her way he told Ear that he was still alive" (27).

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Things Fall Apart

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