What literary devices does Sir Arthur Conan Doyle use in "The Red-Headed League?"

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One literary device that Arthur Conan Doyle uses in this, and other Sherlock Holmes stories, is characterization. Through the narrator, John Watson, the reader gains a very clear picture of what Holmes is like. Watson details Holmes’ great skill at detection as well as his personal foibles and his passion for music. Along the way, Watson reveals important elements of his own personality. In "The Red-Headed League," the character of John Clay serves as a foil to Holmes. For much of the story, he is believed to be Vincent Spaulding, but Holmes figures out his identity. Although he is very clever, he is not as clever as he thinks he is and is no match for the brilliant Holmes.

In describing Holmes, the author uses several figures of speech. Watson compares Holmes to a bird with two similes: he calls his nose “hawk-like,” and he describes Holmes’s pipe as “thrusting out [of his mouth] like the bill of some strange bird.”

Conan Doyle also extensively employs dialogue. Watson...

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