What literary devices does the Mackinlay Kantor use in "A Man Who Had No Eyes?"

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are a several literary devices used in "A Man Who Had No Eyes," by Mackinlay Kantor. Here are a few. The first literary device used is onomatopoeia, where a sound is imitated by the word that represents the sound. (Two examples are the buzz of a bee, or the hum of an engine.) We find onomatopoeia twice. First it is present in the line:

...noting the clack-clack approach of the sightless man.

The "clack-clack" imitates the sound the man's cane makes as he walks. We hear another instance of it in the phrase, "the tap-tapping blind man."

Another literary device is the use of an oxymoron, which is...

...a figure of speech that combines contradictory terms.

Mr. Parsons, as he speaks to the blind man and how he lost his sight, refers to the chemical explosion as...

...one of the greatest disasters in---

Parson's probably means one of the most enormous or largest disasters, but "great" and "disaster" contradict each other.

The most outstanding literary device is the totally unexpected irony of the story. The blind man is "Markwardt" who tries to wheedle extra money from Parsons. As Markwardt relates his tale, he tells Parsons that he was blinded while others escaped because a bigger fellow pulled him back to get out more quickly.

At this point, Parson's calls Markwardt on his lie, saying it was "not quite" like that. Markwardt sputters, not sure what Parson's is trying to say:

"Not quite? What do you mean, you ---? "

Parsons corrects the story that Markwardt is telling, saying that the other man got it backwards:

"The story is true," Mr. Parsons said, "except that it was the other way around...I was in C shop," said Mr. Parsons. "It was the other way around. You were the fellow who hauled back on me and climbed over me. You were bigger than I was, Markwardt."

Markwardt starts to scream, admitting that it was true, but claiming again that he is blind. At his screaming, other people turn to look at him. Parsons tries to calm Markwardt, while knocking the reader "off of his feet." Markwardt starts by saying:

"You got away but I’m blind! Do you hear? I’m---"

Parson then responds:

"Well...don’t make such a row about it, Markwardt…So am I."

Irony is the difference between what one expects to happen and what really happens. We, as readers, are totally unprepared for the fact that the Parsons is also blind. We are "misled" because the narrator describes how the blind man looks approaching Parsons, but it is not Parsons seeing the blind man at all. The narrator's account of the meeting of the two men infers that Parsons can see.

This is the last of the literary devices. Inference refers to the act of "inferring," which is...

...to draw a reasonable conclusion from the informaion presented.

Because Parsons walks out of his hotel and the narrator immediately describes Markwardt coming toward him, describing Markwardt as being "thick-necked," a man who was "greasy about the lapels," the narrator "infers" that Parsons is a seeing person; at the end, we realize he is not—both men are blind.


Additional Source:



connieshiny | Student

Direct characterization: Markwardt was kind of chubby, he wore a greasy jacket and black sack full of cigarette ligeters slung over his shoulder.