What are the literary elements in the poem "The Rider"?

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Michael Ugulini eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The literary elements in the poem “The Rider” by American writer Naomi Shihab Nye include:

1. The type of form

This poem is a free verse piece. It does not have a set ending rhyming scheme nor a regular meter to it, such as an iambic pentameter poem or a blank verse poem (unrhymed iambic pentameter).

With free verse, the poet decides where to break lines according to his or her whim. The poet is not constrained by having to make lines rhyme or having a certain number of stressed and unstressed syllables per line. In addition, free verse does not require a set number of stanzas, with each stanza having the same number of lines.

2. Alliteration

Alliteration in “The Rider,” with initial consonants or vowels repeated in close sequence, occurs in lines 3 (couldn’t catch), 5 (trying to), 6 (what I wonder), 8 (is if it and translates to), 9 (leave your loneliness), 10 (some street), 11 (float free), and 12 (pink petals).

3. Personification

In this poem, loneliness is personified as a living being that has the ability to catch up to the roller-skater mentioned in the poem. The bicycle rider likens loneliness to a person as well, saying, “To leave your loneliness panting behind you…”

  1. Diction

Naomi Shihab Nye’s diction involves her choice of words and the order in which she chooses to set these words. This is an element of her style. She uses simple words in a conversational tone to get to the heart of a significant theme – loneliness. Therefore, her diction promotes deep thought upon reading this poem. The poem’s surface simplicity – via diction – is a lead-in to going deeper and really trying to understand what the poet is saying about loneliness.

5. Tone

The tone of this poem is rather light as you read it. The tone is essentially the mood of the poem and in this case the mood is as light and freewheeling as the skate-boarder and bicyclist mentioned. This is then transformed into a more profound mood after pondering the words and reading the poem again. The poem reads smoothly and airily, but the meaning behind the tone or mood is more serious upon reflection.

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stolperia eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Probably the most noteworthy literary technique used in "The Rider" is the personification. Personification involves giving an inanimate object human qualities. Describing "loneliness" as something that can be left "panting behind you" is personification. Personification is used again in recognizing that the "pink petals" of the azaleas "have never felt loneliness" - flower petals are incapable of feeling any emotion of any type.

The poem as a whole is an example of free verse. There is no specific rhythmic pattern and no rhyming structure. Instead, the lines of the poem are grouped following natural breaks in the language and the thoughts being conveyed in the story being told.


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