The late Pat Conroy was the author of both fiction and nonfiction works of literature. At least as much as with his nonfiction writing, Conroy’s fictional books are deeply informed by his own experiences growing up in the American South as the son of a hard-driving and physically and emotionally abusive Marine Corps fighter pilot. His novel The Lords of Discipline was influenced by his years as a student at The Citadel, a military school in South Carolina. A bit of an oddity (but not as much as one might expect) at a college steeped in military and Southern history and culture, the author shaped this novel around The Citadel’s traditions of rigid discipline and tradition. Conroy is also an author prone to vivid descriptions of landscapes, structures, and characters that allow for myriad examples of literary devices. Indeed, one need read no further than the opening paragraphs of The Lords of Discipline to find two such examples of literary devices within the same passage. As Conroy’s novel begins, the story’s narrator and protagonist, Will McLean, a student at The Citadel and an English major at an institute more associated with military history, describes the surroundings in which he and his fellow cadets are immersed. In so doing, Conroy employs both foreshadowing and euphemism:
To me, Charleston is a dark city, a melancholy city, whose severe covenants and secrets are as powerful and beguiling as their elements, whose demons dance their alley dances . . . I studied those demons once and they helped kill off the boy in me.
The foreshadowing in this passage is easily identified: “a dark city,” “covenants and secrets,” “demons dance their alley dance.” Just as easily identified is the use of a euphemism: “I studied those demons once and they helped kill off the boy in me.” This sentence suggests a literary as opposed to literal killing of the child in question.
An additional example of a literary device used in the writing of The Lords of Discipline, symbolism, is also provided in the novel’s opening passages. The first sentence in Conroy’s novel reads, “I wear the ring.” The ring in question is The Citadel class ring, the possession of which signifies that the wearer has endured the rigors and possibly even physical brutality that accompanies entry into this institution’s halls of learning. It signifies membership in a unique fraternity. As Will later describes the sensation of being presented with this symbol of brotherhood,
I was moved deeply and profoundly before the ceremony had even begun, before I had actually put on the ring. I was seized by the ineffable power of membership, of finally belonging to something.
The “ring,” in other words, is a symbol—one that must be earned through a harsh regimen to which few college students would subject themselves.
So, right there are three examples of Pat Conroy’s use of literary devices.