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What are the poetic devices used in "A Character" by William Wordsworth?

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Poetic devices used in "A Character" by English poet William Wordsworth include:

1. Rhyme Scheme

This poem consists of five stanzas and each stanza has four lines of verse. In each stanza, lines 1 and 2 rhyme, and lines 4 and 5 rhyme. This rhyme scheme is consistent throughout the entire poem of 20 lines in total.

2. Alliteration

An example of alliteration occurs in stanza two in line two, “Such strength…” Alliteration here appears as the same consonants at the beginning of the two words – the letter “s” repeated.

Alliteration also occurs in stanza three in line two, “ten times…” as well as in stanza four in line two, “shame scarcely seeming…”

3. Meter

There is a regular meter to this poem. The meter is apparent as the poem is read. It essentially is four beats per line based on the unstressed and stressed syllables. Reading the poem you can tap your feet or hand to the four beats in each line.

4. Atmosphere

There is a pensive atmosphere to “A Character.” The mood or feeling that William Wordsworth creates is one that causes the reader to ponder what Man is. Right from the start the theme of what constitutes an individual is apparent. Each person can be full of contrasts throughout his or her life depending on the situations they face and the life circumstances that occur, as well as the relationships they have.

The atmosphere of the poem is set right from the get-go with the line:

“I marvel how Nature could ever find space

For so many strange contrasts in one human face”

Immediately, the reader begins to ponder the complex makeup of Man.

5. Hyperbole

There is some hyperbole in this Wordsworth poem – overstatement in some lines – words that go beyond typical discourse. This is heightened or adorned language that gives the poem more of a sense of importance and elegance. Examples from the poem are these two lines from stanza number two (lines three and four):

“Could pierce through a temper that's soft to disease,

Would be rational peace—a philosopher's ease.”

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You might want to focus on the way that Wordsworth uses personification to give life to a number of the attributes of humanity that he talks about. This is clearly one of the major poetic devices that is used in this poem. Note how this operates in the following stanza:

There's freedom, and sometimes a diffident stare 
Of shame scarcely seeming to know that she's there, 
There's virtue, the title it surely may claim, 
Yet wants heaven knows what to be worthy the name.

We can see that shame is personified and given life as being a figure or character that hardly knows of its own existence. Virtue likewise is personified as trying to be worthy of its own name. We can see therefore how Wordsworth uses personification in his description of the many faces of man, for the "so many strange contrasts" that are present in one man to bring life to the different characteristics and personalities that are present within us all.

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