What are some examples of literary devices in the book Carry Me Down by M.J. Hyland?

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

M.J. Hyland has been called: "the mistress of the telling detail." This is obvious in her novel, Carry Me Down. Examples of literary devices used are found in these "telling details."

When the story begins, John's mother calls her son into the hallway. The comparison John uses to describe this is a simile, where two dissimilar things with similar characteristics are compared, using "like" or "as." John compares his mother's taking him out of the room to taking out the rubbish (trash).

[My mother] is taking me out to the hallway, away from my father. She is taking me out of his sight as though I am rubbish."

There is also unusual imagery, where John speaks of himself, his mother, and his father as being one person, rather than three. This is inference. To infer is:

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

The speaker is inferring that the three of them are not usually so closely connected. We get this sense from lines below that imply that things are not always so "perfect:"

It is a good mood, as though we are one person reading one book—not three people apart and alone. These kind of days are the perfect ones.

There is also foreshadowing in the quote above, regarding the story of this family that is "slowly disintegrating," and that things will not remain this way. Foreshadowing is also seen when John counts the days left until school resumes, and being together with his parents is something he never wants to end.

For two more days we will be together, the three of us, and that's what I want. I don't want anything different.

A simile is used as John describes his mother's folded arms:

…she leans against the banister with her arms folded across her chest, the skin on her hands cold and white like chalk.

There is irony when John's mother scolds her son because he is too old to stare at her, and John's anger is with his mother saying so. Generally children want to grow up and leave the safety of "the nest," but here John dislikes the idea, and being scolded for acting too young. There is irony also in the sense that John's mother seems to be pulling away, rather than John. Mothers very often find it difficult to watch their children grow and become more independent, holding on to every nuance of childhood that remains, until all is gone but the memory of the child: replaced by an adult.

"Why?" she asks. Why do you have to stare at me like that?"

She is hurting my shoulders and her weight is surprising. She looks lighter and smaller and more beautiful when she's sitting at the table or at the end of my bed, talking to me, making me laugh. I'm angry with her now, for being tall, for being so big, so heavy and for making me so big, far too big for my age.

"I don't know why. I just like it," I  say…

...I  lean across and kiss her near the mouth…I kiss her a second time, but when I put my arms around her neck to pull her in closer so that we can hug, she pulls away. "Not just now," she says. "It's cold out here."

The line "making me so big, far too big for my age" may symbolically mean that John's mom wants him to be adult-like—to take on responsibility that is more complex than he is prepared for.

Inference is also found when John reads his Guinness Book of Records, seeing himself as he see others in the book—he will be in it one day with others...

...who do not want to be forgotten or ignored.

The start of a novel creates the mood—it seems it will be a dark one based on these details.