What are some literary devices used in the poem "Thumbprint" by Eve Merriam?

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literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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There are multiple literary devices found in the poem "Thumbprints" by Eve Merriam.

Alliteration- Alliteration is the repetition of a consonant sound within a line of poetry. An example of alliteration is found in line two of the poem: "are whorls. whirls, wheels." Here, the repetition of the "w" sound in the words "whorls," "whirls" and "wheels" exemplifies alliteration.

Assonance- Assonance is the repetition of a vowel sound within a line of poetry. An example of assonance is found in line five of the poem: "What a treasure to own! My own flesh, my own feelings." Here, the repetition of the "o" sound in the repeated word "own" exemplifies assonance.

Personification- Personification is the giving of human characteristics, or abilities, to non-human and non-living things. An example of personification is found in lines eight and nine:

My signature,
thumbing the pages of my time.

Here, the narrator's signature is allotted the ability to turn a page. Signatures cannot turn a page, but humans can.

Metaphor- A metaphor is a comparison between two typically unlike things, not using "like" or "as." (If the comparison is made using "like" or "as," the literary device used is a simile.) An example of a metaphor is found in lines eight and ten: "My signature / My universe key." Here, a comparison is made between the narrator's signature and a key to the universe. 

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rmhope | College Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

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Eve Merriam uses sound devices, puns, and metaphors in her poem "Thumbprint." 

The sound devices she uses include alliteration, consonance, assonance, and rhyme. In the beginning of the poem, the words "whorls, whirls, and wheels" are strongly alliterative with the /wh/ sound, but they also have consonance with the /ls/ sounds that occur at the ends of the words. "Flesh" and "feelings" are also alliterative. Another example of consonance is the /mp/ sound in the words "impress, implant." The words "contain" and "same" are an example of assonance, or repetition of vowel sounds. Although the poem doesn't contain a regular rhyme scheme, there are some lines that have end rhyme. "Alone" and "own," "key" and "singularity," and "sum" and "become" are the strongest rhymes. Finally, although alliteration usually occurs in words that are in close proximity, the use of the word "world" in the penultimate line creates pleasant alliterative symmetry with "whorls" and "whirls" in the second line.

There are a number of puns, or examples of wordplay, in the poem. Lines 5 and 6 present two different meanings of the word "own." The thumb is said to be a "universe key" and a "singularity." "Singularity" means uniqueness, but it also can refer to matter within a black hole, giving it a double meaning by its proximity to the word "universe." Likewise the two meanings of "impress" are implied at the same time: to evoke admiration and to make a mark. And the word "mark" has a dual meaning: First, it refers to having a noticeable effect; second, it means to leave a physical sign. 

The poem contains a number of metaphors, such as "universe key" and "treasure," which cannot be taken literally. Near the end of the poem, Merriam speaks of creating "interior weather." This is a metaphorical description of one's mood and thoughts. 

By using many metaphors, puns, and sound devices, Merriam creates an evocative and intriguing poem. 

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