What are some literary elements used in Rick Riordan's novel The Last Olympian?

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vangoghfan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Like most effective authors, Rick Riordan almost inevitably uses a variety of literary devices in his works. The opening pages of his novel The Last Olympian, for example, employ a number of different literary techniques, including the following:

  • A surprising, puzzling opening, as in the first sentence of the book:

The end of the world started when a pegasus landed on the hood of my car.

This kind of opening catches us off guard, piques our interest, and makes us curious to read further.

  • First person narration, as in the sentence already quoted.  Readers tend to have a natural curiosity about the experiences of other persons, especially if those experiences are described by the persons involved. In first person narration, we learn not only about events but about the personalities and values of the persons involved in those events.
  • Characters to whom the intended audience can relate. The first paragraph of the novel makes it clear that the book will be narrated by a teenager, and teenagers are obviously the intended audience for this book.
  • Informal, colloquial, realistic language, as when the narrator says,

Now, I know you’re thinking that was really irresponsible of him, blah, blah, blah . . .

In phrasing such as this, the narrator directly addresses readers, thus helping to give the book an intimate, direct, and highly personal tone. The narrator speaks in language that seems familiar, unintimidating, and relaxed.  His language is the opposite of stiff and pompous and makes the narrator seem a realistic human being.

  • Vivid, precise imagery, as when the narrator notes,

Rachel’s red hair was pulled back in a ponytail, and she wore a white blouse over her swimsuit. I’d never seen her in anything but ratty T-shirts and paint-splattered jeans before . . .

Such phrasing helps us see and imagine whatever is being described and is much more effective than abstract, vague phrasing.

  • Liberal use of dialogue, as in the conversation between the narrator and Rachel in the first few pages.  Dialogue helps bring the characters to life, helps characterize them by implication rather than by overt statement, and contributes to the book’s sense of vitality and complexity of perspective.

These are just a very few of the literary techniques Riordan uses in his novel, but they are important examples because they are the very first techniques the prospective reader encounters.