Student Question

What literary devices are used in Exodus?

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The foremost literary device that Uris uses for this novel is to organize it along the lines of old heroic epic, and specifically, Biblical epic. The Biblical allusions are made manifest in the very title, which is also the title of the second book of the Old Testament, describing the ancient flight of the Jews from Egypt under Moses, to their Promised Land. 'Exodus' is also the symbolic name of the real-life ship which took Jewish refugees to Israel, the modern Promised Land. The Biblical references continue in the structure of the whole book; each section of the novel is headed by a Biblical quotation.

The book, then, is conceived as heroic epic, taking in the wide sweep of Jewish history up to modern times. The heroic elements are also seen in the nature of the main characters, who appear more like characters from romance than from realistic fiction. Ari Ben Canaan, for example, is very brave and handsome, and his name recalls that of the Promised Land in the Bible: Canaan. Kitty is self-giving and is described as being beautiful, and so on. Ari consciously enacts an ancient, heroic role when, faced with British intransigence over the sailing of the Exodus. He declaims:

I say the same thing to the Foreign Minister that a great man said to another oppressor three thousand years ago — LET MY PEOPLE GO.

Ari here, then, speaks in conscious imitation of Moses, who challenged Pharaoh to take the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt.

The book is broadly cast as a battle between good and bad; the British and Arabs who oppose Israel are hostile and those who champion the Jews’ homeland are noble. Thus the book appears to oversimplify things somewhat, and in this it uses the traditional literary conventions of romance, and even melodrama.

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