What literary devices are used in the novel 'Hondo'?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Louis L'Amour wrote the novel Hondo in 1953 as a response to the adaption of his own short story, "The Gift of Cochise" (1952) into a film version, titled Hondo. This novelization by L'Amour was based on the film starring John Wayne and directed by John Farrow. As the film's screenplay (by James Edward Grant) is substantially different from the short story (with several of the main characters' names changed), the resultant novel, Hondo, bears distinct literary devices in keeping with the movie rather than the original story.

One such device is classical allusion, which is an appropriate one given the genre of epic to which Western cinema primarily belonged. Many Western films demonstrated trappings of the epic genre, whose ancient exemplars are Homer and Vergil. L'Amour capitalizes on this feature, and writes:

I sing of arms and men, not of presidents, kings, generals, or passing explorers, but of those who survived their personal lonely Alamos, men who drove the cattle, plowed the furrows, built their shelters against the wind, the men who built a nation.(Foreword)

This is a clear allusion to the beginning of Vergil's Aeneid, which, too opens with "I sing of arms and of the man." It is fitting that L'Amour featured this opening, as the analogy of Hondo with Vergil's Aeneid can be pushed further; Vergil writes of the founding of Rome, as L'Amour writes about the founding of a nation.

Other literary devices include imagery, which is common in novels describing the American West (and is featured in such novels as John Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath and Willa Cather's My √Āntonia). Imagery involves an author's use of descriptive words to create mental images for the reader. For example, L'Amour writes "It was hot. A few lost, cotton-ball bunches of clouds drifted in a brassy sky, leaving rare islands of shadow upon the desert's face," (Chapter 1). There are many passages like this, in which L'Amour writes lengthy descriptions of the Western landscape. The above passage also exhibits personification (a commonly used literary device wherein human traits are assigned to inanimate objects).

The novel's point of view is third-person omniscient, which allows the reader to access the thoughts of the protagonist, Hondo Lane. The introspective aspect of his character as well as the compelling and vivid descriptions of landscapes make this novel rival the famous movie on which it was based.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial