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What are some literary devices used in "On Beauty"?

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Allusion and irony are two prominent literary devices used throughout On Beauty. The primary one is allusion. Zadie Smith’s novel has often been called a contemporary reworking of E. M. Forster’s Howards’ End, with a more globalized approach and dealing with race as well as class and religion. The plot of Smith’s novel draws heavily on the Forster work, and some specific aspects directly allude to similar passages and events in the earlier novel. The opening narrative providing an ensemble of characters offers a striking parallel to Forster’s opening. In addition, the plot device of two very similar objects belonging to different people being switched, at a particularly significant plot point, is also clear allusion; in the modern novel, it is a Discman, while in the earlier one, it is an umbrella.

Smith, in her satire of academia, also uses irony extensively. The tolerant, humanist stances of both families are tested when their children become a couple and plan to marry. The marriage of Howard and Kiki, which both believed to be devoted and solid, is shown to be based on hypocrisy; the irony develops further when Monty and Carlene’s marriage is exposed as flawed after her death, when her friendship with Kiki appears more important than her love for her husband.

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In Zadie Smith's novel On Beauty, one can find many different examples of literary devices in the text.

First, Smith uses descriptions of stock characters to allow readers to relate to characters being described. For example, in chapter one (in Jerome's e-mail to his father) he tells of a "yank intern" adding that the intern is from Boston. Many readers know what the term "Yank" means and can picture what this character would look and sound like.

One small literary device which also appears in chapter one is alliteration. While typically seen in poetry, alliteration is the repetition of a consonant sound within a line. Therefore, the words "Monty's," "much," and "more" represent alliteration given they repeat the consonant sound "m."

Jerome's comparison of his life to "a different universe" is a metaphor. A metaphor is a comparison between two, normally, unlike things.

When Jerome describes the house he is living in, the early Victorian, he uses very imagery ridden language. This use of imagery appeals to a reader's sense of sight and allows the reader to paint a mental picture of the house being described by Jerome.

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