Out of the Dust

by Karen Hesse

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What literary devices are used on pages 129–149 of Out of the Dust?

Quick answer:

Literary devices found on pages 129–149 of Out of the Dust include alliteration, similes, imagery, and metaphors. For example, the line "the Baker family followed" on page 129 is an example of alliteration.

Expert Answers

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Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds (usually at the beginnings of words) within a single line. Here are some lines with the page numbers as they are located in my copy of Out of the Dust:

  • The Baker family followed, playing (129)
  • in front of the packed Palace Theatre. (131)
  • but the harpin' Harkins were kind
    and the Hazel Hurd Players (133)
  • I bumped into a box beside the Palace door (142)

Similes are comparisons using the word like or as to demonstrate the relationship between ideas. Billie Jo uses a simile on page 135:

I don't say
it hurts like the parched earth with each note.

In this comparison, Billie Jo compares the pain in her hands and arms to that of the "parched earth" and uses the word like to connect those seemingly quite different ideas. The pain is dry, aching, and empty. It longs for relief in the same way a parched earth longs for rain to give it life.

There are several great examples of imagery in this section. Authors create imagery by providing powerful descriptions. These descriptions help a reader gain a clear visual picture of the scene. The following example of imagery is found on page 138:

I'll bet none of the ladies mind
spending time with my father,
he's still good looking
with his strong back,
and his blondy-red hair
and his high cheeks rugged with wind.

These details provide a clear image of her father's tough and rugged appearance. Later on page 145, Billie Jo provides incredible imagery of the storm:

it scratched my eyes
and stung my tender skin,
it plugged my nose and filled inside my mouth.
No matter how 1 pressed my lips together,
the dust made muddy tracks
across my tongue.
But I kept on,
spitting out mud,
covering my mouth,
clamping my nose,
the dust stinging the raw and open
stripes of scarring on my hands,
and after some three hours I made it home.

The verbs here make the storm seem alive; it seems to attack Billie Jo as she tries to survive through its attempts to "sting" her and plug up her nose.

A metaphor is a comparison that doesn't use like or as. I especially love this metaphor on page 139:

My fingers leave sighs
in the dust.

It would be tempting to call this personification, which is giving human attributes (like the ability to sigh) to something not human. But this doesn't say that her fingers are sighing. Instead, they leave little sighs, used as a noun, in the dust of the piano. The tracks in the dust become metaphorical for all she has lost and for the sadness she feels as she touches her mother's piano. This is a touchingly bittersweet metaphor that captures her mood of longing.

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