Out of the Dust

by Karen Hesse

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What literary devices are used in pages 93–110 of Out of the Dust?

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In pages 93–110 of Out of the Dust, author Karen Hesse uses dialogue, metaphor, symbolism, simile, personification, sensory details, and vivid imagery.

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Karen Hesse's poetic novel Out of the Dust is filled with literary devices. Let's take a look at some of them from pages 93–110.

We see some dialogue in “Mad Dog's Tale” as Mad Dog explains how he got his unique nickname. There's even a little bit of figurative language here, for he says his nickname “stuck,” as if it were plastered to him with glue. In “Art Exhibit,” Billie Jo mentions the Oklahoma Panhandle, which is actually a metaphor because that part of the state looks like a handle sticking out from a piece of cookware. Further, Billie Jo says that she “feels such a hunger” to see paintings like the ones in the art exhibit. She is not literally hungry, of course, so she is using a metaphor to describe her longing for beauty.

In “Christmas Dinner Without the Cranberry Sauce,” Billie Jo speaks of how she didn't make cranberry sauce for Christmas dinner. Her mother never taught her how. The missing cranberry sauce becomes a symbol for the gap in Billie Jo's family.

In “Driving the Cows,” the author creates a simile when she says that dust “piles up like snow” on the prairie and against the fences. She then provides a metaphor; there are “mountains of dust” that even push over barns. She also personifies the Russian thistle, saying that it “breaks free / to tumble across the plains.”

We get great sensory details in “First Rain” as we picture Billie Jo lying in bed with a wet cloth over her nose to keep out the dust. We can almost feel the grime in the sheets and imagine what it would be like to have dust between our teeth and under our eyelids and scratching our skin. The first drops of rain are described by a simile. They are “like the tapping of a stranger / at the door of a dream.” They are “a concert of rain notes” (metaphor) as they travel through the gutters and gullies into the “thirsty earth” (personification).

Another metaphor appears in “Haydon P. Nye” as the wheat turns “the plains to gold.” Finally, in “Scrubbing Up Dust,” Billie Jo feels that her Ma's eyes are on her and that her Ma is haunting her, so she does the “knuckle-breaking” work of beating mud out of everything, and she describes it using vivid imagery.

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