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The Picture of Dorian Gray

by Oscar Wilde

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I need guidance for my essay on the representation of internal struggles in Elizabeth Bates from "Odour of Chrysanthemums" and Dorian Gray from The Picture of Dorian Gray using literary devices.

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What an exciting essay, and you've made some excellent choices for your topic! You'll do great on this, I'm sure!

I see that you're focusing on Elizabeth Bates and Dorian Gray, hunting for the exact literary devices that best showcase their inner struggles.

To find those devices, let me suggest that you flip through your copies of the stories and find some passages that really show each character struggling, trying hard to think about what to do, suffering emotionally, debating with herself or himself about what to do, and the like.

Once you’ve found a passage like that, look closely at it. You can tell that the character is struggling internally; but how can you tell? What’s the author doing right there?

Maybe he’s keeping our focus on an important object. If so, you’ve found symbolism. Maybe he’s using the words “like” and “as” or saying that one thing really is another, more dramatic thing. If so, you’ve found comparisons: similes or metaphors. Maybe he’s letting the character dump out a mixed jumble of thoughts and questions into italicized text. If so, you’ve found an interior monologue.

Let’s take an example passage from each text to see how we can analyze it in this way—how we can identify the exact devices in play.

Here’s a paragraph from Chapter 20 of Dorian Gray:

Ah! in what a monstrous moment of pride and passion he had prayed that the portrait should bear the burden of his days, and he keep the unsullied splendour of eternal youth! All his failure had been due to that. Better for him that each sin of his life had brought its sure swift penalty along with it. There was purification in punishment. Not "Forgive us our sins" but "Smite us for our iniquities" should be the prayer of man to a most just God.

Above, we definitely see Dorian struggling, feeling terrible about how he has spent his life. These phrases jump out at me because they’re so poetic and sound so dramatic: “pride and passion,” “bear the burden,” “unsullied splendor,” “sure swift,” “purification in punishment.” Aha! The author is using alliteration here to express Dorian’s internal struggles. Let’s add “alliteration” to our list of devices that Wilde uses to portray Dorian’s inner strife.

Next, let’s try a passage from the Lawrence text. From Part II:

The house was quiet. Elizabeth Bates took off her hat and shawl, and rolled back the rug. When she had finished, she sat down. It was a few minutes past nine. She was startled by the rapid chuff of the winding-engine at the pit, and the sharp whirr of the brakes on the rope as it descended. Again she felt the painful sweep of her blood, and she put her hand to her side, saying aloud, “Good gracious!—it’s only the nine o’clock deputy going down,” rebuking herself.

Above, Elizabeth is highly nervous, struggling to keep herself calm. I see the onomatopoetic words “chuff,” “whirr,” and “sweep,” and so—aha!—Lawrence is using figurative language, too, specifically onomatopoeia, to highlight the chaotic feelings inside Elizabeth.

Keep going in this way, and soon you’ll have a list of literary devices for both characters.

Of course, if you’re pressed for time, or if you have trouble finding relevant passages on your own or identifying the literary devices in play within them, you can always read through our guides here on the site (linked below) to get an idea of the types of devices that are present throughout the stories.

As you can see, it’ll be easy enough for you to come up with a list of devices that help express each character’s struggle. But since you’re writing about two different characters and not just one, I’m thinking your challenge will be to find meaningful connections between the two sets of devices.

That is, do the authors use the same devices in the same ways? Do they use totally different devices? Do they use the same devices, but in different ways? Read back over your notes and see if you can answer these questions.

You might decide to organize your essay around an idea like this: “Both authors make use of poetic sound devices within individual sentences as well as symbolism that spans the entire storyline.”

Good luck! Let us know if we can answer any other questions for you.

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