What literary devices are used in "A Way of Talking"?

Quick answer:

In this story, the author uses two literary devices to express her theme of cultural difference and the way it is communicated.

Expert Answers

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

Two of the main literary devices that Patricia Grace uses are metaphor and diction. By combining them, she creates a strong theme that runs throughout the story. She uses “talk” as an extended metaphor, otherwise known as a conceit. "Talk" refers literally to the way the characters speak; figuratively, it refers to the idea of voice as cultural expression that Hera explores. Diction refers to word choice and the kind of language people use. Grace showcases the differences between Rose’s usual way of speaking and her interpretation of the way that the white newcomers speak.

Through the perspective of Hera, the author shows that Maori people and those whom they refer to disparagingly as “Pakeha,” white recent arrivals to the area, speak in different ways. Rose observes many differences in material culture, such as the furnishings of the dressmaker Jane’s home. Another aspect of Jane’s talk is her inability to name Maori people because she sees them as indistinguishable and insists that their names are too hard to pronounce. Rose, whose speech is also described as making her family laugh, mocks Jane by imitating her way of talking. In this way, the author uses diction and dialect, actual differences in word choice, as a metaphor for Maori and white cultural difference.

Jane’s denseness when it comes to seeing how insulting her words are is also examined through metaphor. Rose says she has a “thick hide,” a metaphor for being tough or impervious to insult—but “thick” can also mean stupid, which, it seems, is Rose’s attitude toward Jane.

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