The following article analyses the use of lexical stylistic devices in the novel «Path of thunder» by Peter Abrahams.
Key words: stylistic device, lexical, metaphor, metonomy, irony, hyperbole, oxymoron, epithet.
As is known, it is very difficult to give definition to the term style, for it is one of the disputable notions of linguistics. But if we summarize all the viewpoints about style, then we come to the conclusion that style is a set of characteristics by which we distinguish one author from another. So any author to create his own handwriting or style in literature uses various emotive means, stylistic devices, tropes, figures of speech. For example, the genuine metaphors used by an author in a novel cannot be observed in other works of other authors. It shows that the role of stylistic devices is great in making the work of an author unique. [1, 10–11]
One can notice that Peter Abrahams was one of the great masters in using stylistic devices, especially it can be observed in his novel “Path of thunder”. The novel is one of his most popular and inﬂuential works speciﬁcally designed to show English readers the social impediments and humiliations under which black and mixed-race South Africans labored. [2, 21] Abrahams could emotively deliver the social pressure over black society, their hard lives and humiliations they had over centuries and could reach desirable expressiveness thanks to the use of genuinely chosen words in their transferred meanings.
In the following paragraphs types of lexical stylistics devices, author’s mastery in using them as well as the level of emotiveness created with the help of these devices will be analyzed.
Metaphors can be found as a most used stylistic device in the novel.
Example: “ The bus picked its way through District Six and dropped him at the top end, in the select and exclusive quarter of the upper crust of Cape Town’s colored community.”
As we see, within one sentence the author used three metaphors and in the first two of them (“picked its way” and “dropped him”) personification can be observed. Author gave some features peculiar of a human being to the bus, making emphasis on its importance. The third metaphor is “the upper crust of Cape Town’s community”. The dictionary meaning of “crust” is the hard brown outer part of a loaf of a bread. But in this sentence it is used in the meaning of “best part” or as it is translated in the book “ the cream of Cape Town’s colored community”.
Example: For a long while there was silence between them. The preacher buried his chin on his chest and shut his eyes.
Buring one’s chin is impossible. The preacher just bowed his head, till his chin reached his chest. To increase the emotiveness, to show the preacher’s uneasy condition the author used metaphor.
Another example for metaphor:
Behind him, a trail of fine dust rose easily into the air. The sunrays filtered through and touched it with rainbow colors. Then the dust floated lightly back to the earth again. It was as though as a figure of dust walked four or five yards behind Lanny.
In these sentences the author used personification, a kind of metaphor, endowing dust and sunrays with features peculiar of a human being. It increases expressiveness of the sentences and proves the fact that human fantasy knows no boundaries, especially of those whose main creativity is connected with literature.
Example: The haunting poetry of Totius slipped through his mind.
It is the another example for metaphors used by Peter Abrahams. A person may slip in the mud or in the slippery place, but what about poetry? Seeing the beauty of his village, Lanny remembered some lines of Totius’ poem. But if author had given the sentence in this way, it would have been something like report or information. Using the stylistic device by transferring the meaning, playing with the words, making experimentations on the words by giving new meanings to them are peculiar to the belles-lettres style. As “Path of Thunder” also belongs to this style, using the word “slipped” in broaden meaning, as it was above, made the sentence colourful and helped to intensify the meaning of the sentence.
Metonymy is also skillfully used in the novel:
Example: The Colored Standard always referred to them as “The Eight”. In the given sentence above “the Colored Standard” doesn’t mean any types of standards, but people, who belonged to the colored community, who had privileges among other colored people. The function of the metonymy here is to generalize all the people belonging to the community and making impact on the importance of it in the life of “The Eight”.
Example: And yet he did not believe in the privilege of the white blood.
In this sentence we can see that expression “white blood” is used, but we know that there does not exist this kind of blood and we know that blood is red. So, here it means the blood running in the veins of white people. Thus a keen reader understands very easily that the author meant white people. The use of the word “blood” instead of “people” intensifying the meaning of the sentence, conveying additional emphasis to it. Another example:
The preacher and Mrs. Swartz sat side by side, both proud and happy, both pairs of eyes watching Lanny and Mabel.
As we know, the part can mean the whole, as it is in this case. Here also “both pairs of eyes” refer to the preacher and Mrs. Swartz. They were so happy for the arrival of Lanny, and of course, it was natural for the mother who missed her son so much, and for the preacher, who waited for Lanny as waiting for the light to come, to observe and enjoy all his actions. The author could give the kindness of loving mother and hopes of the preacher with the skillfully used stylistic device.
That’s all nonsense, Mako, we are suffering for the sins of the world.
This example for metonymy is quite the opposite of the given above example, that’s in this sentence the whole is used instead of the part. The word “world” stands for the people who live in it. As we know, “world” is an abstract notion and it can’t make sins, but only people who make them. The preacher does not want to name or to show one exact group of people, but says in general “the world”. He clearly knows whom he means(white people), but is afraid to say it aloud. It is one of the mastery of Peter Abrahams that by using one word, he means much things. Though the preacher didn’t say anything explicitly, the readers can feel and understand what he said implicitly.
The house had a head again.
In this case the container is used instead of the thing contained. If the sentence is taken out the context, then it may mean the house had new roof. But in this
sentence the word “house” is not in its direct meaning, but has transferred meaning, which means “family”, “the people, who live in this house”. The purpose of using the stylistic device in the sentence is creating imagery, by generalizing the concrete notion.
Irony is not used much in the novel, but the given example below is the good sample for this stylistic device:
Stillveld- “quiet field” — was one of the hundreds of little places scattered up and down the Union of South Africa, small strips of land where native or colored people lived and built their homes and bred their children and grew old and died, by kind permission of a white land-owner.
From the ancient times Africa was the home of African people, for they were born here, lived and died. They asked nobody to do that. But after the white people’s colonies had been established there, they had to take the will of their “masters” into the consideration. White people never treated the native people kindly, knowing this fact Peter Abrahams shows the attitude of the white authority toward the people of Africa by using irony. The function of the irony in the sentence is that it expresses the feeling of displeasure against the white people and pity to his native brothers.
The epithets used by the author are directed to make a strong impact on the reader and make him see and evaluate things as the writer wants him.
Example: “Nice day,” Lanny said. “I’m returning home after seven years.” The ticket collector stared at him, a cold hostile stare.
Here the epithet is used to create an image, the image of those repressors of “blacks” and “colored” people. These two adjectives “cold” and “hostile” are giving the complete essence of the racism, white people’s attitude to the people who belonged to other races. It is not just an epithet which is showing
the ticket collector’s hostility towards Lanny, but it is the key that reveals the
situation of that period.
It was the lonely voice of all the Jews everywhere who had been homeless wanderers over the earth’s surface for more than two thousand years.
If the sentence had been given like “it was the voice of all the Jews…” without epithet, it would not have made impact on the reader, the author would not have achieved his aim to make the reader evaluate the notion he wanted them to feel. The epithet “lonely” attributes not only the voice of the Jews, but also shows their life, feelings and even destiny. Only one word could comprise so many meanings within itself.
It helped to chase away the long hours of the slow-moving nights.
Here the figurative or transferred epithet is used, because the attribute “slow-moving”,which generally describes the action of human being or some machines, is made to refer to the night, which is abstract notion. In the sentence it is like metaphor and helps to create imagery.
A shy, understanding smile flitted across the old man’s face.
In this sentence epithets “shy” and “understanding” are used to show the author’s attitude towards the described notion. Though the words “shy” and “understanding” have not close meaning, in the sentence they are completing each other and thus intensifying the meaning together.
Hyperbole used in the “Path of Thunder”:
Isaac seemed to be looking into his brain and seeing his thought.
Nobody can look into someone’s brain and see the thoughts, because it is impossible. But the author made it possible with the used hyperbole by deliberately exaggerating a feature essential to the personage. In order to show Isaac’s ability in understanding people the author used this stylistic device.
Oxymorons used by Peter Abrahams in the novel are signals to express the states of the characters.
Example: He smiled grimly and passed his ticket to the man.
Oxymoron is one of the very interesting stylistic devices, because it is the combination of two words in which the meanings of the two clash are opposite in sense, like in the example above. When a person is happy or feels good, he usually smiles and when feels bad, when he is angry, he behaves grimly or has grim expression on his face. But there are situations when people feel bad and though they find strength to laugh, to smile. In the sentence it is used to describe Lanny’s strong will, because though he was met with hostile attitude, he could keep his smile.
Another example for oxymoron:
In the glow of the firelight the old woman’s eyes glowed with e warm and humble pride.
Mrs. Swartz was an ordinary woman and didn’t know what is pride, and there was no reason to feel proud till the day her son returned. When that day came at last, she was so happy and felt much pride, but it was, unlike others’, warm and humble. The author masterfully made a combination of two words that could completely define old woman’s situation.
One more example for oxymoron:
A strained cheerfulness hung over them as they talked about nothing.
The sentence is taken from the passage where the party held before Lanny’s departure is described. When people see somebody off, they try to smile, to show themselves happy, but there is always something that restricts that cheerfulness. The use of the oxymoron “strained cheerfulness” shows author’s much experience in observing the life and people; he knows quite well about the psychology of them.
Though Peter Abrahams was a South African and not native speaker of English, he used a lot of different stylistic devices and emotive means in his work. While reading the book, a reader comes across to various stylistic devices which helped to make the novel more colourful. The language of the novel is simple and understandable. The author used the stylistic devices in picturing the nature, in the description of village, the characters of the novel. He didn’t use them much in the speech of characters as it would be unconvincing to the reader.
- Galperin I. R. Stylistics. Moscow:Higher School, 1977.
- Johnson C. D., Johnson.V The Social Impact of the Novel: A Reference Guide. London: Greenwood Press, 2002.