based on the interplay of emotive and logical meaning in an attributive word, phrase or even sentence, used to characterise an object and pointing out to the reader and frequently imposing on him.15
According to Prof. Sosnovskaya V.B., Epithet is an attributive characterisation of a person, thing or phenomenon. It is, as a rule, simple in form. In the majority of cases it consists of one word: adjective or adverb, modifying respectively nouns or verbs.16
e.g. “I tell you that had it ever occurred to me, that such a
monstrous suspicion would have entered your mind, I
would have died rather than have crossed your life.”
Epithet on the whole shows purely individual emotional attitude of the speaker towards the object spoken of, it describes the object as it appears to the speaker. Epithet expresses a characteristic of an object, both existing and imaginary. Its basic features are its emotiveness and subjectivity: the characteristic attached to the object to qualify it is always chosen by the speaker himself.
e.g. “Mabel Chiltern is a perfect example of the English type
of prettiness, the apple-blossom type”. (p.175)
“It means a very brilliant future in store for you”.(p.97)
“What an appalling philosophy that sounds!” (p.179)
“But I tell you that the only bitter words that ever came
from those sweet lips of hers were on your account,
and I hate to see you next her”. (p.80)
According to these examples, we can say that Epithet is a word or word combination which in its attributive use discloses the individual emotionally coloured attitude of the writer to the object he describes. It is a form of subjective evaluation. It is a description brief and compact which singles out the things described.
e.g. “Lips that have lost the note of joy, eyes that are
blinded by tears, chill hands and icy heart”. (p. 60)
“If we have enough of them, they will forgive us
everything, even our gigantic intellects”. (p. 142)
“And now tell me, what makes you leave you brilliant
Vienna for our gloomy London”. (p.180)
Epithet has remained over the centuries the most widely used stylistic device, which is understandable- it offers the ample opportunities of qualifying every object from the author’s partial and subjective viewpoint, which is indispensable in creative prose, Here we can see masterly touches in rich and vivid epithets. Wilde’s language is plain and understandable, it is wonderful and interesting. Wilde resorts to the use of colourful epithets, which sometimes help him to show the difference between pretence and reality. As we know Wilde was the leader of the “aesthetic movement”. He was brilliant in literature and tried to be brilliant in life. He used abundance of epithets in his speech. In fact, everybody uses epithets in his speech; without them our speech is dry, awfully plain and not interesting.
Wilde’s epithets give a brilliant colour and wonderful witticism to his plays. With the help of epithets Wilde’s heroes are more interesting, their speech is more emotive; they involve the reader in their reality, in their life.
e.g. ”I am not in a mood to-night for silver twilights, or rose-pink dawns.”(p.190)
“Those straw-coloured women have dreadful tempers.”
“Cecily, ever since I first looked upon your wonderful and
incomparable beauty, I have dared to love you wildly,
passionately, devotedly, hopelessly.”(p.319)
As we can see, epithets make the speech more colourful,
vivid and interesting. Wilde uses a great amount of epithets
in his plays. His epithets are based on different sources, such
as nature, art, history, literature, mythology, everyday life, man,
And all of them are wonderful. They reflect Wilde’s opinions
and viewpoints about different things. They give emphasis and
rhythm to the text. That is why Wilde may be also called a
master of colourful and vivid epithets.
One of the most frequently used, well-known and elaborated among the stylistic devices is metaphor. The metaphoric use of the word begins to affect the dictionary meaning, adding to it fresh connotations of meaning or shades of meaning.
According to Prof. Sosnovskaya V.B., metaphor, a most widely used trop, is based upon analogy, upon a traceable similarity. But in the metaphor, contrary to the simile, there is no formal element to indicate comparison. The difference, though, is not merely structural. The absence of a formal indication of comparison in the metaphor makes the analogy it is based on more subtle to perceive.17
According to Prof. Kukharenko V.A., metaphor is based on the transference of names. This transference is based on the associated likeness between two objects.18
According to Prof. Galperin I.R., metaphor means transference of some quality from one object to another. A metaphor becomes a stylistic device when two different phenomena (things, events, ideas, actions) are simultaneously brought to mind by the imposition of some or all of the inherent properties of one object on the other which by nature is deprived of these properties.19
Such an imposition generally results when the creator of the metaphor finds in the two corresponding objects certain features, which to his eye have something in common.
I completely agree with these definitions. I also think that metaphors reveal the attitude of the writer to the object, action or concept and express his views. They may also reflect the literary school which he belongs and the epoch in which he lives.
As an illustration of Wilde’s skill in using every nuance of the language to serve some special stylistic purpose, we must mention his use of metaphors.
e.g. “We live in an age of ideals.”(p.293)
“She has all the fragrance and freedom of a
“The God of this century is wealth.”(p.206)
“But to suffer for one’s own faults,-ah!-there is the
sting of life.”(p.36).
Oscar Wilde was a man of art; and even these wonderful metaphors prove it. As we can see, his metaphors give a certain charm and musical perception through the plain language combinations.
A metaphor can exist only within a context. A separate word isolated from the context has its general meaning. Metaphor plays an important role in the development of language. Words acquire new meanings by transference.
e.g. “Lord Illingworth: That silly Puritan girl making a scene merely
because I wanted to kiss her. What harm is there in a kiss?
Mrs.Arbuthnot: A kiss may ruin a human life. I know that too
The metaphorical effect of this sentence is based on the personal feelings of Mrs.Arbuthnot. Her sad experience of life sounds in this phrase. When she was young, she had a great love. But her passion had left her and “her life was ruined.” That is why this metaphor has a true effective power when it is pronounced by Mrs.Arbuthnot.
e.g. “I am a ship without a rudder in a night without a star.”(p.242)
The speaker of this phrase Sir Robert Chiltern gets lost, he does not know what to do in such situation. He says that he is a “ship without a rudder”, i.e. he does not know where he must go and what to do for better future.
Oscar Wilde is always concerned with society. His fine metaphors play an important role in portraying his heroes, their feelings and thoughts.
e.g. “I had a wild hope that I might disarm destiny.”(p.209)
“I keep science for life.”(p.281)
“Ideals are dangerous things. Realities are better. They wound, but they are better.”(p.85)
“The fire cannot purify her. The waters cannot quench her anguish.”(p.150)
“Gwendolen is devoted to bread and butter.”(p.283)
Thus, we can see the unlimited power of the artist in showing his imagination. The emotional colouring is made by an ample use of bright metaphors. Metaphor takes one of the most honourable places in Wilde’s art. The main purpose of the author is to affect the reader emotionally through the images. The charm of O.Wilde’s plays is due to the mixture of poetic metaphors and real images. The author does not convince the reader to make the resulting points, but he makes him indirectly judge the heroes and clear the situation.
Metaphors, like all stylistic devices, can be classified according to their degree of unexpectedness. Thus, metaphors which are absolutely unexpected, that is are quite unpredictable, are called genuine metaphors. Here we can see some of them:
e.g. “She is a work of art”.(p.175)
“She has all the fragrance and freedom of a
flower. There is ripple after ripple of sunlight in
her hair. She has the fascinating tyranny of
youth, and the astonishing courage of
“Divorces are made in Heaven”. (p. 283)
In genuine metaphors the image is always present and the transference of meaning is actually felt. These metaphors have a radiating force. The whole sentence becomes metaphoric. The metaphors, which are commonly used in speech and therefore are sometimes even fixed in dictionaries as expressive means of language, are trite metaphors.
e.g. “My farther really died of a broken heart”. (p.85)
“Love is easily killed! Oh! How easily love is killed”.
“The moment is entirely in your own hands”. (p.344)
Wilde’s metaphors develop the reader’s imagination. At the same time the author reflects his own point of view.
e.g. “Youth is the Lord of Life”. (p.135)
In these four plays Wilde preaches that youth is the so called “gift of nature”. It is very interesting to note, that almost all his main heroes are young people. And youth is their leading star in life. Oscar Wilde resorts to the use of his metaphors for more expressiveness and beauty of language. Their meanings are playing and understandable for any reader, of any age and any interests. They are the birds of Wilde’s thoughts, sometimes sensitive and sometimes bitter, sometimes joyful and sometimes sad, but they are always wonderful. They have an excellent quality to reflect different objects, actions and, of course, people in a new meaning. They produce a dynamic character of the plot and show that Wilde is a man of genius.
Simile is the next stylistic device used by Wilde in his plays. Simile is a likeness of one thing to another.
According to Prof. Sosnovskaya V.B., Simile is the most rudimentary form of trope. It can be defined as a device based upon an analogy between two things, which are discovered to possess some features in common otherwise being entirely dissimilar.19
According to Prof. Galperin I.R. the intensification of someone feature of the concept in question is realised in a device called Simile. Ordinary comparison and Simile must not be confused. They represent two diverse processes. Comparison means weighing two objects belonging to one class of things with the purpose of establishing the degree of their sameness or difference. To use a simile is to characterise one object by bringing it into contact with another object belonging to an entirely different class of things. Comparison takes into consideration all the properties of the two objects, stressing the one that is compared. Simile includes all the properties of the two objects except one which is made common to them.20
e.g. “All women become like their mothers.” (p.300)
is ordinary comparison. The words “women” and “mothers” belong to the same class of objects – human beings – so this is not a Simile but ordinary comparison.
But in the sentence:
“But she is really like a Tanagra statuette, and would be rather annoyed if she were told so”. (p.175),
we have a simile. “She” and “statuette” belong to heterogeneous classes of objects and Wilde has found that the beauty of Mabel Chiltern may be compared with the beauty of the ancient Tanagra statuette. Of the two concepts brought together in the Simile – one characterised (Mabel Chiltern), and the other characterising (Statuette) – the feature intensified will be more inherent in the latter than in the former. Moreover, the object characterised, is seen in quite a new and unexpected light, because the author as it were, imposes this feature on it. Thus, Simile is an imaginative comparison of two unlike objects belonging to two different classes.
Similes forcibly set one object against another regardless of the fact that they may be completely alien to each other. And without our being aware of it the Simile gives rise to a new understanding of the object characterising as well as of the object characterised.
The properties of an object may be viewed from different angles, for example, its state, actions, manners, etc. Accordingly, Similes may be based on adjective-attributes, adverbs-modifiers, verb-predicates, etc.
e.g. “Dear Agatha and I are so much interested in
Australia. Agatha has found it on the map. What a
curious shape it is! Just like a large packing case.”
“She looks rather like an orchid and makes great
demands on one’s curiosity.” (p.176)
“Twenty years of romance make a woman look like a
ruin; but twenty years of marriage make her something
like a public building.” (p.108)
Similes have formal elements in their structure:
A pair of objects (for example: woman + ruin; woman + orchid; Australia + a large packing case).
Connective words such as: like, as, such as, as if, as though, seem, etc.
Here are some more examples of similes taken from Wilde’s plays.
e.g. “She looks like an “edition de luxe” of a wicked French novel,
meant specially for the English market.”(p.48)
The structure of this simile is interesting for it is sustained. This simile goes through the whole sentence. The author finds a certain resemblance of Mrs. Erlynne and an “edition de luxe” of a wicked French novel. He shows that this woman is as bright and attractive as a coloured journal.
e.g. “It is as if a hand of ice were laid upon one’s heart. It is as if
one’s heart were beating itself to death in some empty
This simile is the perfect work of imagination. This is an example of a simile, which is half a metaphor. Let us analyse it. If not for the structural word “as if”, we could call it a metaphor. Indeed, if we drop the word “as if” and say: “a hand of ice is laid upon one’s heart…”, this sentence becomes a metaphor. But the word “as if” keeps apart the notions of metaphor and makes this sentence a real simile. As for the second sentence of this example, the situation is the same: if we drop the word “as if”, the sentence becomes a metaphor. In other words, this example is the action that is described by means of simile.
The semantic nature of the simile-forming elements “seem” and “as if” is such that they only remotely suggest resemblance. Quite different are the connectives “like” and “as”. They are more categorical and establish quite straightforwardly the analogy between the two objects in question.
e.g. “Ignorance is like a delicate exotic fruit; touch it and the bloom
is gone.”(p. 296)
In this example of a simile the object characterised is seen in a quite new and unexpected meaning. This simile is also may be considered as a half metaphor. The author confers to ignorance a new sense and the qualities of an exotic fruit. That is why this simile has a metaphoric character. And all the above-mentioned formal elements make the simile of easily recognisable unit of poetic speech.
e.g. “ You are like a pink rose, cousin Cecily.”(p.311)
This is the real simile. This simile is used for purposes of expressive evaluation, emotive explanation, and highly individual description. In a simile two objects are compared on the ground of similarity of some quality. So “a pink rose” of this case allows to simultaneously foreground such features as “fresh, beautiful, fragrant, attractive”, etc.
So, we can see that simile is another interesting stylistic device used by Oscar Wilde in his plays. It shows the individual viewpoint of the author on different objects, actions, and phenomena. Everybody uses the similes in his everyday speech. But the literary similes gain especially wonderful character. They make our speech more expressive and our world more interesting.
Frankly speaking, every person sometimes uses hyperbole and exaggeration in his speech for more expressiveness.
According to Professor Galperin I.R., another stylistic device which also has the function of intensifying one certain property of the object described is hyperbole. It can be defined as a deliberate overstatement or exaggeration of a feature essential to the object or phenomenon. In its extreme form this exaggeration is carried to an illogical degree. 20
According to Professor Kukharenko V.A., hyperbole is a stylistic device in which emphasis is achieved through deliberate exaggeration. The feelings and emotions of the speaker are so ruffled that he resorts in his speech to intensifying the quantitative or the qualitative aspects of the mentioned object.21
According to Prof. Sosnovskaya V.B., hyperbole (overstatement) as the word itself suggests is an expression of an idea in an exceedingly exaggerate language. The supra-average cases of overstatement are characteristic of an obviously emotional, if not altogether impassioned, manner of representation.22
V.V.Vinogradov, developing Gorki’s statement that “Geniune art enjoys the right to exaggerate”, state that hyperbole is the law of art which brings the existing phenomena of life, diffused as they are, to the point of maximum clarity and conciseness.23
So, hyperbole is aimed at exaggerating quantity or quality. It is a deliberate exaggeration. In hyperbole there is transference of meaning as there is discrepancy with objective reality. The words are no used in their direct sense.
e.g. “I wish I had known it was your birthday, Lady
Windermere, I would have covered the whole street in
front of your house with flowers for you to walk”. (p.
“I have never loved anyone in the world but you”.
In order to depict the degree of the love of his character Wilde resorts to the use of these hyperboles. I think that the most important function of hyperbole is the emotional expressiveness.
e.g. “I have met hundreds of good women”. (p.71)
“You have seen me with it a hundred times”. (p.303)
In these hyperboles Wilde uses the exaggeration of the quantitative aspect. They make their way not on the direct meaning, but on the great emotional influence. But literary hyperbole is not the simple speech figure. It is one of the most important means of building up the plot of the text, the imagery and expressiveness. It is the transmission of the author’s thought.
e.g. “I never can believe a word you say!.” (p.49)
“He talks the whole time”. (p.115)
“Well, you have been eating them all the time”. (p.284)
In the literary sense hyperbole is the important means of expressive speech. Sometimes they are not perceived in their direct meaning, but they at once create the pathetic and comic effect, as in the above-mentioned examples. In general, literature has a constant necessity in the artistic exaggeration of reflection of the world.
e.g. “I would do anything in the world to ensure
Gwendolen’s happiness”. (p.284)
“But now that I see you, I feel that nothing in the
whole world would induce me to live under the same
roof as Lord Windermere”. (p.61)
Hyperbole may be also called the means of artistic characterisation. Hyperbole is a device which sharpens the reader’s ability to make a logical assessment of the utterance. In order to create his hyperboles Wilde uses such words as “hundreds”, “thousands”, “all the time”, “nothing in the world”, etc. Wilde’s hyperboles bring the brightness, expressiveness and the emotional colour of the language. Hyperbole is like a magnifying glass; it helps to observe in details the phenomena of life, in its realities and contradictions.
In these four plays we can also observe some metonymies.
According to Prof. Galperin I.R., metonymy is based on a different type of relation between the dictionary and contextual meanings, a relation based not on identification, but on some kind of association connecting the two concepts which these meanings represent.24
According to Prof. Sosnovskaya V.B., units of poetic speech called metonymy are also based upon analogy. But in them there is an objectively existing relationship between the object named and the object implied.25
According to Prof. Kukharenko V.A., metonymy also becomes instrumental in enriching the vocabulary of the language and it is based on contiguity (nearness) of objects or phenomena.26
So, according to these three definitions, we can say that metonymy is a transference of meaning based on a logical or physical connection between things. In metonymy a thing is described by its action, its function or by some significant features. It is one of the means of forming the new meanings of words in the language.
e.g. “…a thing more tragic than all the tears the world has
ever shed”. (p. 65)
“She was stern to me, but she taught me what the
world is forgetting, the difference that there is between
what is right and what is wrong”. (p. 26)
“Do you think seriously that women who have
committed what the world calls a fault should never be
In these three examples we can see the same metonymy, that is used by the same word “world”. Here the author means the people who love in the world. Here we also can see that container is used instead of the thing contained: “world” instead of “people”. We can observe the same situation on the following example:
e.g. “The whole London knows it”. (p.32)
The author means people living in London, but not the city as itself. Through the combination of metonymical details and particulars Wilde creates the effect of powerful upper-class society. The scope of transference in metonymy is much more limited than that of metaphor, which is quite understandable: the scope of human imagination identifying two objects on the grounds of commonness of one of their innumerable characteristics is boundless while actual relation between objects are more limited. This is why metonymy, on the whole, is a less frequently observed stylistic device than metaphor.
Oscar Wilde does not pay much attention to metonymy. But his metonymies have a great potential power. They reach the emotional reliability, which creates the effect of reader’s presence in the literary world. Metonymical details and particulars sometimes serve the so called “evidences” of the actions and feelings of the heroes.
As a brief conclusion we can say that Oscar Wilde resorts to the use of a great number of stylistic devices in his plays.
For Wilde language is the most important way for expression of his thoughts and feelings. According to the examples mentioned above, we can see that Wilde’s language is very expressive and vivid, and at the same time it is plain and understandable to any reader.
Syntactical expressive means and stylistic devices.
The expressive means of a language exist as a certain system of literary devices within the literary form of the common language. The system of expressive means of language differs from that of another, not in the existence of some device but in the role which this device plays, and the place which it occupies in this system.
The syntactical level plays an important role in the system of language expressive means. Generally speaking, the examination of syntax provides a deeper insight into the stylistic aspect of the utterance.
Stylistics takes as the object of its analysis the expressive means and stylistic devices of the language which are based on some significant structural point in an utterance, whether it consists of one sentence or a string of sentences.
The problem of syntactical stylistic devices appears to be closely linked not only with what makes an utterance more emphatic but also with the more general problem of predication. As is known, the English affirmative sentence is regarded as neutral if it maintains the regular word order, that is subject – predicate – object (or other secondary members of the sentence, as they are called). Any other order of the parts of the sentence may also carry the necessary information, but impact on the reader will be different. Even a slight change in the word order of a sentence or in the order of the sentences in a more complicated syntactical unit will inevitably cause a definite modification of the meaning in the whole. An almost imperceptible rhythmical design introduced into a prose sentence or a sudden break in the sequence of the parts of the sentence, or any other change will add something to the volume of information contained in the original sentence.
Unlike the syntactical expressive means of the language, which are naturally used in discourse in a straight-forward natural manner, syntactical stylistic devices are perceived as elaborate designees aimed at having a definite impact on the reader. It will be borne in mind that any stylistic device is meant to be understood as a device and is calculated to produce a desired stylistic effect.
The first syntactical expressive means used by Oscar Wilde is inversion.
According to Prof. Kurkharenko V.A., inversion is very often used as an independent stylistic device in which the direct word order is changed either completely so that the predicate (predicative) precedes the subject, or partially, so that the object precedes the subject – predicate pair.27
According to Prof. Galperin I.R. the stylistic inversion aims at attaching logical stress or additional emotional colouring to the surface meaning of the utterance. Therefore, a specific intonation pattern is the inevitable satellite of inversion.28
Although Oscar Wilde doesn’t pay much attention to such expressive means as inversion, he also resorts to its usage in his plays. Here are some examples of inversion from Wilde:
e.g. “Told me she that entirely disapproved of people
marrying more than once.” (p. 53)
“Except amongst the middle classes I have been told”.
“But so am I.” (p.261)
“Let go us into the house”. (p.331)
These sentences comprise the simple and common models of inversion. It is very important to know that inversion as a stylistic device is always sense-motivated; and it depends on the context. These inversions are used by the author for more expressiveness and for showing the feelings of his characters in a certain situation.
The next syntactical expressive means is a repetition. As the word “repetition” itself suggests, this unit of poetic speech is based upon a repeated occurrence of one and the same word or word group.
According to Prof. Galperin I.R., repetition as a syntactical stylistic device is recurrence of the same word, word combination or a phase for two and more times.29
So, repetition is an expressive means when a certain word or a phrase is repeated for several times. It is an expressive means of language used when the speaker is under the stress of strong emotion. It shows the state of mind of the speaker as in the following example from Wilde:
e.g. “I love you – love you as I have never loved any living
thing. From the moment I met you I loved you, loved
you blindly, adoringly, madly!” (p.51)
Here we can observe the inner state of the hero, his emotions, his great feeling of love.
e.g. “My boy! My boy! My boy!” (p. 168)
In these words repeated for several time we can guess the great emotional background. Wilde has a graphic eye and the use of repetition which as it may seem is one of the weak expressive means helps us to be closer to the hero, to understand his feelings. Depending on the position of a repeated unit occupied in the sentence there are four types of repetition: anaphora, epiphora, framing and anadiplosis. The first function of repetition is to intensify the utterance.
Here are some more examples of repetition:
e.g. “Oh, Arthur, do not love me less, and I will trust you more. I will
trust you absolutely.”(p.88)
“Do not hold me, mother. Do not hold me- I’ll kill him!”(p.151)
“Choose! Oh, my love, choose!”(p.51)
In the first example we have anadiplosis. The structure of this device is the following: the last phrase of one part of an utterance is repeated at the beginning of the next part, thus hooking the two parts together. The writer doubles this phrase for better concentration of the reader. If the repeated phrase come at the beginning of two or more consecutive sentences, we have anaphora, as in the second example. As for the third example, here we have framing (or as it is often called “ring repetition”). It is the repetition of the same unit at the beginning and at the end of the same sentence.
As you must have seen from the brief description, repetition is a powerful means of emphasis. Besides, repetition adds rhythm and balance to the utterance.
Wilde often uses parallel constructions, a perfect means of creating the clean-cut syntax of his plays. By Prof. Galperin I.R.: “Parallel construction is a device which may be encountered not so much in the sentence as in the macro-structures dealt with earlier, viz. the syntactical whole and the paragraph. The necessary condition in parallel construction is identical, or similar, syntactical structure in two or more sentences or parts of a sentence”.30
As you must have seen from the brief description, repetition is a powerful means of emphasis. Besides, repetition adds rhythm and balance to the utterance.
Parallel constructions deal with logical, rhythmic, emotive and expressive aspects of the utterance. They create rhythmical shape of the sentence, make it more emotional.
e.g. “Nobody is incapable of doing a foolish a foolish
thing. Nobody is incapable of doing a wrong
“How hard good women are! How weak bad men are!”