Mammoth Memory

Detailed example of how to answer the language features and effects question

Can you spot the language features used in the following piece?

English language features, how to spot language features in text, detailed example

1        Like a scene from a nightmare about a brutal future dystopia, a
2   marauding rabble of sleep-deprived anarchists and looters stumbled into
3   our rubble-strewn street while sirens wailed all over the town. They
4   issued threats in gruff voices: “We’re comin’ to getcha! We’re takin’ all
5   yer bread an’ ’oney.”
6        Residents checked that their doors were locked, switched off lights
7   and watched warily through darkened windows as the rabble reached
8   the convenience store and started to stove in the door. They were fierce
9   animals, driven by hunger, dehumanised by cold and self-neglect,
10   interested only in their own survival, completely uncaring about anyone
11   else just as predatory animals are pitiless about their prey. Then the
12   shooting started, like firecrackers going off without rhythm or
13   coordination, but the apparent randomness of the shots did not make
14   them any less effective: half of the rabble fell before the shop door
15   yielded, the remainder scrambling in as the glass in the door shattered in
16   the onslaught of bullets.
17         “Bomb them!” The terse command from the military unit’s leader
18   thundered down the echoing street. A dark shadow stepped forward. It
19    approached the shop doorway. Fragments of glass were ground into
20   smaller pieces as the figure moved. Then it stopped. After a few
21   seconds, the figure suddenly flexed, hurling an unseen object into the 
22   shop, and moved back quickly. The flash momentarily lit up the entire
23   street – it looked like a Hollywood set for an Armageddon movie.
24        The military warned that there would be many more undesirables
25    heading our way, and they could not guarantee our safety. When the 
26    next rabble arrived, they would find every house in the street
27    unoccupied – we had moved to a secret camp in the countryside where
28   there were plans to “live off the land”. If there was ever a euphemism
29   for starvation, that was it.


Here’s what you should find (you may find more – we’ve concentrated on what we think are the main features):



Simile:           1          Like a scene from a nightmare about a brutal future dystopia…

                      11        …just as predatory animals are pitiless about their prey.

                     22-23   It looked like a Hollywood set from an Armageddon movie.


Metaphor:    8-9      They were fierce animals…



Alliteration:   2-3     stumbled into our rubble-strewn street.

                          3        …while sirens wailed…

                          7        …watched warily through darkened windows…

                          7-8     …as the rabble reached the convenience store and started to stave in the door

                          11       …just as predatory animals are pitiless about their prey.



The writer is not trying to persuade you to join, buy or believe in anything, so for this particular text, there are no comments to be made on this aspect.



Dialect:            4         We’re comin’ to getcha.

Slang:              4-5      We’re takin’ all yer bread an’ ’oney (bread and honey is rhyming slang for money)


Now, what about the effects that these language features have on you, the reader?

Let’s connect each of the language features identified with the effect it has on the reader, in the way you would write your answer in an actual examination (text in red is for your guidance, and would not be included in your real answer):

Brief introduction

The author uses a range of language features to add colour and emphasis to the account of a rabble of anarchists and looters walking into the street where the narrator lives.


Language feature: Pretending

Using a simile, the author describes the scene as like one “from a nightmare about a brutal future dystopia”.

Effect: Sense (feeling of impending doom)

The effect of this is to create a feeling, or tone, of fear and impending doom, suggesting the end of civilisation.


Language feature: Sound (alliteration)

The state of the rabble – sleep-deprived, unwashed and probably hungry – is suggested in the alliterative phrase: “…stumbled into our rubble-strewn street”.

Effect: Remember (the description is memorable)

The effect of the alliteration is to add impact to the description and make it more memorable.


Language feature: Sound (alliteration and assonance)

The writer uses a memorable alliterative and assonant phrase, “…while sirens wailed all over town…”

Effects: Remember and Sense

This helps the reader to “hear” those sirens. The word “wail” in particular is evocative of a feeling of distress and desolation.


Language feature: Speech (dialect and slang)

The way members of the rabble speak reveals something of their characters. “We’re comin’ to getcha” shows they have a coarse dialect and “We’re takin’ all yer bread an’ ’oney” (we’re taking all your bread and honey) is slang, the kind of very informal language used by some regional groups and gangs (“bread and honey” is “money” in rhyming slang).

Effect: Understand (the background of the rabble)

The overall effect of this is to help the reader understand something of the background of the rabble: apparently unsavoury characters with no scruples about stealing, injuring and killing.


Language feature: Sound (alliteration and assonance)

The words “…watched warily through darkened windows…” are made very memorable by the alliteration and assonance.

Effect: Remember and Sense

The phrase gives us a clear and memorable impression of the fear felt by the residents.


Language feature: Sound (alliteration)

Using yet more alliteration, the author writes: “ the rabble reached the convenience store and started to stave in the door”.

Effect: Remember and Sense

This line also has a rhythm to it, and we can almost hear the rabble staving the door in with repeated blows.


Language feature: Pretending (metaphor)

The metaphorical statement that the rabble were “fierce animals” gives us a picture of what they are capable of.

Effect: Sense (fear), Understand (the nature of the rabble)

We understand better the nature of the rabble, and this instils yet more fear in the reader.


Language feature: Pretending (simile)

The author uses another simile to describe the uncaring nature of the rabble: “…just as predatory animals are pitiless about their prey”.

Effect: Respond and Sense (reader feels terror)

The effect is to terrify the reader, who realises from this comparison that the narrator and his/her neighbours will not be shown the slightest mercy if they get in the way of the rabble.


Language feature: Sound (alliteration)

This line also includes alliteration – the words “predatory”, “pitiless” and “prey”.

Effect: Remember

The effect of this poetic device is to highlight the phrase and, again, make it more memorable.


Language feature: Pretending (simile)

The shooting is described as “like firecrackers going off without rhythm or coordination”.

Effect: Sense (you can “hear” the shots)

We can imagine the sharp, loud sounds of shots at different intervals, perhaps the longer gaps leading those nearby to think the shooting has ended, only for it to start again.


Language feature: Pretending (simile)

The flash of the bomb thrown into the store made the street look “like a Hollywood set from an Armageddon movie”.

Effects: Sense, Remember (could “see” or visualise the street in ruin – very memorable)

This simile helped me visualise a street largely in ruin, resulting from some kind of breakdown in normal society.

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