Example of how to match effects with language features
Let’s say you’ve spotted a Pretending feature, which turns out to be hyperbole (exaggeration):
I had the shock of the century – you could have knocked me down with a feather. Suddenly, it was so quiet you could have heard a pin drop, and you could have cut the atmosphere with a knife.
“I had the shock of the century!”
The examples of hyperbole in this piece are:
- Shock of the century
- You could have knocked me down with a feather (meaning the narrator was greatly surprised by something)
- You could have heard a pin drop
- You could have cut the atmosphere with a knife.
Some of these are clichés (overused expressions), but what we are interested in are the effects they have on the reader.
- Do they help you understand?
- Do they help you to sense the atmosphere?
- Do you respond to them?
- Do they help you remember something?
The answer is probably “Yes” in every case.
They help you understand because they show, for instance:
- The magnitude of the surprise experienced by the narrator
- What the atmosphere was like as the significance of the shock was realised: tense and unfriendly
They help you sense the scene because they show:
- The quietness that followed the shock – “You could have heard pin drop”
- The fact that you could have “cut the atmosphere with a knife” suggests a very tense situation – perhaps other characters are present, who might later have some response to the shock
They most likely make you respond:
- Inquisitiveness: You want to know more – what was this shock and what does it mean for the narrator and any others involved?
- Alarm: Something has happened that might completely change the course of events
They help you remember:
- Rather than being an event that will soon be forgotten, the use of hyperbole makes it something you are more likely to remember.
- You might be reminded of a shocking event in your own life when everyone went quiet and the atmosphere was very tense.