Revision Guide: Analysing Literary Techniques.

Revision Guide Brigid's English GCSE/IGCSE

Welcome to Part Three of our Revision Guide for IGCSE & GCSE English Language.

How to Analyse Images & Literary Techniques. Writers carefully choose the words & literary techniques they use. Words are chosen to create vivid pictures & images in the mind of the reader. These images stimulate the senses & trigger powerful connotations within the reader.

What are connotations?

A feeling, idea or memory that a word or phrase evokes in you.

These connotations intensify the effect of the writer's words & images. Connotations of love, fear, desire, delight, shock, joy, excitement, sympathy, laughter, horror, innocence, pain, curiosity... These effects create & change the atmosphere & mood of a text.

First Impressions are important. Always make a note of your first impressions of a text. This can be just one word or phrase.

How do you think the writer made you notice it?


Here are some synonyms of connotation:







Use these words when writing about the effect of the images & literary techniques.


Writers use words which have powerful & meaningful connotations in the reader's mind. The writer further highlights & intensifies these words & images with literary techniques. Let's have a look at how they create these effects. In other words, let's analyse some images/words & literary techniques.


Writers use words/images in 2 main ways.

1. Independently in a sentence.

E.g.The dark & gloomy room.


2. Within a literary technique.

E.g. The room was as dark & gloomy as the grave.

Here the images/words are further intensified by the use of a simile.The room isn't just dark & gloomy, it is like a grave. Ugh! The words dark & gloomy mildly hint at something potentially unpleasant, whereas the addition of as a grave leaves us in no doubt that something sinister or supernatural is lurking in the shadows!


For IGCSE & GCSE English Language you need to do 2 things:

1. Identify the Images & Literary Techniques in the text.

2. Comment on the effect of these images & literary techniques.


Identify images & Literary Techniques


Use highlighter pens to colour code your text

A.Individual words/images which stand out to you.



D.Alliteration & Assonance


F.Pathetic Fallacy




The effects of Literary Techniques In general the intended effect of all images & literary techniques is to make the text interesting, memorable & real. To make it effective.


1 Simile

E.g. Her wedding dress was as white as the first snowflake.

Revision guide IGCSE/GCSE English Language


Make a Mind Map of the connotations of this image.

Compare with:

Her wedding dress was as white as sun bleached bone.

Make a Mind Map showing the connotations.

Revision guide literary techniques IGCSE/GCSE

What effect do these connotations have on you?


2. Metaphor

E.g. Her snowflake wedding dress.

& Her bleached bone wedding dress.

The key words/images are the same in both the simile & metaphor examples. Only the literary technique has changed.

Sometimes a metaphor can be stronger than a simile.

What do you think?


3. Alliteration (consonants) & Assonance (vowels)

Both these literary techniques add rhythm & sound to a text. The effect can be musical, soothing, jarring, hypnotic, humorous, or terrifying. The effect depends of the choice of words/images & the type of sound which is repeated. Short or long? Hard or soft? The sounds add another layer to the text. This enriches the passage by adding texture. Different rhythms created by alliteration or assonance can also determine how we read the we read this slowly or do we speed up with hearts pounding?




"A host of golden daffodils"

William Wordsworth is out walking in the hills & has just spotted a mass of beautiful daffodils bobbing in the sunshine.

Is the O sound long or short?

Is the O sound hard or soft?

Revision guide IGCSE/GCSE English Language. Literary Techniques


Practice saying it aloud with a friend.

Make a mind map showing the connotations of these long & soft sounds.

Probably something like this...

Revision guides GCSE/GCSE English language


This is just one response: The long & soft O sounds are reminiscent of religious singing or chanting. This adds to the effect of awe & wonder in the text.

How about you?

What effect does the repetition of the O sound have on you & your friends?




"We trekked & picked until the cans were full,

Until the tinkling bottom had been covered."

The poet is sharing his childhood memories of picking unripe blackberries.

Blackberry-Picking by Seamus Heaney

Revision Guides Blackberry-picking Seamus Heaney


The letters are different but the sound is the same.

Is the sound long or short?

Is the sound hard or soft?

Practice saying c ck kk aloud with a friend.

Make a mind map showing the connotations of the short & hard sounds. What effect does the repetition of the ck k c sound have on you & your friends?

Here is one response.

The short & hard sounds mimic the sound & rhythm of the children walking along the lane.

The short & hard sounds bring the memory alive by imitating the sound of the hard berries hitting the bottom of the tin can.

It is very musical & childlike.The sound evokes our own childhood memories.

We are remembering our childhood, just like Heaney is remembering his .

How about you?


4. Personification (human or animal attributes)

Personification injects extra energy & life into a text. This literary technique can present the everyday natural & urban world in a fresh & interesting way. Cars can cough & a wave can play in the water. The everyday world becomes animated.


E.g.The wind whispered through the trees

Compare with:

The wind howled through the trees

What connotations do these 2 images have?

Make a mind map.

Probably something like this...

Revision Guides personification GCSE/IGCSE English Language

What effects do these connotations have on you?


5. Pathetic Fallacy (human emotion)

Pathetic Fallacy is often used to highlight the emotions of a character. A character's sadness is reflected in nature. The sky doesn't just rain, it weeps. A destructive storm symbolises a character's destructive nature. This technique creates a powerful atmosphere & mood in a text.



The sky wept

Compare with:

The sky smiled

What connotations do these 2 images have?

Make a mind map.

What effects do these connotations have on you & your friends?

Revision Guide English language pathetic fallacy


6.Onomatopoeia (sounds)

Onomatopoeia creates an extra layer of sound. This makes the text appeal to our sense of hearing as well as our sense of sight. The text becomes more expressive, vivid & interesting. Many writers use onomatopoeia with alliteration or assonance. This further intensifies the experience of sound & rhythm.



"and heard nothing...& then he heard the clack on stone & the leaping, dropping clicks of a small rock falling."

For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway The use of onomatopoeia conveys the actual sound of the rock falling. This makes the event real & interesting for the reader. Clack & click are both onomatopoeic & alliterative; the repetition of the short sharp ck sound adds an element of danger. A short sharp sound reminds the reader that the rocks are sharp & are moving quickly. Eeeek!


7. Hyperbole (exaggeration)

Hyperbole is used for comic effect but it can also be used to create emphasis & contrast.



"My sister, Mrs. Joe, with black hair & eyes, had such a prevailing redness of skin that I sometimes used to wonder whether it was possible she washed herself with a nutmeg-grater instead of soap." The young Pip is looking at his bad tempered sister, wondering why her skin is so red!

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

Hyperbole. Washing her face with a nutmeg grater!


Make a mind map.

Here is one response.

This outrageous & exaggerated image has a very humorous effect. As we laugh at this image of Mrs. Joe rubbing her face with the grater, we also feel sympathy for her. We wince, imagining the pain she would feel. This emphasises how much suffering she has had in her life & how much suffering she inflicts on others.

What effects do these connotations have on you?


Congratulations! You can identify different Literary Techniques & comment on the effect they have.

Keep practicing on your own & with your friends.


In Part four we will look at the next step: How to link your comments to the "bigger picture" the theme of the text.



Thanks for reading. Please contact us if you have any questions or would like to book a lesson with us.

See you soon! Have a great week.

Feel free to leave a comment below. We would love to hear from you. See you soon!



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