Literary devices you may not know are in Vanity

Hello again my munchable little fearless eaters. Ok, so today I got a little less than an earful for you all but I must sincerely apologize first for my delay in postage. Lots of stuff went down at home this week … Shit got REAL real. And I’ve been working on a new commandment, just for myself: Thou shalt not infect more than 20 people with thy nasty cold. But now, I’m alright. Along doth we goesth.

Today’s focus is going to be on the literary devices used in Vanity. 


But before we get acquainted with the fair idea of what we’ll be tackling today I want to give a big shout out to my fellow blogger and new friend Sampson who runs the blog Y’all go check him out, he is awesomesauce. Also, tattoo artist and piercing expert FrancoisWSimpson is also here on WordPress @ Give him a visit too. He’s done some great work.

Sad as it may seem, I didn’t have much to work with on this post …

Cuz I needed you do more research and I’m a good blogger who wouldn’t spoon feed you?? Sure, let’s go with that.

Back to the point though, this post will feature personifications, similes, repetitions, parallelism, conflict and imagery used in the poem. Get ready for lots of references.

Personification Sprinkled all over the poetry, personification is one key device used to enhance the feel of the poem – that is, if you felt anything at all. It attributes human qualities to inanimate objects. For instance, the ‘hearts’ and the ‘dead’ in lines one and five of stanza three are perfect examples

What heart will listen to our clamouring?


When our Dead come with their Dead

Imagery It’s evident in the poetry that the message is delivered in a very visual way. The words almost immediately get you to visualize what’s being narrated. The ‘large mouths’, ‘tumours’ and ‘signs’ from the ‘dead’ are but a few examples of the use of imagery in Vanity.

‘Which grows in us like a tumour                                                                                                                  

In the black depth of our plaintive throats?’


They have left on the earth their cries,                                                                                                          

 In the air, on the water, where they have traced their signs.

Those are lines 13-14 and 20-21 from stanzas three and four, respectively.

Conflict is a pervading device in the lineup. The personas are constantly reviewing the rhetoric of the younger generation turning a deaf ear to their pleas and cries. They want to speak. Y’know what? They actually are speaking! But as we all do with movie critics and the terms and conditions on licensed software, the ‘big children’ totally ignore. Yaaay us, right?

Simile. Now this may come as a no-brainer for many but the use of the word like shows that the poem might just have gifted you a free literary device. So enjoy the gift card! Courtesy of stanza 3, line 13.

Parallelism. The big one. Ok I had trouble digesting and regurgitating this for y’all. Even coming to understand it for myself. Parallelism is a literary device that uses successive verbal constructions which correspond in grammatical structure, sound, meter, meaning, etc. It may also function as a tool for persuasion as well because of the repetition it uses – as stated in

Parallelism, I find, after much probing and search and toil is used so much in the poem. Lines 3 and 5 make use of the common word ‘who’ – and the question of who will hear without laughing – while ‘when’ starts lines 15 and 16. They are seen below, respectively:

Who then will hear our voices without laughter,                                                                                

Who indeed will hear our voices without laughter.


When our Dead come with their Dead                                                                                                  

When they have spoken to us with their clumsy voices.

Additionally, lines 11 and 12 and the first two lines of the final stanza seem to have an element of parallelism. Consult the ‘sharks’ or your teacher (or your internet service provider) in case of any doubt.

Repetition. Maybe this can also be said of similes. They’re both the no-brainers of the literati world of literary devices . . . excuse me while I regain balance from the discombobulating series of tongue twisters that seem to come from nowhere.

Ok I’m fine now. Back to it!

You know you’re desperate when repetition is one of the devices you have to point out . . . while knowing everyone else shall find and write what looks ( to the teacher ) like the exact same thing . . . If they care enough to mark, of course. So let me just point these out and we can get outta here. Lines 8 and 10, 21 and 24. By the way I hope I didn’t forget to mention this; the first lines of stanzas, one, two and three are repeated in the final stanza and form its bulk.

Alright! Alright!! Alright!!!

That’s done. I can keep fighting off my cold now. Some nice, warm alphabet soup ought to set me right. Until the next time my dear fearless eaters, binge till you drop. Peace out!!


Birago Diop – Vanity (An Analysis)

 Another day, another opportunity to look for information because we’re all too confused to do it ourselves.

The poem opens with an air of pessimism and the reality that no one is listening to their (the persona’s) complaints. Instead,  they are being laughed at and mocked. They cannot be taken seriously.

After reading the first stanza, it becomes clearer that a group of people are narrating the events in the poem and their plight is made in vanity, hence the symbolic title that shouts some strong themes in this literature.

The second stanza draws attention to horrible events that began at the start of the personas’ story and the nonchalance and ridicule of ‘big children’ toward such tales. The tone here has become more sour and brooding, implying there might be serious consequences for disregarding the mistakes of the past.

In stanza three, no one will listen to their noisy protests, their clamoring. No ears will listen to the sickening anger and frustration that grows deep within their ‘plaintive’ (sad) thoughts. The frustration has grown and so has the futility of their message. And for good reason.

When our Dead come with their Dead

When they have spoken to us with their clumsy voices;

Just as our ears were deaf

The Dead must refer to the generation that has recently passed away and the ancestors. The people mourning and wailing – just as the children do now – once turned a deaf ear to what their parents and ancestors spoke. Now, the sad realization of Karma and fear of repetition of past mistakes darkens their hope.

The fourth stanza continues the lament of the mature and elderly in society who address the locations where those before them lost their lives

In the air, on the water, where they traced their signs.

They continue by stating that they are ‘blind, deaf and unworthy Sons’ like the current generation of ‘big children’ who see no significance, whatsoever, in the places where the elderly say their ancestors traced their signs and left their mark in history.

The fifth stanza brings the plaintive curtain down on the poem, summarizing it this way :

Since we didn’t take our ancestors seriously or care to understand the dead, and we didn’t listen to their cries and warnings, no one will listen to ours either. What goes around comes back around. We will die, be forgotten and our memories will be ridiculed as well.

Hope this post helped. Feel free to drop more insight in the comments or put up some questions on my Facebook page about this poem.

Leave suggestions in there as well for more WASSCE Literature. Thanks. And I will keep you posted.