2LD: Allegory & Alliteration

Two more easy ones in this Two Literary Devices series: allegory and alliteration.

An allegory is an entire story/artwork that superficially works on its own, but it’s purpose is to primarily teach a political/ethical lesson.  Literarydevices.com gives these examples of allegories: George Orwell’s Animal Farm (superficially it is about animals on a farm, allegorically it is about communism), Edmund Spenser’s Faerie Queen, and John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress.

Wikipedia’s page on allegory is exceptionally interesting: Northrop Frye apparently had the idea of “a ‘contiuum of allegory.'”  In certain allegories, the superficial story is just the vehicle for the lesson.  The character’s aren’t fleshed out, the plot is straightforward, and the allegory just lacks depth.  On the other side are allegories that have so much depth that it is difficult to ascertain their deeper meaning.

In making my own example, I don’t know whether to start with a superficial story or with the underlying moral/political lesson I want to teach.  Let’s say I started with the moral lesson: never be rude to a customer:

When John was of the mortal realm, he waited tables.  Upon his catastrophic death, when he died of food poisoning after eating the bleach riddled entree meant for the rude customer, John was sent to Hell.  But this was a special kind of Hell: John lived in a nightmare only the servers from the movie Waiting could imagine: every customer that the John was rude to, deserved or not, now lives underneath John’s eyelids, pestering him with requests every time he blinks.  Nothing he can do will get rid of the images he sees every time he blinks: each customer red in the face asking to see his manager.  If only John had been polite.

Yeah, it’s not great, but man, it’s tough to write an allegory.  Far easier to identify.


Alliteration has been one of my favorite literary devices ever since I learned about it: the repetition of the same sound at the beginning of close-together words.

Tongue twisters are often alliterative:

•A big bug bit a bold bald bear and the bold bald bear bled blood badly.

•Brisk brave brigadiers brandished broad bright blades, blunderbusses, and bludgeons — Balancing them badly.

•Can you can a canned can into an uncanned can like a canner can can a canned can into an uncanned can?

Here’s a list of idiomatic alliterations, alliterations that are in our everyday speech.

Here’s my alliteration example:

When waitstaff whine, cooks can’t care.

Alliteration is similar to consonance and assonance, with a key difference.  Alliteration is only the first sounds in multiple words; consonance (only consonant sounds) and assonance (only vowel sounds) refer to sounds anywhere in the words sentence/sentences.  My example above alliterates and consonates.

Happy literary devicing.