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Literary Devices Tolstoy is Known Using Within His Works

Life of Leo Tolstoy
Picture Gallery
Tolstoy's Themes
Theme Analysis
Tolstoy's Imagery
Tolstoy's Writing Style
Tolstoy's Literary Devices
What Critics Write
Topics of Related Interest
Helpful Resources for Students
Writers Influenced by Leo Tolstoy
Influences on World Literature
Literary Movements
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A Glance at Tolstoy's Masterpieces
Leo Tolstoy's Quotes
Works Cited

     Some of the literary devices that Leo Tolstoy is known for using in his works include vivid imagery, mostly visual, foreshadowing, allusion, and conventions.

     Anna Karenina’s setting was 18 century Russian. Moreover, conventions of that time were that women must be obedient and hesitant. Anna herself had broken that convention and shocked people by having a lover and leaving her wealthy husband for the lover. This made the novel so unusual and popular, not many writers in Russian made women so frivoling.

     An example of Tolstoy using foreshadowing can be found in his work A Prisoner in the Caucasus. 

If ever a Russian ventured to ride or walk any distance away from his fort, the Tartars killed him or carried him off to the hills. … So he began to think: 'Hadn't I better ride on by myself? My horse is a good one: if the Tartars do attack me, I can gallop away.”

     This is a foreshadowing to what will happen in the story later on. The character knows that it is dangerous to ride alone in the mountain and still has thoughts of doing it. In addition, the title, A Prisoner in the Caucasus, further suggests that the protagonist decides to ride alone and is captured by tartars.

     In his famous work War and Peace, Tolstoy constantly used allusion to the people of the time when the actions of the novel took place. Tolstoy’s constant use of allusion made the story so credible that many people believed that the whole story was true. It was not, however, Tolstoy made up, made up all the characters, except those who he alluded, and what happened to them. An example to allusion is:

 It was in July, 1805, and the speaker was the well-known Anna Pavlovna Scherer, maid of honor and favorite of the Empress Marya Fedorovna.”

Here Tolstoy alludes to Empress Marya Fedorovna who was on throne with her husband at that time. The empress however had never had a maid of honor named Anna Pavlovna Scherer.

     Another example of allusion from War and Peace is this:

“"Well, Prince, so Genoa and Lucca are now just family estates of the Bonapartes.”

Here Tolstoy is alludes to the provinces Genoa and Lucca, which were taken by Napoleon Bonaparte. 

     An example of Tolstoy’s use of vivid imagery can be seen in his story Hadji Murad. 

“I was returning home by the fields. It was midsummer, the hay harvest was over and they were just beginning to reap the rye. At that season of the year there is a delightful variety of flowers — red, white, and pink scented tufty clover; milk-white ox-eye daisies with their bright yellow centers and pleasant spicy smell; yellow honey-scented rape blossoms; tall campanulas with white and lilac bells, tulip-shaped; creeping vetch; yellow, red, and pink scabious; faintly scented, neatly arranged purple plantains with blossoms slightly tinged with pink; cornflowers, the newly opened blossoms bright blue in the sunshine but growing paler and redder towards evening or when growing old; and delicate almond-scented dodder flowers that withered quickly.”

     Tolstoy’s use of visual and olfactory imagery, like yellow honey-scented rape blossoms and delicate almond-scented dodder flowers”, in this passage is so beautiful and easy to understand. The reader gets the same sensation as though he is standing there, inside the image with the character and can see, smell and feel everything around.