“The Pilgrimage” by Nelofer Pazira uses multiple rhetoric devices, including epithets and similes, which seem to perform similar functions in the description of the two opposing themes of the essay: the peaceful life in Afghanistan and the war between it and the Soviet Union. Epithets are most often adjectives (although they can be adjective phrases as well) which characterize a noun by naming its key feature (Harris 118). Numerous examples are present throughout the text; for instance, the river is characterized as “gentle,” the skin of the cooked fish is “greasy and wrinkled from burns,” and their “bones, skulls and skins” are “broken, crooked and burned.” It is likely that the use of the epithets was motivated by the wish to paint a more graphic picture of the described events; as a result, they are supposed to convey the author’s message more vividly. Indeed, by focusing on the characteristic that is the defining one for every phenomenon from the author’s perspective, the essay offers its reader an opportunity to view the described events the way Nelofer Pazira did. To the same effect, the author uses similes, which can be defined as the comparison of different phenomena which are united by a similar feature (Harris 85).
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For instance, the yellow flowers are described as being “scattered around like tiny stars.” Similarly, the red flowers encountered by Nelofer Pazira are “like an impressionist masterpiece,” and the hills “look like mountains of green velvet.” All the similes seem to communicate the author’s perception of the described phenomena: for example, the hills are perceived by a child as large and impressive. The mentioned similes also describe the beauty of the serene landscape that Nelofer Pazira witnesses, but the epithets are related both to the peaceful events and the more disturbing elements of the essay. Coupled with the discussion of the upcoming conflict between the Soviet Union and Afghanistan, the description of the burned carcasses of the fish seems to be an allusion to the devastation of war, which means that the epithets and similes help the author to describe the peace and war in greater detail and communicate the contrasts between them. The present analysis is limited by the consideration of the devices that are used in the essay frequently, and the determination of the purpose of epithets and similes can only be inferred, but the assessment of their effects can be viewed as relatively accurate since it reflects the perceptions of a reader of the essay.
Harris, Robert A. Writing with Clarity and Style. 2nd ed., Routledge, 2017.