The Rebel Poem: Analysis of Poetic Devices Used

Poetic devices used in “The Rebel” by D.J. Enright. The poem effectively employs these devices to highlight the rebel’s unconventional behaviour and challenge the norms of society. The major Poetic and prominent poetic devices used in the poem “The rebel” are explained below.

Poetic Devices in “The Rebel” Poem


When everybody has short hair,
The rebel lets his hair grow long.
When everybody has long hair,
The rebel cuts his hair short.

When everybody talks during the lesson,
The rebel doesn’t say a word.
When nobody talks during the lesson,
The rebel creates a disturbance.

When everybody wears a uniform,
The rebel dresses in fantastic clothes.
When everybody wears fantastic clothes,
The rebel dresses soberly.

In the company of dog lovers,
The rebel expresses a preference for cats.
In the company of cat lovers,
The rebel puts in a good word for dogs.

When everybody is praising the sun,
The rebel remarks on the need for rain.
When everybody is greeting the rain,
The rebel regrets the absence of sun.

When everybody goes to the meeting,
The rebel stays at home and reads a book.
When everybody stays at home and reads a book,
The rebel goes to the meeting.

When everybody says, Yes please,
The rebel says, No thank you.
When everybody says, No thank you,
The rebel says, Yes please.

It is very good that we have rebels.
You may not find it very good to be one.

Poetic Devices:

1. Contrast

The juxtaposition of opposites. The poem relies heavily on contrasting ideas to highlight the rebel’s actions. For example, the contrast between short hair and long hair, talking and silence, uniform and fantastic clothes, etc., serves to emphasize the rebellious nature of the protagonist highlighting the rebel’s tendency to go against the prevailing norms.

2. Repetition

The use of repetition is evident in the poem, particularly in the structure of the stanzas. The repetition of phrases like “When everybody” and “The rebel” creates a rhythmic pattern and emphasizes the rebel’s actions and the rebellion’s consistent nature in various situations.

3. Paradox

The poem employs paradoxical statements to underscore the rebel’s contradictory nature. For instance, the rebel cuts his hair short when everybody has long hair and grows his hair long when everybody has short hair. 

Another example – the rebel praising rain when everyone is praising the sun and regretting the absence of the sun when everyone greets the rain. 

These paradoxes add depth and complexity to the rebel’s character. This paradox invites the reader to consider the complexities of rebellion and individuality.

4. Irony

The poem employs irony to convey its message. The rebel’s actions are deliberately contrary to what is expected, highlighting the absurdity and unpredictability of rebellion.

Irony is present throughout the poem, particularly in the last two lines. The statement “It is very good that we have rebels” is ironic because it suggests that rebels are necessary and beneficial, while the concluding line “You may not find it very good to be one” hints at the challenges and consequences of being a rebel. 

5. Metaphor

The rebel’s actions can be seen as metaphors for nonconformity and challenging societal norms.

6. Antithesis

The poem uses antithesis by presenting opposing ideas side by side, creating a sense of tension and emphasizing the rebel’s role as a counterforce.

Examples include the rebel’s preference for cats in the company of dog lovers and his support for dogs in the company of cat lovers. This antithesis emphasizes the rebel’s tendency to go against the prevailing opinions or preferences of others.

7. Allusion 

Although not explicitly stated, the poem alludes to the concept of rebellion and the role of rebels throughout history and literature.

Though subtle, the poem makes an allusion to the biblical story of the Garden of Eden. The rebel’s remark on the need for rain when everybody praises the sun echoes the theme of rebellion against societal norms found in the story of Adam and Eve.

8. Epiphora 

The second and third lines are ending with the same phrase – “fantastic clothes.” (3rd stanza)  and “stays at home and reads a book.” (6th stanza).

9. Alliteration

It is the repetition of a letter at the start of closely placed words. 

Examples: The repetition of the letter ‘h’ in his hair.

The repetition of the letter: ‘r’ in – rebel remarks and rebel regrets. 

10. Symbolism in “The Rebel”

Symbolism is the use of symbols or objects to represent abstract ideas or qualities. 

In this poem, the rebel’s actions symbolize the concept of non-conformity and the rejection of societal norms.

Each stanza presents a contrasting situation where the rebel deliberately goes against the prevailing behaviour or opinions of the majority. These actions serve as symbols for the rebel’s defiance and desire to stand out from the crowd. The use of opposites, such as long hair/short hair, talking/not talking, uniform/fantastic clothes, and so on, reinforces the symbolic nature of the poem.

The rebel’s preferences and actions symbolize the need for individuality and the importance of challenging conventional thinking. The poem suggests that rebels play a valuable role in society, even if it may not always be easy or comfortable to be one.

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