Examples of Defamiliarization in Literature

July 16, 2021 by Essay Writer

Updated: Nov 12th, 2019

There are many art and design movements, techniques, and philosophies that mark the development of each successive epoch, era, or generation of creators. Hence, the multiple ways of recreating the reality have been invented to reflect the views of artists in a unique, striking way. The main goal of the artist is to communicate a particular message to the viewers, listeners, or readers. The techniques used are highly helpful to communicate some implicit, delicate meanings that would have otherwise remained unveiled in the realm of others.

Defamiliarization is one of the helpful stylistic techniques of such kind, and this essay shall analyze examples of defamiliarization and the benefits of its usage. It has become an invention of the 20th-century artists and is used to show the familiar conventional things, objects, or notions in an unusual way. The way of depicting them should appear so weird or funny for the object that he or she will come to reconsidering and re-finding them in the new aspect of his or her cognition. The technique can be used in every field, including literature, both poetry and prose, photography, design, and other artistic professions.

Focusing on the use of defamiliarization in literature, one should note that Virginia Woolf is one of the representatives of modernism in literature who intensely used this method. Defamiliarization in her short stories is clearly evident, and the work “Three Guineas” is an excellent example of how she does it. In her narrative, Woolf often uses defamiliarization, especially foregrounding, to illustrate her feminist ideas and fight against masculinity in society.

Depicting the bridge on which the female character fancies to be standing, the author dedicates several pages to the description of clothes men traditionally wear in the society to display their military or social honors. Though the practice was conventional and remains as such, the way Woolf depicts it appears strange for the readers, and some of them may devote some time to reconsidering the role these traditional attributes had for the society and for women put away from the scene of action as well.

Other writers used many defamiliarization effects in their works as well. For instance, Lev Tolstoy is known for his intense usage of the method, and Tolkien spoke much on the defense of the method, especially in such genres as science fiction or fantasy.

Tolkien considered the method highly effective for fantasy stories because it helped people look at the regular things they came across in life from a completely different angle. For example, Tolkien’s work “The Lord of Rings” may be considered in terms of defamiliarization usage.

All characters of the story represent some archetypes of people; dwarfs are the laborers, the brave and hard-working class wishing to retain their right for freedom and free toil. Hill-men are the elite that possesses some extraordinary, magical abilities, and who live almost eternally.

As is evident from the examples of defamiliarization, people are usually depicted with their humane worries, good and bad intentions, and the fight for power and dominance. In general, the situation discussed in work is a usual one for the modern world and for the time Tolkien lived and worked. Still, it is represented with the help of mystical creatures and magical activities.

There are brave and courageous creatures, real friends, traitors, evil creatures wishing to engage only in violence, power-seeking villains, and courageous heroes saving the Universe. This is the model of the human world with its strengths and weaknesses. Thus, it can be concluded that there are multiple examples of defamiliarization in literature. Still, with the help of defamiliarization, it looks weird because it is inhabited by non-human characters whose actions are far beyond the normal state of affairs in the real-time world.


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