Formalism In The Novel 'The Illegal'

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By applying the formalist lens to the novel, The Illegal, the deeper meaning of struggle and hardships faced by refugees in unknown and neighboring lands is depicted. Formalism is the analysis of literature itself through its literacy devices, themes and structure. There is no outside information used to understand the text, such as the authors personal life and the history of the era in which the book is written in. All characters in the novel are dealing with their own struggles which ties in with Keita, the protagonist’s story. Viola, uses Keita’s refugee and illegal immigrant status to discover private information about Zantoroland and its relations to Freedom State. Similarly, John benefits from Keita’s fame and respect, while Anton gains money. The author, Lawrence Hill, uses literary devices such as metaphors, irony and imagery to shape the novel's theme of survival and struggle. To survive is not to live life, but just continuing to exist despite struggling through obstacles.

Hill uses metaphors to foreshadow the theme of survival Keita is forced to combat. As Keita describes himself running, he “has learned to strike with his feet soundlessly” (Hill, 1), he highlights the word strike; to hit deliberately with one's hand or a weapon. Keita uses running as his weapon in the novel. In the fictional country of Zantoroland, running brings riches and honours which “symbolizes privilege” (17). However, in Freedom State, Keita uses running as a tool to just stay alive.

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