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My question is How does the writer use literary techniques to appeal to a young male audience in The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan. While I was reading the text, I was taken in to it far more than I've ever been in a book. Although it was directed more towards a young male audience, it was still written expertly. I therefore wanted to delve deeper into exactly what the writer did, and how the writer created such suspense and entertainment. First, I did some background study on Greek mythology, and The Lightning Thief itself. Then I read through the book again, making careful note of all the relevant techniques I could find, and how they relate to the target audience. I started noticing littler things, like the very idea of the main character, Percy Jackson, and noted down how this was relevant as well. In this essay, I comment and analyze on the techniques that he uses, and why they show an understanding of the target audience, young males. After doing all of this, I now see that he uses symbolism, sound effects, and several other techniques, notably the characterization of Percy Jackson, in such a way that it could be said that they are all combined, or polymerized. I was, and am still, very impressed.
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Riordan uses many techniques effectively to convey senses and emotions to the audience, and to bring them into the story, such as symbolism, sound effects, characterization, drama, and foreshadowing. The characterization is definitely the most prominent aspect out of these, especially with the main character, Percy Jackson. This is probably why this was such a successful novel, and such a fun read. But why did he choose to write it the way he did? Most definitely due to his target audience. So, how does the writer use literary techniques to appeal to a young male audience in The Lightning Thief?He does this by conveying the themes of power through words, adding a sense of fun, relating the setting to his audience, and most of all, characterization. Especially the main character.
Percy Jackson is a delinquent twelve year old in a normal world, until he finds out that everything about Greek mythology is very real, and he's a strong part of it all. He meets gods that are obsessed with power, which obviously introduces the theme of power; the most prominent and important theme in the book. It is written as a first person narrative, from the perspective of Percy Jackson, the protagonist of the novel, who notices everything. The author uses this astute perception to describe the details of the environment to the reader, bringing them in to the story. We quickly find out he is sarcastic, ironic, funny, and has a very relatable personality to the audience that the novel was directed at; young adults.
"Some writers will say that they don't have any audience in mind when they
write. They write solely for themselves, or for posterity, or because they are driven internally to tell the story. That's all fine and legitimate. But as a teacher, I always drove home one thing to my writing students: You must have a sense of audience."(Ledwith) It's easy to see here that Riordan has this sense of audience that he's talking about. Not only is he conscious about who he's writing to, but it's apparent in the actual book that he knows how to communicate to his chosen audience."Who are you writing for? You can't expect a business inquiry to be written the same as a letter to your friend. Nor should you expect a college physics textbook to be written the same way as a fairy tale book for elementary students. Audience, for this writer, is critically important. I would submit that it's important to any writer. It's a fundamental element of good communication. You should always be mindful and considerate of your audience."(Ledwith) Says Rick Riordan in an interview for the New York Ties. This proves that Riordan was paying attention to his target audience whilst he wrote this book. When asked how he does this, he responded:
"I do this primarily by knowing my audience -- writing for them and to them. What does that mean? Writing with a strong plot, for one thing. Writing about characters that kids can relate to. Writing with humor and suspense to keep the pages turning. Writing as clearly as I can, so the sentence structure flows well when read aloud, and the prose becomes a smooth-running vehicle to deliver the story. And, like myths, my stories repeat familiar patterns - the hero's quest, in particular."(Ledwith)
On the theme of power, each god has their own symbol of power; Poseidon's trident, Zeus's lightning bolt, Hades' helmet, Ares' shield, etc. There are lots of these symbols. They each symbolize the power of the gods. Riordan makes the audience apparent in the intro of the book, where the main character is introduced as a young
male, and the writing style is quick paced and fun, plunging straight into the story. This makes who the author intends to be the target audience, young males.Young males typically have difficulty with authority in our culture. This authority and power
is something that the gods abuse, at least from the perception of Percy Jackson. Because the book is written from Percy Jackson's point of view, it allows the reader to relate to the perception of the book, so the writing keeps their interest, and keeps them wanting to read. It's a simplistic way to write, which suits this audience.
Percy mentions gods' names very casually, which is strongly discouraged by the other characters. Mr. D tells him, "Young man, names are powerful things. You don't just go around using them for no reason".(Riordan 79) After constantly being corrected and warned not to say certain gods' names out loud, Percy cries, "Look, is there anything we can say without it thundering?"(Riordan129) This outburst of sarcasm provides humor for the reader. This appeals not only to the target audience, but almost all audiences, as humor is just about universally enjoyed in a read. Normally if the target audience would be in this situation, they would want to say something similar to this, but in reality, they wouldn't for fear of getting in trouble. The build up to this line makes the reader hope that Percy would say something like this, but not really expect it. When he finally does say this, it typically would make the reader love the character, and expect more sarcasm from him. It's an easy thing to relate to for a young male. Percy Jackson tends to speak out more than just this time, especially when it comes to names.
Names seem to be almost like spells in the immortal world - when you say them aloud, it's like performing a certain kind of magic. It's as though the gods are always listening and watching, and when you say their name aloud, you get their
attention. Getting their attention is not such a good thing when you are trying to hide from them. Because these gods, creatures, and monsters have been around for thousands of years, their names have thousands of years of meaning tied to them. This
is yet another way to present the power that the gods have, that even their names are a way for them to control people. It's also something that students can relate to. Students wouldn't address their teacher as 'Rob', students would address their teacher as 'Mister Lee'. We never use first names, only last names. The same goes with our parents, we call them mom and dad, or mommy and daddy, or mother and father. We don't call them by their names. Casually addressing someone by their name is a privilege that is practically forbidden to young males, with one of the only exceptions being their friends. This is something Riordan uses to relate to young males, along with another thing that audience typically enjoys a lot of: games.
We know that Mr. D loves playing Pinochle and often is defeated quite badly by Chiron. He is shocked to know that Percy doesn't know how to play. Annabeth is the captain of the Capture-the-Flag team - she and other campers spend weeks strategizing and preparing for games. It's not a typical PE activity. These games are violent and remind the reader of what it's like to be on a quest. The idea of a quest is exciting to most readers. Percy, Grover, and Annabeth play hacky sack with an apple as they wait for a Greyhound bus. Later on, they nearly forget their mission all together when they find themselves in the Lotus Hotel, which is a Casino that provides free food and drinks, arcades, and rooming. All this talk of games makes us think of how Percy often tells us that he feels like a pawn of the gods, manipulated and used by them, as if the lives of mortals were just a game for the gods. Their power over him restrains him in a similar way to society's power over young males.
Also, in general, young males love games. Video games, football, baseball, arcades, etc. they just can't stay away. Most people would find all of the talk of games in the book interesting, but especially the young male audience. Percy also enjoys these
games, and all of the companions enjoy specifically the Lotus Hotel, a place where visitors get distracted from their objectives, and don't age. Ultimately, this is not only something young males can relate to, as video games are something they use to procrastinate and distract them from work, but it's also something of a life lesson. Their quest becomes very difficult and rushed due to their wasted time in the hotel. Something that all students could think about when given schoolwork.
The gods follow the heart of Western Civilization. But what exactly is "Western Civilization," and why are the gods so keen on it? Chiron says, "Come now, Percy. What you call 'Western civilization.' Do you think it's just an abstract concept?â€¦ And yes, Percy, they are now in your United States."(pg 189 The Lightning Thief)â€¨Western civilization is "a living force," a "collective consciousness." It sounds to the reader like Western civilization is a way of life, a belief system. Boys' minds wonder off quite a bit. They often create their own realities in their minds. They often imagine different worlds, they go into "wonder land" so to speak. This idea of western civilization being a way of life, and this fire burning, growing and migrating is something that that audience would really think about and ponder over. It's something they would relate to, because it's different, it's unique. It's saying that the world we live in is actually something different from what we think it is. It's an idea that is simply appealing. This is definitely a strong magnet for the young male audience. Perhaps the fact that the world is different than how we see it, could also be
referring to a different world entirely, possibly the one we experience in our dreams.
Percy doesn't have many peaceful nights of sleep in this story. The audience quickly learns that his dreams are messengers from the gods and from Kronos, or perhaps they are the way his half-god self communicates and taps into the immortal world and into certain prophecies. His first dream is of an eagle and a horse fighting to the death on a beach - the eagle and the horse represent Zeus and Poseidon, respectively. This particular dream symbolizes the war that will take place if Zeus's master bolt is not returned, but, at the time, Percy has no idea that the gods exist or that he is a half-blood. In many stories, dreams are often used to create tension or foreshadowing. The way the dreams and foreshadowing are used in this book, make it obvious what's going to happen. Obvious, but not so obvious that you don't have to think about it. Because they're easy enough for most people to understand, but hard enough for some audiences to have to think about it, it draws readers in. This is because people like to figure things out, it makes them feel like they're relating to the story, and like they're making friends with the characters. It's perfectly designed so that the young male audience is very enticed by their ability to figure things out, and put things together. This makes them want to keep reading, and enjoy themselves more. One thing that helps the audience figure things out, is being drawn into the story, especially with use of the senses.
The five senses are very important in this story. During the burning sacrifices of food, Percy goes into great detail describing the incredible and confusing smell coming from the fire. No wonder the gods love to have food sacrificed to them. Percy and Annabeth let their taste buds take over as they are lured into Aunty Em's warehouse, and Percy tastes his mom's chocolate chip cookies when he drinks nectar.
Grover's sense of hearing is incredible- how he can hear the snakes hissing underneath Aunty Em's veil. â€¨â€¨Percy is really good at noticing a million things at once. He learns to observe things like centaurs running wild in the midwestern countryside or where the water pipes might be located in the Tunnel of Love ride. When Percy is underwater, his sense of touch is heightened, and he is able to make anything that he touches completely dry, including his clothes. Swords feel weird in his hand until he meets Riptide for the first time. Having really sharp senses seems to be a key aspect of being a hero and of Ancient Greek life. All of the senses shown in the book bring the reader in, and allow them to experience the journey with Percy. The immortal world makes the mortal world seem boring and tedious. Most teenage boys would agree that the normal world is very boring, and they wish for more. Through the senses portrayed in the novel, Percy sees the world the same way. Yet again, we see a way the target audience can relate to this very relatable character. It's as if the author has taken everything about the average young male, put them all together, and named his creation Percy Jackson. The characterization in the story is truly the most prominent aspect of appeal. The audience also needs to relate to the area, they need to be able to picture where the story is actually happening.
This story itself takes place everywhere: in the sky, in the sea, underground, and all across America. It takes place in the present, and so the reader can probably recognize a lot of the places that Percy visits, both from the world they live in and the Ancient Greek stories they may have heard about. It also allows them to have an understanding of the culture and background that the story takes place in, making decisions and events easy for them to understand.
Percy is from Queens, NY. His mom lives in a little apartment with Percy's
stepdad, Smelly Gabe. Percy always seems to feel homesick for this apartment. This desire to go home tells us a lot about how much he loves his mom, because going home also means confronting the worst stepdad in the world. Out of all the places people from Riordan's target audience might live, Queens, New York was probably the best place to choose for Percy to live, in terms of relating to his audience. This is because Queens, New York is quite a well known place. It's a place that has a lot of common characteristics of American society; school bullies, apartments/rent, semi-decent housing, divorce, etc. It's just about impossible for most young males to not have something to relate to.
Percy's stepdad is the embodiment of how young people often see their step parents. "Smelly Gabe was in the living room, playing poker with his buddies. The television blared ESPN. Chips and beer were strewn all over the carpet." Gabe uses Percy's room as his "study," littering his magazines and dirty clothes everywhere. â€¨â€¨ It doesn't matter what a step parent is actually like, the perception of them will always be the same; they just can never replace a real parent. This is something particularly directed at readers who have gone through some sort of divorce. It's a common situation that they can relate to. And to see that his step dad is with the worst of them, almost brings them justice. Finally, someone sees the step parent as badly as they do. Also, the fact that Gabe uses Percy's room as a study to throw his junk everywhere, is something every child can relate to; that invasion of privacy that just about every parent is guilty of. It's annoying for even the most tolerant adolescent, but we have to put up with it, just like Percy Jackson. There aren't only negative points to relate to, though. There are also positive points, such as vacationing with your parents, and the
Percy and his mom have being going to Montauk Beach since Percy was a baby, and this beach is also the place where Sally fell in love with Poseidon. When they visit, all of their fears seem to melt away, and Sally seems to get younger and more carefree. They tell stories and forget the real world for the weekend. Riordan doesn't limit Percy's appeal to the young reader with just situations they can relate to, he also has experiences that many readers can only dream of. Deep down, every kid wants to go on a vacation to the beach with their mother, and just get away from everything. Seeing him do it, even with all of the other stuff going on in the book, almost gives the reader hope that it might happen to them.
Camp Half-Blood isn't your normal camp where the campers learn skills like swimming, canoeing, and arts and crafts. It's a camp for young demi-gods and demi-goddesses. There, half-bloods train in the art of killing monsters and of surviving in the mortal and immortal worlds. Mr. D is the camp director, and Chiron, a famous hero trainer, helps out. Camp Half-Blood is the perfect example of how Percy notices everything. He tells the reader, "in all there were maybe a hundred campers, a few dozen satyrs, and a dozen assorted wood nymphs and naiads". And, "The landscape was dotted with buildings that looked like ancient Greek architectureâ€¦ and, unless I was hallucinating, some of their horses had wings" He notices everything. This isn't particularly a trait that most readers would have in common with Percy, but it certainly draws the readers in. It gives them a good description of where Percy is, and what's going on, so they never get confused. It's like watching a movie, but better because you can use your imagination rather than rely on someone else's interpretation.
There is a point in the story that is symbolic to choices people make. When
they're young, people often are given two choices. This symbolism takes place in the Underworld. The Underworld is a vast world underground ruled by Hades, where the dead go to exist for eternity. It is divided into three fields: the Elysian Fields (prime real estate), the Asphodel Fields (neither good, nor bad; just so-so), and the Fields of Punishment (torture central). The dead have two options: the "ATTENDENT ON DUTY" line and the "EZ DEATH" line. For those who'd like a chance to make it to Elysium (prime real estate), they need to pass through the long ATTENDENT ON DUTY line, so that they can be evaluated by three judges (judges are spirits like Shakespeare, King Minos, and Thomas Jefferson) For those who wouldn't like to be judged (for fear of being sent to the Fields of Punishment for bad deeds they might have done), they can simply take the EZ DEATH line and spend eternity in the Asphodel Fields (not bad and not good, just so-so). This choice could remind the reader of a choice often given to them by their parents; like a gamble. In school, my parents used to tell me that if I make good grades, they'll reward me. If I make okay grades, they will not do anything. And if I make bad grades, they'll punish me. At younger ages, many readers have probably gone through similar situations with their parents. These two lines are a great representation of this, and many readers might be able to recognize this.
Recounting on Percy, we've seen that he is witty and sarcastic, rebellious yet loving, and the things that happen to him are very similar to the things that happen to young males. To the target audience, he is a very relatable character in a very relatable book. The things that they go through, their best friend Percy Jackson also has to go through, and that's what he becomes by the end. The reader's friend. This impressive degree of characterization and relation to the audience is also seen in all of
the other techniques used by Riordan; symbolism (the pearls), foreshadowing (dreams, Oracle), drama (betrayal, Annabeth), sound effects (sibilance with Medusa), and humor. All of these techniques are utilized to the fullest to bring in the audience, particularly young males, and intrigue them.