Have you ever been reading a story, only to be struck with d\u00e9j\u00e0 vu? Perhaps you noticed that roses had just been mentioned for the tenth time. Or daffodils. Or the colour purple.\r\n\r\nPerhaps you found yourself wondering, \u2018Why on earth is this author so obsessed with pineapples?\u2019 But what is it you are really noticing? What are these recurring symbols and images?\r\n\r\nIt may seem like you\u2019ve discovered a strange fetish of the writer, but what you have more likely stumbled upon are motifs.\r\n\r\nJust like any other literary device, writers can use motifs to add depth, convey meaning, and\/or shape the way a reader receives, responds to, or understands a text.\r\n\r\nHowever, before using any literary techniques, you should first make sure you are familiar with how it works. So, here are the things you may need to know about \u2018motif\u2019, before using it in stories of your own.\r\n\r\nWe explore how to make the most of the literary device 'motif'...\r\nWhat is a \u2018Motif\u2019?\r\nIn literature, a motif can be defined as any recurring image, object, idea, or element within a particular work. However, this definition is not entirely complete.\r\n\r\nAfter all, a motif should never be meaningless. In fact, a motif should contribute some form of symbolic significance to the story.\r\n\r\nFor instance, a motif may be used to establish mood (here's a mood definition for literature) and atmosphere, or to reinforce\/further explore the overriding themes of a story.\r\nMotif vs. Symbol\r\nAs motifs are often symbolic in nature, they can often be mistakenly identified as mere symbols.\r\n\r\nHowever, it is important to remember that these two literary devices are not one and the same.\r\n\r\nSo what is the difference between the two?\r\n\r\nThe key difference to note between motifs and symbols is the element of repetition.\r\n\r\nAs we\u2019ve already established, a motif is an item that reoccurs throughout a text. In contrast, a symbol may only appear once.\r\n\r\nBeyond this, a motif often contributes toward developing the themes of a text, whereas a symbol\u2019s significance may be limited to the particular scene.\r\n\r\nIn this way, a motif may be a symbol, but a symbol is not necessarily a motif.\r\nMotif vs. Theme\r\nAnother element \u2018motif\u2019 can often be mistaken for is \u2018theme\u2019.\r\n\r\nThis is no doubt due to the fact that motif and theme are so closely connected.\r\n\r\nWhile a theme can be defined as a key or central idea explored throughout a text, a motif is more a means of embellishing, examining, or reinforcing these central ideas.\r\n\r\nFor instance, a text may examine themes of good versus evil through the repeated images, or \u2018motifs\u2019, of light and dark.\r\nExamples of Motif from a Literary Master\r\nThe best way to understand any literary device is to study\u00a0examples of them in action.\r\n\r\nTo better understand \u2018motif\u2019 and its relationship with \u2018symbol\u2019 and \u2018theme\u2019, let\u2019s turn to a literary master, Mr. Edgar Allan Poe.\r\n\r\nThe Fall of the House of Usher is rich with examples of motif.\r\n\r\nFor example, the idea of certain things passing from one state to another is constantly repeated throughout the story.\r\n\r\nThe word \u201cpass\u201d or \u201cpassed\u201d, for instance, can be found on no less than seven occasions. On top of this, the very name \u2018Usher\u2019 (as in Roderick Usher) is associated with someone who directs us from one place to another. In this way, we can see a motif emerging, relating to the idea of transition.\r\n\r\nThis motif is also contributing to an overlaying theme \u2013 a theme of crossing, or transcending boundaries (particularly those between life and death).\r\n\r\nMadeline Usher, for example, is portrayed as crossing the boundary between life and death, when she emerges, alive, from her tomb.\r\n\r\nThis theme is further enforced by the motif of decay.\r\n\r\nFrom the description of the partially \u201ccrumbling\u201d house, and the \u201cdecayed trees\u201d, to the description of Roderick Usher, possessing a \u201ccadaverousness of complexion\u201d, the notion of death and decay is clearly repeated throughout.\r\n\r\nAs the very process of decay is itself a transitional state \u2013 one from pristine to ruin, we can see how this motif works to symbolise and reinforce the overall theme of crossing the boundary between life and death.\r\n* * *\r\nSo now you know more about motif, try identifying some of your own. The next time you read a novel, take note of the images and elements that reoccur. See how they are used, and what they symbolise. Then get writing, and practice using motifs of your own.\r\n\r\nOr, learn more about literary techniques here.