Adrian Mole: The Wilderness Years

“Adrian Mole: The Wilderness Years” by Sue Townsend and how the author uses literary devices to add suspense

In all the aspects of literature, authors use literary devices to add suspense, depth, and significance to their works.  This concept is valid in “Adrian Mole: The Wilderness Years” by Sue Townsend. The diary-type story revolves around a young adult named Adrian, who constantly goes through the tragedies of life, but finally with some fortunate fate, achieves to live a life in which he cannot “fail to see the happiness.” (p 267) Therefore, in order to make the readers laugh at several tragedies of life, Townsend establishes an accurate use of the literary devices of irony, satire, and exaggeration to create a humorous plot.

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The irony is a significant literary device, which is used many times to achieve a good sense of humor. A perfect example of a use of irony is seen in the description of the psychologist of the main character, Lenora. “After all, she was just a psychologist. God! She wasn’t! Apart from Pandora [his infatuated love], she was probably the loveliest woman I have ever spoken to. I found it hard to take my eyes off her black suede shoes with high heels. “(p. 35)”

Before the entrance of Adrian to the psychologist’s room, he obviously does not expect much of a physical appearance. However, after he enters the room, ironically, Lenora turns out to be a smashing woman. Another use of irony is present in Adrian’s description of his mother in the new year’s eve: “As she slopped wine into a plastic glass for me, I could have a chance to take a close look at her. Her lips were surrounded red, her hair was blonde and glossy. Her cleavage wrinkled and her belly protruded from the little black dress (very little) she wore. The poor woman was forty-seven, and twenty-three years older than her second husband.” (p. 3)

Here, first Mrs. Mole is described as if she is a twenty-year-old girl, but at the end of the description, he reveals her actual age – 47 – which is rather ironic for such an appearance. Last and the most obvious, Adrian’s Russia Trip turns out to be ironic: “Saturday, August 17th: There is no cruise ship. There are no passengers. Each member of our party is paddling their own canoe. I am crouched inside a two-man tent. Outside are swarms of huge, black mosquitoes. They are waiting for me to emerge. With a bit of luck, I will die in my sleep.” (p 148)


The first sentence gives away Adrian’s actual expectations for the trip. Despite his assumptions of a cruise ship and a fancy trip, the reality is that everyone is paddling a canoe through mosquitoes and swarms. Ironically, instead of a relieving vacation, Adrian prefers a painless death that would save him in his sleep. To sum up, the use of irony adds humor to pitiful situations, having the reader enjoy every bit of the novel.

Satire, another literary device that is used in the story, strengthened the humor basis of the plot by its scornful style. The first use of a satiric expression is involved in Adrian’s view of his infatuated love’s, Pandora’s, husband. “Julian, Pandora’s upper-crust husband was boring as hell. It’s a mysterious surprise how a girl like Pandora, could marry a callous creature like Julian.” (p. 16) Adrian’s ultimate jealousy towards Julian can be concluded from this satiric description. Furthermore, an extract from Adrian’s interpretation of his boss, Brown, can also be given as an example of a satire usage. “Brown, and the lovely Megan. Why does woman throw themselves at worn-out old gits like Brown and Cavendish, and ignore young, virile, bearded men like me? It defies logic.” (p 41) Just like he did to Pandora’s husband, Adrian feels hatred to Brown, because he has the chance to be with the loveliest woman in Newport. Here, “worn-out git” is a very good example of satire, which is deliberately used to describe a first-class boss. The final instance of a satiric description is present in Adrian’s thoughts towards the secret relationship of his fiancé with his mother’s fiancé, Martin Muffet.  “…he put the luggage down on the platform, and then put his arms around Bianca’a slim shoulders. Bianca said, “I am sorry Adrian.” Muffet said, “so am I.” That moment I recalled the “monkey” scene in my novel: “Lo! The Flat Hills of My Homeland.” (p 231)

In the “monkey scene” of Adrian’s novel, the main character John discovers that the extremely beautiful mermaid he fell in love with, elopes with a gorilla. Even though this part of the novel is supposed to be an emotional one, with the use of satire, Townsend does not let the reader lose their smile. As a conclusion, then, the use of satire, while deepening the characterizations, brings along some sense of humor to true tragedies.

Exaggeration is a significant factor used to create develop humor in the book. To begin with, Adrian describes the lavatory in his train to Greece, like the following: “Imagine that twenty buffalo with loose bowels have been trapped inside the lavatory for two weeks. Then try to imagine that an open sewer runs across the floor. Add an I.R.A prisoner on dirty protest. Then concoct a smell by digging up a few decomposed corpses, add a couple of healthy young skunks and you come quite near to what the lavatory looks and smells like.” (p. 151).

A straightforward usage of exaggeration is seen in this quotation since it is not logical to imagine things such as twenty buffaloes, being trapped inside a train lavatory. Next, the reader comes across with Adrian’s plans towards Pandora’s ex-boyfriend, Cavendish.


1)           Chain him to the wall with a glass of water just beyond his grasp.

2)           Force him to sit in a room with Ivan Braithwhite while Ivan talks about the finer details of the Labor Party’s Constitution, with particular reference to Clause Four. (This is true torture, as I can bear witness)

3)           Show him a video of Pandora getting married to me. She radiant in white, me in top hat and tails, putting two gloved fingers up at Cavendish.

4)           Chain him naked to a wall while a bevy of beautiful girls walks by, cruelly mocking his flaccid and aroused penis.

(p. 121)

In the instance, with the addition of a sexual pun, the idea of exaggeration in the tortures becomes clearer. Actually, it is an obvious fact that Adrian cannot materialize any of the items in the list, what he does only consists of his fantasies. Likewise, another accurate use of exaggeration is involved in Adrian’s description for the night he spent with his girlfriend, Bianca. “I never want to leave this room. I want to live the whole of my life within these four walls (with occasional trips to the bathroom, which we have to share with a fire-eater called Norman).” (p 184) The strong effect of the night he spent with his girlfriend reveals itself very clearly here since it is a plain exaggeration to desire to spend the entire lifetime within four walls, with the only accompaniment of a girlfriend. In short, while irony and satire add some sense of laughter to tragedies, the use of exaggeration makes the whole story more cheering.

As a conclusion, Sue Townsend develops a humorous novel plot by the effective uses of irony, satire, and exaggeration. Exaggeration and satire, especially when used in Adrian’s explanations on the people he is jealous of, add remarkable depth to the situations along with a great sense of humor. With the influence of irony, the forthcoming parts of the story foreshadow, leaving the reader all out of chances, but to finish the book. In short, “Adrian Mole: The Wilderness Years” is a shiny mirror of our time, reflecting the middle-class youth, who are unfortunate not to get the most of their wishes, but proud enough to be grateful to the spiritual values they own.

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