The language of the short story “The Penis” by Hanif Kureishi is simple and humorous. Humour is created through the absurdity of the situation and the surrealist context (the penis is alive and has a personality of his own). The choice of words reflects a post-modernist urban setting, in which sexual objectification is common. The author mixes narration with dialogue, and the style of writing is concise and logical.

Imagery is used mostly in connection with characters’ actions and the penis (the way it looks and acts). This imagery helps give this surrealist scenario more authenticity and makes it easier for the readers to create mental images of something which could not happen in real life:


Other language devices used by the author further help with the imagery and make the narrative more appealing. Here are some of the most important ones:


The author makes three allusions in the story. The first is to Don Giovanni, the classic opera in two acts with music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, inspired by the life of the libertine Don Juan.


Similes and metaphors

A number of similes add to the imagery of the short story. The porn film that Alfie watched “was like a butcher’s shop” (p. 79, l. 13). The penis was “answering questions like a true professional” (p. 82, ll. 35-36) and is described by Doug as “a big fat happy thing like you” (p. 83, l. 34).


Rhetorical questions

The author uses two rhetorical questions to convey Doug’s thoughts. The first one suggests the pride the man takes in being a porn star:



Some elements in the story function as symbols. The penis is symbolic of sexuality and manhood. The organ has become so valuable for Doug that it has become his main defining attribute.


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