Glossary Home Literary Device


The audience of a piece of literature, a film, or a song, is the group for which an artist or writer makes a piece of art or writes.

The audience can be determined through the writer’s style, tone, content, use of language, and the format in which all of that is conveyed. The author will often specialize their writing in order to target a specific audience. This group is chosen because they have a particular connection to one part of the writer’s work. That could be the subject matter or the format the writing comes in.

The writer might choose a specific audience as they know this group will be emotionally affected by a poem or story or have more at stake in regards to a specific topic. The writer might even address an audience with the mindset of effecting change or influencing that group. 

Some writers write for a young audience, some for an older. Poets like Shel Silverstein and A.A. Milne wrote the majority of their works with kids in mind. While others, Edgar Allan Poe or Elizabeth Bishop, were targeting adult readers. If a writer is able to successfully target and impact their audience then it is more likely that their writing will become popular and gain greater traction within the literary community. 


Examples of Audiences in Literature

Example #1 Listen to the MUSTN’TS by Shel Silverstein 

In this poem, Silverstein uses simple, effective language to describe all the negativity a child will face in their life. His speaker encourages all those reading to ignore the voices of hate and pessimism in their heads and make their own way in the world. The first lines of the poem inform the child that they must take the time to listen to all the naysayers in the world. There are the “MUSTN’TS” and the “DONT’S” as well as the “WONT’S.”The creation of groups known as the “DON’TS” and “IMPOSSIBLES” is an amusing and effective device. It helps the young reader visualize the types of people they will encounter in their life. 

All of these people will tell the child that what they want can’t and should not occur. Take a look at the final section of text: 

Listen to the NEVER HAVES

Then listen close to me-

Anything can happen, child,


The child needs to hear them, and then push their voices aside so they can get on with making everything they want to happen. The final lines are addresses specifically to a “child”. This is a very obvious hint towards the poet’s intended audience. 


Example #2 Immigration by Ali Alizadeh 

A complex and moving poem, ‘Immigration’ explores themes of religion, alienation, and acceptance. It is is a captivating look at the positives, negatives, and the emotional and mental toll that immigration takes. The poem is directed at an audience who can understand the scenes that play out in the stanzas, but also at one that needs to understand. 

There are two types of readers who might encounter this piece. Those who understand what the speaker is talking about implicitly. They, as the poet has, have experienced the pains and joys of immigrating away from one country and into a safer one. Then, there are those who would be impacted by the emotion and strife conveyed in the text. This group might not understand an immigrant’s experience and therefore leave the poem better informed and more accepting of others who are unlike them.

Take a look at these lines from the poem: 

Worth it? Doubtless.

To finally grasp

humanity’s fraudulent truth.

To dream

the sweetness of equality.


Recommend it?

Only to loathsome enemies

and to my dearest friends.

Here, the speaker is describing the position immigration puts one in their new home. It is a double-edged sword. It’s painful to the point of misery but its also a relief from a world that was, in a different way, much worse. There are optimistic moments and pessimistic ones. The speaker asks in the last lines if they’d recommend it. Their answer is yes. To everyone, their dearest friends and their loathsome enemies, that is how troubling and emotional the situation is. Through the poet’s clear language and easy to understand imagery, any reader, sympathetic or not, should be moved by the text. 


Example #3 On the Sale By Auction of Keats’ Love Letters by Oscar Wilde

In ‘On the Sale By Auction of Keats’ Love Letters’ Wilde, who is certainly the speaker of the poem, depicts what he saw as a gross violation of Keats’ privacy by artistic illiterates. The poem is directed at those who are sympathetic to the same literary causes as Wilde is, but also to those who might be tempted to buy up and utilize Keats’ love letters. One might be if they are willing to have their opinion changed, influenced by Wilde’s plea for respect. Take a look at these lines from the middle of the sonnet: 

Ay! for each separate pulse of passion quote

The merchant’s price. I think they love not art

Who break the crystal of a poet’s heart

That small and sickly eyes may glare and gloat.

Here, the poet uses powerful words like “pulse,” “passion” and “glare and gloat” to contrast the love in Keats’ writing to the sickly money-hungry minds of those who want to take advantage of it. Their “small…eyes” want to peer into the letters and see what they can make a profit from or learn and share. Wilde wanted those who read this work to go away thinking that it is wrong to sell off and make use of Keats’ letters in this way. He should be respected as “Endymion,” a beautiful literary genius, taken before his time. 

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