Is this diction or repetition in the paragraph below? Is "prefer" diction or repetition? and what's the difference? Is it that diction is with one word and repetition is with two?

This is from Bartleby, the scrivener by Herman Melville.

I would prefer to be left alone here,” said Bartleby, as if offended at being mobbed in his privacy.
“That’s the word, Turkey,” said I – that’s it.”
“Oh, prefer? Oh yes—queer word. I never use it myself. But, sir, as I was saying, if he would but prefer—
“Turkey,” interrupted I, “you will please withdraw
“Oh, certainly, sir, if you prefer that I should.”
As he opened the folding-door to retire, Nippers at his desk caught a glimpse of me, and asked whether I would prefer to have a certain paper copied on blue paper or white. He did not in the least roguishly accent the word prefer. It was plain that it involuntarily rolled from his tongue.

1 Answer

It's both diction and repetition. Diction refers to word choice and repetition refers to the repeated use of a word or phrase to clarify an idea or message.


Before we dive in, I'd like to link in my favourite aid in questions concerning literary devices -

Ok - let's now talk about the question.

Diction - Diction refers to the choice of words a writer uses to convey his/her message. It sets the tone and helps the reader understand the underlying message of the story or piece of the story.

The use of the word "prefer" is a form of diction - the choice to use that particular word. But further, it's clear that there is a separation between "those who use words such as 'prefer'" and "those who wouldn't".

Let's take this one step further - the word "prefer" isn't one that is a rare or complex word, so to my mind it highlights just how little education the characters "Turkey" and perhaps even "Nippers" have.

Repetition - Repetition is the repeated use of a word or phrase in order to make an idea clearer.

The repeated use of the word "prefer" is also repetition - having the word repeated by different characters in different ways to highlight the relationships between the different characters and their educational differences.