Eroding Relationships: How Erosion is Used as a Literary Device


Erosion is a natural process that occurs when forces like wind, water, or ice gradually break down and wear away the Earth’s surface. It is a slow yet steady force that can change landscapes over time. However, in the realm of literature, erosion takes on a more metaphorical meaning and is often used as a literary device to symbolize the gradual deterioration of relationships.

Just like how erosion wears down the physical world, the erosion of relationships is a gradual and sometimes imperceptible process. It begins innocently enough, with tiny cracks and imperfections. But over time, these tiny faults can accumulate and create irreversible damage, leading to the eventual crumbling and destruction of what was once a strong and solid bond between individuals.

One of the most famous examples of erosion as a literary device is found in William Shakespeare’s tragedy, “Macbeth”. Throughout the play, the relationship between Macbeth and his wife, Lady Macbeth, slowly disintegrates due to their ambition and greed for power. At the beginning of the play, they are a united and ruthless force, plotting and executing the murder of King Duncan. But as the play progresses, the guilt and paranoia of their actions start to erode their relationship, causing a strain and distance between them. In one of their final interactions, Lady Macbeth mutters, “Out, damned spot! Out, I say!” as she obsessively tries to wash the imaginary blood from her hands. This scene not only highlights Lady Macbeth’s descent into madness but also symbolizes the erosion of her relationship with Macbeth, as their once strong and united front is now tainted with guilt and deceit.

Another example of erosion as a literary device can be seen in John Steinbeck’s classic novel, “The Grapes of Wrath”. The story follows the Joad family as they are forced to leave their home and embark on a journey to find work and survive the harsh realities of the Great Depression. As they face one obstacle after another, the family, once bound by love and loyalty, starts to unravel under the pressure and strain of their circumstances. Throughout the novel, the slow erosion of the family’s relationships is evident, culminating in a heartbreaking scene where Tom, the eldest son, must leave his family and go into hiding after accidentally killing a man. This event not only marks the disintegration of the Joad family, but also reflects the erosion of the traditional American family structure during the Great Depression.

Aside from literature, erosion is also a prevalent theme in other forms of media. One such example is the hit TV series, “Breaking Bad”. The show follows the transformation of Walter White, a high school chemistry teacher, into a ruthless drug kingpin. As Walter’s actions become more and more unethical, his relationships with his family and friends start to erode. His wife, Skyler, is torn between her love for her husband and her fear of his dangerous actions. His partner, Jesse, also becomes more distant as Walter’s greed and ambition consume him. By the end of the series, the once strong bond between these characters has been chipped away and eroded due to Walter’s choices.

In conclusion, the use of erosion as a literary device in literature is a powerful tool to depict the gradual decline and decay of relationships. It serves as a warning that even the strongest and most stable bonds can be eroded and destroyed over time. Just like how the Earth’s surface changes due to erosion, relationships can also change and evolve in unexpected ways. Whether it be in Shakespeare’s tragic play, Steinbeck’s novel of struggle and survival, or in modern TV shows, the use of erosion as a metaphor highlights the importance of communication, honesty, and trust to prevent the erosion of relationships in our own lives.