metaphor | a woman walks down a glomy, grey path n the distance, but holds a bright pink umbrella above her - an indication of brighter things to come.

Metaphor

What is meant by the term metaphor?

Metaphor is language that directly compares seemingly unrelated subjects. It employs “figurative language” or “figures of speech”.  A figure of speech is a word or phrase that departs from straightforward, literal language. Figures of speech are often used and crafted for emphasis, freshness of expression, or clarity.

The difference between a metaphor and a simile? A simile is to compare something to something else; a metaphor is to speak as if something is something else.

Here’s an extract from TS Eliot’s The Love-Song of J Alfred Prufrock:

‘…the yellow smoke that slides along the street,

Rubbing its back upon the window-panes’

Note here how Eliot describes the ‘yellow smoke’ as if it is a conscious entity, an animal, ‘Rubbing its back on the window-panes’ – this is an example of metaphor where what is probably fog is described as if it is a cat. If Eliot had extended the second line to read ‘Rubbing its back upon the window-panes like a cat’, then the image would become a simile rather than a pure metaphor.

The technique of speaking of/describing an object, non-human/animal entity (like a tree or a flower), or abstract, as if it is a person or animal is called personification.

 

Here’s an example of personification of inanimate things in a poem:

The Old Pianos

On the stave of a curb-lined street I stopped

by a piano shop, stared in the window

at the old mahogany men crouched round

their stools in the shade, baring their yellowing

teeth, odd gaps of ebony in-between –

I lingered; longed to brush white their

un-fingered gap-toothed ivories.

Here you can see the old pianos are described as if they are old men “crouched round their stools” with “gap-toothed ivories”. Now try writing in the same way, using personification, to describe the object in front of you.

compiled by Alan Morrison for Creative Future

 

Photo by h.koppdelaney

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