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Writing About Literature. 11. Metaphor and Simile. Metaphor. A comparison between two distinctly different things that actually have at least one thing in common. Examples:

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writing about literature

Writing About Literature

11. Metaphor and Simile

metaphor
Metaphor
  • A comparison between two distinctly different things that actually have at least one thing in common.
  • Examples:
    • Baby this town rips the bones from yourback. It’s a death trap, it’s a suicide rap. -- “Born To Run” by Bruce Springsteen
    • Eye, gazelle, delicate wandererDrinker of horizon’s fluid line. -- “Not Palaces, An Era’s Crown” by Stephen Spender
tenor and vehicle
Tenor and Vehicle
  • The building blocks of a metaphor.
    • Tenor is the subject that the metaphor is applied to.
    • Vehicle is the figure of speech which conveys meaning and helps us understand the tenor.
  • Example: America is a melting pot.
    • Tenor: America
    • Vehicle: melting pot
slide4

tenor

vehicle

O, my love is like a red, red rose,

(original: O, my luve\'s

like a red, red rose, )

--Robert Burns

"Red, Red Rose"

slide5

tenor

vehicle

My Life had stood—a Loaded Gun

--Emily Dickinson

slide6

tenor

vehicle

tenor

vehicle

I was of three minds,

Like a tree

In which there are three blackbirds

--Wallace Stevens “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird”

slide7

tenor

vehicle

I\'m a riddle in nine syllables,

An elephant, a ponderous house,

A melon strolling on two tendrils.

--Sylvia Plath “Metaphors”

implicit metaphor
Implicit metaphor
  • A metaphor in which the tenor is not specified, only implied.
    • Example: That reed was too frail to survive the storm of its sorrows.

--M.H. Abrams

    • Unspecified Tenor: a human being; Vehicle: reed
    • Specified Tenor: sorrows; Vehicle: storm
simile
Simile
  • A comparison between two distinctly different things that actually have at least one thing in common, indicated by the terms “like” or “as.”

While metaphor asserts identity, simile asserts similarity:

When the evening is spread out against the sky

Like a patient etherised upon a table

from "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" by TS Eliot

Idle as a painted ship upon a painted ocean

from "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

There are knives that glitter like altars

In a dark church

from "Butcher Shop" by Charles Simic

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