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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


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"


tenor

vehicle

My Life had stood—a Loaded Gun

--Emily Dickinson


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”


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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