Figurative Language Defining and analyzing figurative language
Figurative Language • Figurative Language refers to the use of literary elements that add texture and interest to writing. • Figurative language is a word or phrase that departs from everyday literal language for the sake of comparison, emphasis, clarity, or freshness. • Used well, figurative language enhances your writing and acts as a way of getting an image or a point across to the reader in clear and precise detail.
Alliteration • Alliteration: the repetition of the same sound at the beginning of a word, such as the repetition of b sounds in Keats's "beaded bubbles winking at the brim" ("Ode to a Nightingale") or Coleridge's "Five miles meandering in a mazy motion ("Kubla Khan"). • A common use for alliteration is emphasis. It occurs in everyday speech in such phrases as "tittle-tattle," "bag and baggage," "bed and board," "primrose path," and "through thick and thin" and in sayings like "look before you leap."
Irony • Irony is to stress the paradoxical nature of reality or the contrast between an ideal and actual condition, set of circumstances, etc., frequently in such a way as to stress the absurdity present in the contradiction between substance and form. • For example, “beautiful weather we are having!” when it is raining is a statement meant to place importance on the contrast. • Irony in literature extends this idea to show the disconnect between what should be and what the reality truly is.
Simile • A simile: a comparison of two dissimilar things using "like" or "as", e.g., "my love is like a red, red rose" (Robert Burns). • Watch for the differences between simile and metaphor. A Metaphor does not use “like” or “as” • Her hair glistened as brown and luxurious as a varnished Stradivarius violin
Metaphor • A metaphor: a comparison of two dissimilar things which does not use "like" or "as," e.g., "my love is a red, red rose" (Lilia Melani). • “The class was a ship and the teacher was the captain.” Notice how this comparison does not use “like” or “as”, differentiating it from the simile.
Personification • Personification: treating abstractions or inanimate objects as human, that is, giving them human attributes, powers, or feelings, e.g., "nature wept" or "the wind whispered many truths to me." • The tree rocked back and forth in the breeze, the leaves gently cradling the bird’s nest from the storm” • Since leaves do not “gently cradle” a bird’s nest, this is the attribution of human characteristics to the tree. Thus, this is an example of personification.
Hyperbole • Hyperbole: exaggeration, often extravagant; it may be used for serious or for comic effect. • “My mother spends about a thousand years shopping for groceries while I wait in the car.” • Obviously, I do not stay in the grocery store for “a thousand years”. Therefore, this is extreme exaggeration on the part of the speaker. This is what makes this a hyperbole.
Author’s Purpose • As you read, you will be looking for these and other elements of figurative language. • Your goal is to identify the author’s purpose in using that language. In other words, why did the author insert that simile there? Why a metaphor here or alliteration there? • To determine author’s purpose, read carefully, asking yourself, “What effect does this language have? What is the author asking me to see, feel or experience?”
Let’s look at an example “Francesco was my father’s best worker, someone who had risen from a position as manager of the family’s silk business in Genova. He was an honest soul who savored numbers as others might delicate dishes flavored with rosemary” (Beaufrand 11). What figurative language is used here? Can you find it?
Simile! • You’re right! It’s a simile. • The author compares the man’s love for numbers to another’s love for a fine dinner. • Notice the choice of diction, “savor”. What does it mean to savor? What’s the connotation of that word? How does it affect the meaning?
Examine the text • So as we read through and find the language that we need, we ask ourselves what the effect is. • What was the effect of that simile, that comparison? • How did the man feel about numbers? What kind of a person did his motivation make him? What would he have done or not done based on his sincere appreciation for his trade? ALL the answers to that are in TWO sentences! • All that meaning in one simile! That’s the power of words!
Theme • Theme is nothing more than the overarching idea of the story. • One theme in “On the Rainy River” might be the critical importance of allowing your conscience to guide you in your decisions. Another might be the ability to show courage under tremendous pressure. Yet another might be the true worth of the wisdom and experience that comes with old age. • Can you think of more themes? • In determining the theme in your novel, think about the key critical points in the novel. What are the characters dealing with? Loneliness, isolation, maturing, escaping? Those key moments in the text will guide you towards defining your theme(s).