Figurative Language To understand poetry: try to understand the literal meaning of the poem. (what is it saying.) interpret the figurative language to determine what special meaning the words may take on. (what does it mean.) The literal meaning of a sentence conveys the exact meaning of the words used. (The fire is hot.) Figurative language departs from the actual, or literal meaning of words to create an effect. (That music is hot!) Knowing types of figurative language will help interpret poetry.
1. simile • Compare two things – use the word “like” or “as” • My fist is like a rock. • What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up Like a raisin in the sun? • I cried like a two-year-old
2. metaphor • Compare two things – saying one thing “is” another. • My fist is a rock. • The Olympic mountains are a wall protecting us from storms. • Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard Are sweeter, therefore, ye soft pipes, play on; • I was knee-high… • And the harp with a woman's head Leaned against her shoulder. Her thin fingers, moving In the thin, tall strings, Wereweav- weav- weaving, Wonderful things.
3. personification • Giving human or living qualities to a non-human or non-living thing. • Notice that personification occurs with the use of a subject and verb in the line. • She sang as she worked, And the harp-stringsspoke. • The mountainstood firm. • The curtainsdanced in the wind. • My mind begins to peek and peer. • …Makes your mother’s blood crawl, • A wind with a wolf’s head, howled about our door.
4. analogy • This is an extended metaphor. It doesn’t make an explicit comparison. It suggests the comparison. • (metaphor) The fog is a cat sitting, looking over the city. • (analogy) The fog comes on little cat. • (analogy) A boat with a furled sail at rest in a harbor. In truth, it pictures not my destination, but my life.
5. metonymy • Substitution of one word for another, which is suggests. • We enjoyed the good table of our hostess, who fed us well. (food) • Paid tribute to the crown. (king) • The white house said today: (president)
6. Synecdoche • Using a word that is a part of a thing, but represents the whole thing. • All hands on deck. (meaning workers.) • That dude is wearing cool threads. (meaning clothes.) • Check out my wheels. (meaning the car.) • Boys in the hood.
7. apostrophe • Direct address to a non-living thing. • “O Springtime, thou art lovely.” • (screaming at the car when it won’t start) “I hate you. I hate you. I hate you.”
8. hyperbole • Exaggeration • I’ve got a ton of homework tonight. • It’s going to take me a year to get it done.