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Old 11-01-2008, 04:21 AM
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Default Simile and Metaphor


A simile says "X is like Y". "Like" or "as" are the words to look for. T.S. Eliot uses evocative similes in "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock". What do you think he means when he says "the evening is spread out against the sky / Like a patient etherized upon a table"? That patient could be heavy, slack, quiet, unnatural, unresponsive, or filled with foreboding. Eliot leaves it to the imagination, and his poem benefits.

Explicit similes point to particular aspects of the comparison:

"Tears fell like rain." (general) "Tears fell as steadily as rain." OR "Tears fell like rain: unwelcome and unstoppable." (explicit)

Saying that something is "as clear as mud" is an ironic simile. These work best when the two things are easily understood as not similar.

A metaphor says "X = Y", or simply uses Y in place of X. When Langston Hughes says that, without dreams, "life is a broken-winged bird / that cannot fly", that is a metaphor. Life is not a bird, but it shares the characteristics of one. Alfred Noyes' "The Highwayman" is rich with metaphors: "The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas", and "The road was a ribbon of moonlight".

"The used car salesman slithered away" is a metaphor because the word "slithered" is only used for snakes. Thus, the salesman is being compared to a snake.

George Orwell, urging creativity in language, said to "never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print". So this month, invent your own similes and metaphors, and dazzle us with them!

Questions and comments about this lesson go in this thread. Your work can be posted as a separate thread with either "Simile" or "Metaphor" (or both!) in the title.

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