The Examination of Non-Literal Language in Literature

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Non-literal (Figurative) language uses words that digress from the traditionally accepted definitions to help relay a more complex meaning. It helps a writer to appear more persuasive, impactful an effective while writing their literal works. They capture the attention of the audience and also entertain them while also inciting questions such as the meaning behind certain statements.

There are different types of figures of speech some of them include, similes, personification, idioms hyperboles, and metaphors. Similes: can be defined as a figure of speech that can be used to make a comparison that shows the similarities between different objects (‘Simile – Examples And Definition Of Simile’). They often draw the resemblance using ‘like’ or ‘as’. From this, we notice that is a direct comparison.

Use: Authors use similes because they make literal work more lyrical, they help the readers to visualize the scene that they are reading by inciting their imagination (Matus) They were used in the classical era by writers like William Shakespeare.


Instead of saying that his marriage was a mess, one can use a simile like ‘His marriage was like a beach after a storm; tangled and messy.’ (2019, Why-do-authors-use-similes). By using the simile the reader can imagine how a beach looks like after a storm with fallen palm trees and other debris, therefore, looking dirty and unkept. The reader can then relate this scenario with the relationship of the character that they are reading while still understanding the deeper meaning.

The child’s cheeks were red like a rose is another example that allows the reader’s imagination to explore and know the intensity of the situation described. The writer can then tap the sympathy of the reader and make them want to know more of what happened to the child in question and the possible cause of the red cheeks if not mentioned previously in the statement.

Metaphors: These are figures of speech that hold implied comparisons. Phrases and words are applied to things that don’t necessarily rhyme with them.

Purpose: Metaphors are used to create strong impressions and lasting images (‘Metaphor Examples’). for example, ‘She is sad’ is blander as compared to ‘She is drowning in a sea if grief’. Additionally, metaphors allow authors to have a stronger impact on the audience. Use: They are mostly used in poetry because of their ability to paint a detailed image.

Examples of Metaphors Include

The curtain of night fell upon us. In this example, the night does not occur at once like dropping a velvet curtain onto the stage but gradually over a period of time. Therefore, the statement is impractical and does not make any sense. We can see however that the phrase used helps to paint a colorful picture for the readers. the statement is written to show the pace at which nightfall arrived with the darkness from the closing of a large curtain.

Moses is a walking encyclopedia. In the example or is not logical to have a book has two legs. The metaphor has a deeper meaning because it implies that Moses is extremely smart and has a lot of knowledge on multiple things (‘Metaphor Examples, Definition And Worksheets | What Is A Metaphor?’). The same way that encyclopedias cover multiple subjects and not just one subject.

Personification: Is a type of figure of speech in which non-living objects are given the personality of a living being such as emotions, speech desires, gestures, and speech.

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Purpose: Writers often use personification because it is easier for people to relate to things if they adopt human characteristics because they take on a human perspective (‘Personification – Examples And Definition Of Personification’). The nature of things is better understood in this way.

Use: Personification s often used in storybooks for example when animals take on the characteristics of humans such as emotions and speech. This concept is referred to as anthropomorphism (‘Personification’).

Examples of Personification Include

The stars danced playfully in the moonlight sky. From this statement, we obviously know that stars cannot dance. However, because they have taken on a more human-like characteristic in the phrase they are more relatable to the reader. The statement is used to describe that the stars were shining brightly in the night sky. The reader is able to easily visualize this because of the metaphorical phrase.

Another example s ‘Opportunity came knocking at his door.’ Opportunity is not a person and therefore does not make any logical sense that it was knocking at someone’s door. However, the statement is used to explain that the character that is being described was simply offered an opportunity. In the image described below the bag of money is the opportunity and the man in the image is the character being described.

Idioms: They are expressions that take on a non-literal meaning when different words are put together, which differ from the actual meaning of the individual word (‘What Is An Idiom? – Definition & Examples’).

Example of Idioms

‘Happy as a clam’. This idiom is used to explain the happiness that a character has. For example: ‘Martin is as happy as a clam’. In the real world, it would not make sense for a clam to be happy because they are sea organisms and don’t possess any feelings. We could say that the origin if the expression is because when clams open their mouths they appear to be smiling.

‘Pass the buck.’ The expression is used to explain that someone should not avoid doing their chores or any responsibilities and passing them on to another person. For example, ‘It’s Michael’s responsibility to wash the dishes. He shouldn’t pass the buck to his younger sister.’ (‘What Is An Idiom? – Definition & Examples’) The idiom originated from people playing poker in the early 1800s and would use the bucks to mark their deals.

Hyperboles: These are phrases that are used to exaggerate the description od =f a situation or something.

Use: They are often used in creative writing literature to help add humor or color to a character in the story. They also add emphasis to an otherwise simple statement or conversation (‘Examples Of Hyperbole’). They can be used in advertising, songs, and speeches.

Examples of Hyperbole

‘It was so cold; they saw polar bears wearing hats and jackets.’ Polar bears are mammals that live in the Arctic and are accustomed to cold weather (‘Examples Of Hyperbole’). They have thick coats of fur; therefore, it would be comical to see such animals wearing hats and jackets. The statement is simply used to describe the severity of the situation. From the characters’ perspective, it was extremely cold. ‘He was so hungry he could eat a horse.’ It would be impractical for a single person to eat an animal as large as a horse alone. The phrase is simply used to describe and give a picture of how hungry the person is.

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