Friday, March 14, 2014

Figurative Language - The Usual and Extraordinary - Part Three! by PerfettoWritingRoom (C)

A little secret is that what you are looking at above is really my husband's enormous hand-built, by scratch, ridiculous, over-the-top shed that, by the way, is make to look exactly like our house right down to the blue door, cream fa├žade and green shutters. A SECOND SECRET is that it is MY plan to make it my WRITING-ROOM-CENTRAL when he is not looking. Oh, I don't know how successful I'll be, maybe I'll remove all of the heavy machinery and put the pieces in the garage. Place my desk in there so that I can look out towards the largest tree in the yard . . . It can happen!
But I digress.
I showed up here today to continue our discussion of figurative language. If I recall correctly, we are on lucky # 7
7. Simile - one of the comparison tropes of figurative language, a simile compares two essentially dissimilar things using the word "like" or "as."  There is the short way to do this. Examples of short similes include "Sanford is as hungry as a bear," or "Though Philip loved her with all his might, Sandra remained aloof, separate and apart like the island on which they lived; though it was beautiful and charming, he would never know its secrets."
As you can tell from the examples given, the first simile is simple. The second is much more elaborate. This brings us to the second type of simile.

8. Epic Simile - a type of simile typically used in epic poetry, known for being so long and involved that it may obscure or interrupt the original thought being introduced.  To clarify, one may also call these epic similes Homeric Similes. A less extreme example of an epic or Homeric simile, taken from the Iliad is the following: "As when the shudder of the west wind suddenly rising scatters across the water, and the water darkens beneath it, so darkening were settled the ranks of Achaians and Trojans in the plain." Another example of an epic simile, longer and more involved, comes from The Odyssey when Odysseus regales the Phaecians with his tale of how he bested Polyphemus : "I drove my weight on it from above and bored it home like a shipwright bores his beam with a shipwright's drill that men below, whipping the strap back and forth, whirl and the drill keeps twisting, never stopping --So we seized our stake with it fiery tip and bored it round and round in the giant's eye." In this particular, second epic simile, it is fairly obvious that one nearly loses the logic and thread of the thought - that is how involves the simile is - until the "so we seized our stake" bit returns to save the sense of the sentence. An epic simile is very much a part of epic literature, the classic boast, and the speaker getting 'carried away' with his or her own comparison. This is not to say it bad! It does however need to be used properly. And no one can do it better than Homer.

9. The Metaphor - figurative language in which two dissimilar items are compared and in which two characteristics about them are said to be the same. In this case, there is no use of the word "like," or "as." In Romeo and Juliet, "It is the east, and Juliet is the sun" is a classic example of metaphor - we know Juliet is not the sun, though apparently for Romeo, Juliet must be for him the main star to which he gravitates. In this example as in many simple metaphors, the sentence uses the "IS" construction. One thing is another thing.
Then of course, there is the metaphor that does not use "IS." For example. "The cat's tail slithered around its owner's leg." This type of sentence is a bit more sophisticated, but in truth, writers may do this all the time unconsciously. It is part of who we are to compare elements to each other. A fantastic metaphor that I am borrowing, comes from J.K. Rowling (I use it in my literary term glossary and it's one of my favorite quotes): "There is an expiry date on blaming your parents for steering you in the wrong direction; the moment you are old enough to take the wheel, responsibility lies with you."
This brings us to some TERMS WITHIN TERMS. . .
The TENOR which is the subject of the metaphor. This would be Juliet in the very top example, the cat's tail for the second example, and blame in the third.
The VEHICLE is the image that carries the weight of the comparison. For each of the above, in order, the vehicles or images of comparison are: for Juliet, the sun; the cat, a snake; for coming of age, imagery of driving a car and steering.

10. Extended Metaphor - a metaphor that is much like an ordinary metaphor but longer. So much longer in fact that it can take up a considerable amount of space on the page. Though this is many years ago now, I heard about Will Ferrell giving a speech at Harvard. Lest anyone think that extended metaphors are only for Henry James, Twain, and Dickinson . . . well, good old Will Ferrell can give an extended metaphor in a speech. Let read it:
"I graduated from the University of Life. All right? I received a degree from the School of Hard Knocks. And our colors were black and blue, baby. I had office hours with the Dean of Bloody Noses. All right? I borrowed my class notes from Professor Knuckle Sandwich and his Teaching Assistant, Ms. Fat Lip Thon Nyun. That’s the kind of school I went to for real, okay?" Will Ferrell, Commencement Address at Harvard University, 2003)
Of course, you can create extended metaphors in poetry, as Emily Dickinon did in "Hope is the Thing with Feathers":

"Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune--without the words,
And never stops at all,

"And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

"I've heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me."
(Emily Dickinson)

I will leave you with this thought . . . it is worthy, it is exhilarating, it is fun to attempt these in your writing, and to review these with your students and have them attempt these in their own writing. It's part of what makes writing so very enjoyable. Stop by here to learn and refresh what you know. Leave a comment, say something nice! And pop by my store to see my glossary of 90 literary terms.

TOMORROW more Figurative Language GOODIES!!!

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