Prepared by: Patricia Johnson
Posted on: 25 Feb 2001
Reposted on: 17 Feb 2002
Reposted on: 28 Feb 2005
Reposted on: 2 Jul 2006
Metaphor expresses an abstract quality by
thing or idea to
another thing or idea. The point of using metaphor is to increase
understanding in an original and effective way. It involves the
ability to creatively perceive her/his world. Metaphors have existed as
as advanced language, and perhaps before language in our minds.
Metaphor implies it is actually the thing
or idea, not
that it is merely
like the thing or idea. Two images are woven into a single cloth (oops,
that a metaphor?). Metaphor compares without using the words 'like' and
that we find in most similes. Do not confuse symbolism with metaphor.
object may symbolize themes in the story, as in John Steinbeck's The
of Our Discontent where a spiraled shell is used as a repeated symbol
relationships and human needs.
In metaphor the comparisons may be
pleasant, and revealing. A good metaphor is original and fresh. It does
have to explain itself. A good metaphor is closer to understatement
exaggeration. In order for the metaphor to work, no matter how
must be on target and truthful without being too farfetched. It must
avoid cliché and overused comparisons. Sometimes an author will
metaphoric idea with many variances within a single story or poem.
Here are some examples of metaphors:
- Carl Sandburg's poem about fog uses
'fog creeps in on little
cat feet'. This conveys silence and stealth, the eerie way that fog
surrounds everything without making a sound. Notice the metaphor does
use like or as.
- Elizabeth Bishop's poem Armadillo uses this metaphor
to describe a baby
rabbit: 'so soft!-a handful of intangible ash/ with fixed, ignited
- Sandra McPherson in Alleys uses this metaphor to
describe the first flower
she picked for her husband: 'It is/ Not even a withered flower
the dust of the first thing I did for him.'
Exercise: In 300 words or less create a
rewrite an existing scene
to include at least one metaphor. Make sure the metaphor adds to the
without intruding. You may use more than one metaphor, but since this
tricky, one will suffice.
Patricia Johnson's wrap-up
Posted on: February 24, 2002
The discussion comments on metaphor this
that metaphor involves
thought in writing as well as in critiquing. It was a difficult
that everyone handled very well. The critiques were excellent. The
Metaphors were present in the stories in
extraneous to the central idea of the story, while others were
to the story's main theme. Both are acceptable. Some of the
metaphors bordered on symbolism. There were extended metaphors and
metaphors in some stories.
Many writers mentioned how hard it was to
metaphors in the
found this to be true sometimes. Practice and trusting one's abilities
helps. Look for the central
theme and see what ideas and images tie into it. It may help to read
Jane Eyre review (see the end of this page for this URL and a list of
In my own story I ended up with a very
for sound and
nostalgia which did not come across well. I failed to make a clear,
metaphor, but I had fun trying. To paraphrase one critiquer, metaphors
to have the right characteristics to work.
I hope next time you use metaphor it will
Practice does help!
Thanks to each of you for a great metaphor workshop.
Here is a repost of metaphor helps from
Using metaphor in creative writing: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/handouts/print/general/gl_metaphor.html
Here's one of William Shakespeare's most
Bartleby's in-depth study of metaphor http://www.bartleby.com/116/305.html
What about verbs as metaphors? This site
interesting examples of
verbs. It has grouped metaphors into categories. http://knowgramming.com/metaphors/metaphor_chapters/examples.htm
Web site created by
Rhéal Nadeau and
the administrators of the Internet Writing Workshop.
Modified by Gayle Surrette.