Other Figures of Speech

Writing About Literature
13. Figures of Speech
A figure of speech is the use of words that diverge from
their literal meaning
The figurative meaning may be achieved through special
 repetition
 arrangement
 or omission of words
Figures of speech are used by poets to achieve freshness of
expression or insight
They can also introduce a desirable ambiguity between
literal and figurative interpretation.
The most common figures of speech in poetry are
metaphor and simile
Other Figures of Speech:
A figure of speech in which one thing is referred to by
something else which is closely associated with it, like
“crown” for a king or “sweat” for hard work or “Hollywood”
for the film industry.
 Doublet and hose ought to show itself courageous to petticoat.
from As You Like It by William Shakespeare
Other Figures of Speech:
A figure of speech in which a part is used to signify the whole, as in
“hired hands” for workers or “The Pentagon” for the Department of
 Cars roll past all stuffed with eyes.
from Soul Kitchen by Jim Morrison
 I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.
from The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T. S. Eliot
Other Figures of Speech:
Anthropomorphism: Ascribing human characteristics to something that is not
human, such as an animal or a god
Zoomorphism: Applying animal characteristics to humans or gods
Objectification: to refer to a human or other living thing as an object
 all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
from I wandered lonely as a cloud by William Wordsworth
 Ah, happy, happy boughs! that cannot shed
Your leaves, nor ever bid the Spring adieu;
 from Ode on a Grecian Urn by John Keats
Anthropomorphic animals can be found in works like Lord of the Rings and Orwell’s
Animal Farm
Other Figures of Speech:
Meiosis: the use of understatement
 The Black Knight scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail ("It's just a
flesh wound!")
Litotes: understatement that emphasizes the magnitude of
something by denying its opposite
 No, Godzilla is not just another alligator in the sewers!
Hyperbole: the use of overstatement
 I would / Love you ten years before the Flood;
And you should, if you please, refuse
Till the conversion of the Jews.
from To His Coy Mistress by Andrew Marvell
Adynaton: hyperbole taken to such extreme lengths as to
suggest a complete impossibility
Other Figures of Speech:
Onomatopoeia: A word that imitates or suggests the source
of the sound that it describes
 Many machine sounds like “honk” or “beep-beep” for the horn of an
 Comic book sounds like “kersplat,” “bam,” “pow” and “wham.”
 Word like “snap, crackle, pop.”
 For animal sounds, words like buzz (bee), quack (duck), bark (dog),
roar (lion) and meow (cat) are typically used in English.
Synesthesia: Description of one kind of sense impression by
using words that normally describe another
 …sunburnt mirth! / O for a beaker full of the warm South!
from Ode to a Nightingale by John Keats
Other Figures of Speech:
form of word play which suggests two or more
meanings, by exploiting multiple meanings of
words, or of similar-sounding words
► Example:
 Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious
summer by this son of York
from Richard III by William Shakespeare
Other Figures of Speech:
Addressing a thing, an abstraction or a person not present
 Death, be not proud, though some have called thee / Mighty
and dreadful, for thou art not so
from Holy Sonnet X by John Donne
 Roll on, thou dark and deep blue Ocean – roll!
from Childe Harold's Pilgrimage by Lord Byron
Other Figures of Speech:
Using two terms together, that normally contradict each
 O brawling love, O loving hate,
O any thing of nothing first create!
O heavy lightness, serious vanity,
Misshapen chaos of well-seeming forms!,
Feather of lead, bright smoke, cold fire, sick health,
Still-waking sleep, that is not what it is!
from Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare