Using Metaphor to Deepen Comprehension

Chapter 7
Deeper Reading - Kelly Gallagher
Students are more readily able to reach deeper levels of
comprehension when they understand metaphors in
challenging text.
Repeated practice in recognizing and analyzing metaphors
enable students to generate their own
metaphorical connections to
the text and the world, thus
sharpening their higher-level
thinking skills.
Metaphors enliven ordinary language.
Metaphors require interpretation, which is a higher-level
thinking skill.
Metaphors create new meanings.
Examples from a College English class:
“McMurphy fell twelve stories, hitting the pavement like a paper
bag filled with vegetable soup.”
“His thoughts tumbled in his head, making and breaking
alliances like underpants in a tumble dryer.”
“Her face was a perfect oval, like a circle that had its two other
sides gently compressed by a Thigh Master.”
Standard Metaphor: A figure of speech that makes
a connection between two unlike things.
Dead Metaphor: A metaphor that has become so
common that we no longer notice it as a figure of
Simile: A metaphor that makes a connection
between two unlike things by using words such as
“like”, “as”, “than” or “resembles”.
Extended Metaphor: A metaphor extended over
several lines, verses or chapters.
Personification: A metaphor in which a nonhuman
thing or quality is talked about in human terms.
Metonymy: A figure of speech in which something
closely related to a thing is substituted for the
whole thing. Example: The history department
needs new blood. (instead of saying new teachers.)
Synedoche: The substitution of a part for the
whole or vice versa. Example- Five hundred hands
were needed to build the bridge.
A square peg does not fit in a round hole.
Sometimes, when a character does not “fit in,”
he or she feels like a square peg in a round
hole. In this organizer, students are asked to
consider both society’s expectations on a
character (the round hole) and the character’s
needs (square peg). (page 135)
Bella Swan from Twilight
does not fit in at her new school so
she seeks the company of
Use for conflicts
between a character and
society, or in conflicts
between what the
character should and
should not do.
In the Brake Pedal, Accelerator Pedal organizer,
students are asked to consider the forces (people,
places, things) that slow a character down as well
as the forces that accelerate a character’s thinking
or behavior. (page 136)
Brake Pedal, Accelerator Pedal works well in any
novel where a character tries to resist others or
where a character gets swept up in the actions of
Duncan is Macbeth’s king.
Duncan is Macbeth’s cousin.
Macbeth has just fought for
Duncan and been rewarded by
the king.
Lady Macbeth said “If you
love me, you would do it.”
Lady Macbeth said, “If
you’re a man, you’ll do it.”
It would be fun to be king.
When you purchase food in the market, there
are ingredient labels on the packaging.
These labels not only list the ingredients
found in the product, they also list the
ingredients in the order of amount (from
most to least). In this organizer, students are
asked to list the character’s “ingredients”
(traits), with the most important first and the
least important last. (page 136)
Works well with any novel
that depicts complex
Variations: If you could
add one ingredient to this
character, what would you
add? Why?
If you removed one
ingredient, how would it
change the character or
You would learn a great deal about a person if you
were permitted to examine the contents of her
purse, or the contents of his wallet. Of course,
some characters- for example, Frankenstein’s
monster- do not have a purse or wallet. But
assuming they did, what would be in it? And what
could we learn about a given character from the
items found in that character’s wallet or purse?
(page 137)
Variation: What would we find in this
character’s locker, bedroom or backpack?
Hamlet’s Wallet:
Picture of Ophelia
Dad’s signet ring
Love letter from Ophelia
Outline of plan for revenge
Apology letter to Laertes
If we were to fill a time capsule to give
readers a sense of time and place for a
specific novel, what would we put in it?
Which artifacts would we choose to give a
prospective reader an accurate sense of the
The Time Capsule works well with any novel
where the setting plays a key role.
(page 139)
Night- by Elie Wiesel
An iceberg is a good metaphor to use when
studying a specific character. Like an iceberg, part
of a character is easily visible; but at the same time
there might be a part, sometimes a large part, of
the character that remains unseen.
It is interesting to have students analyze what a
character doesn’t reveal to others. (page 134)
Arthur Dimmesdale
Visible Characteristics
religious leader
Characteristics Below the Surface
On a trip, you might shoot a roll of film chronicling your
journey. When the film is developed, you would have a proof
sheet containing twenty-four exposures. These twenty-four
exposures do not capture every moment of your vacation;
rather they capture the highlights of your trip. When having
students analyze key plot points, they can be given dummy
proof sheets and asked to identify the exact number of
“exposures.” (page 138) This works well with any selection
with a complex plot.
Variation: After completing the proof sheet, choose four
“photos” to publish as the highlights.
Students take a picture of a pencil and write
the character’s name on the shaft. On the
writing end of the pencil, students note the
actions that a character wishes he or she had
done. On the eraser end, students consider
what actions the character wishes he could
erase. (page 137)
Produced by Debbie Cornwell & Donna Gilmore