English Literature Metaphors

English Literature

Figurative Language



A metaphor is a comparison that asks you to imagine one thing as being another. Unlike a simile, a metaphor does not use the
words ‘like’, ‘as’ or ‘than’. Here are two metaphors giving us very vivid, but very different images of the moon.

The moon is an old, clean bone.

The moon is a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas.


The following poem is based on a single, extended metaphor. As you describe what is happening in the poem, explain the figurative-language1-2-728comparison the poet is making.

Taking my pen for a walk
Tonight I took the leash off my pen.
At first it was frightened,
looked up at me with confused eyes, tongue panting.
Then I said, ‘Go on, run away,’
and pushed his head.
Still it wasn’t sure what I wanted;
it whimpered with its tail between its legs.
So I yelled, ‘You’re free, why don’t you run –
you stupid pen, you should be glad.
Now get out of my sight.
It took a few steps.
I stamped my food and threw a stone.
Suddenly; it realized what I was saying
and began to run furiously away from me.

In this poem, the poet compares a pen with a dog. He took the leash off his pen and said he had to run away just like a dog.




The Purpose of Metaphors

Metaphors should create an impact on the reader. They are used to inspire and help people understand the importance of something. For example, “Max is a pig when he eats,” gives the reader a strong visual of how messy Max is when he eats. This is very important not only in a story or poem, but in everyday conversation. If someone says that his stomach is a black hole you know it is important to have plenty of food at your event. If he had just said that his stomach is big or can hold a lot you wouldn’t think you needed as much food. If his stomach truly were a black hole you would need a never ending supply of food.

It is important to understand how a metaphor works and know when you have heard one. They are meant to create a vivid picture, or be a profound saying. The stronger the metaphor is, the better your intent will be received. Using metaphors to explain something to a child helps them by giving them a more visual picture.




Metaphors in everyday life

1. He had one foot in the grave. – He was very old.
2. You’re both in the same boat. – We’re on the same side.
3. There was a traffic bottleneck at the intersection. – The traffic slows down.
5. He wolfed down his dinner. – He ate his dinner in a quick way.
6. The bus was travelling at a snail’s pace. – The bus went as slow as a snail.
7. She tracked down the documents in the library. – She searched for them and found them.
8. The committee met to hammer out the problem. – The committee arrived at an agreement through argument and negotiation.
9. The girl gave her boyfriend the cold shoulder. – The girl broke up with her boyfriend.
10. There was a ray of hope for the prisoner. – The prisoner felt there was a chance to get released.
11. The captain barked out his orders. – The captain gave many orders.
12. The soldiers walked with leaden feet. – The soldiers walked very slow.
13. There was a flood of replies to the advertisement. – There were a lot of replies to the advertisement.
14. The new bank has watertight security. – The new bank had very good security.
15. He was in the winter of life. – He was in his worst part in life.


Extensive List of Metaphors

A laugh in the sea of sadness
The noise is music to his ears
He swam in the sea of diamonds
His belt was a snake curling around his waist
Love is a growing garland
Your friendship is the picture to my frame
Authority is a chair, it needs legs to stand up
Once your heart’s been broken it grows back bigger
His hair is a white snowflake and his hair is a messy haystackmetaphor-diagram
He is all heartbroken
The pigeons fountain into the air
Her hair was bone white
He tried to help but his legs were wax
It’s raining cats and dogs
Words are false Idols
Ideas are wings
Kicked the bucket
The sea is a hungry lion
She is a dog when she is hungry
A heart of gold
A light in a sea of darkness
Strength and dignity is what she is made of
Heart of a lion
He is the sun of my sky
Light of their life
Pull your socks up
Life is a mere dream, a fleeting shadow on a cloudy day
Drowning in the sea
Jumping for joy
Rolling in dough
Apple of the eye
It rained cats and dogs
Information travels faster in this modern age as our days start crawling away
Reality is an enemy
Truth is food for him
Fear is a beast that feeds on attention
Spiritual seeking is treasure hunting
Life’s journey is a bicycle ride down the hill
Ideas are water
Thoughts are a storm, unexpected

English Literature Online Classes
Online English Literature Metaphors

Extended Metaphor

An extended metaphor is a type of metaphor which is also known as a ‘conceit’, it is nothing but a metaphor which does not end in the first sentence, and is continued in the next sentence too. The following are some examples of extended metaphors, which also include an extended metaphor poem.

The winds were ocean waves, thrashing against the trees limbs. The gales remained thereafter, only ceasing when the sun went down. Their waves clashed brilliantly with the water beneath, bringing foam and dying leaves to the shore.

The teacher descended upon the exams, sank his talons into their pages, ripped the answers to shreds, and then, perching in his chair, began to digest.




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