9 Examples of Metaphor in Literature

What is Metaphor?

A literary figure of speech that is used to compare two unlike things and describes one as if it was like the other. It is also called an implied simile. In Metaphor, words like, alike, such as, and ‘as’ are not used. Mainly, it is challenging to find Metaphors in a sentence for the readers. It is sometimes called a sharp wit.

In ‘Metaphor’, the meaning is suggested by an image. It indicates the comparison of two things not usually thought of as similar. Writers use Metaphor when they have to show the resemblance between two subjects or about performing some function; one is, for the time being, actually identified with the other.

How Do You Identify a Metaphor?

Here are the steps to identify a metaphor:

  1. In Metaphors, the words like ‘is’ or ‘are’ are used to make a direct comparison between two things. For example, “The world is a stage”.
  2. Metaphors are use as a figurative language to convey meaning.
  3. The metaphors are used to enhance description, convey abstract concepts and provide new perspectives on familiar things.
  4. Once you have identified a metaphor, think about the relationship between the two things being compared. Consider the characteristics and qualities, which are being attributed from one thing to the other? This will help you to understand the intended meaning of the metaphor.
  5. Identifying metaphors needs practice, so read widely and critically and pay attention to the use of figurative language in literature, speeches and everyday conversations.

Why Do Writers Use Metaphor?

Writers use metaphors for a variety of reasons. Firstly, the metaphors serve as a tool to enhance description. The writers draw comparisons between two seemingly dissimilar things, in order to create vivid and imaginative language. This make the description more colorful and engaging. Furthermore, the metaphors are instrumental in conveying abstract and intricate concepts by grounding them in relatable and concrete comparisons, which facilitates a deeper understanding. They also play a pivotal role in creating mental imagery, which allows the readers to visualize scenarios and ideas more effectively.

Purpose and function of metaphors

Metaphors are considered the language tools with several key purposes and functions. They enrich descriptions by comparing one thing to another. This make the language more vivid and engaging. Metaphors simplify complex or abstract concepts by linking them to concrete, relatable objects and ideas. These comparisons create mental imagery and enhance the engagement of readers and listeners. Moreover, metaphors can evoke strong emotional responses, which add depth and complexity to the language.

What Are the Different Types of Metaphors?

Following are two main types of Metaphor.

  • Extended 
  • Mixed 

Extended Metaphor

An extended metaphor continues a metaphor through multiple sentences and paragraphs. It is used to provide in-depth exploration of a concept or theme. It adds layers of meaning and richness to a piece of writing. Extended metaphors are commonly found in poetry, prose and speeches. They allow writers to draw out the similarities between the tenor (the subject of the metaphor) and the vehicle (the thing used for comparison) over an extended period, which make it a powerful tool for conveying complex ideas and emotions.

Mixed Metaphor

It is a figurative expression that combines two or more incongruent metaphors or elements. It creates a confusing effect due to the incompatible comparisons. It occurs when a writer or speaker unintentionally combines different metaphors in a way that does not make logical or coherent sense.

Mixed metaphors can result in humorous, absurd or nonsensical phrases. For example, in the sentence, “We’ll cross that bridge when the ball is in our court” combines the idioms ‘cross that bridge when we come to it’ and ‘the ball is in our court’, which lead to an illogical and mixed expression.

Common Examples of Metaphors

  1. My father is an iron man.
  2. Camel is the ship of the desert.
  3. John is the star of his family.
  4. Maria has a heart of kindness.
  5. Life is a bed of thrones.
  6. My son is a moon.
  7. She is a Peacock.
  8. The thunder was a mighty lion.
  9. His voice created a harmful effect on the listeners.
  10. The lion is the King of the forest.
  11. Her voice was music to his ears.
  12. Life is a journey, not a destination.
  13. The coffee was a warm embrace on a cold day.
  14. The stars were diamonds on a black velvet sky.
  15. Her eyes were pools of dark chocolate.

What is Visual metaphor?

A visual metaphor is a metaphor that compares two things that are visually different but share a common characteristic. For example, the metaphor “her eyes were sparkling diamonds” compares the brightness of a person’s eyes to the shine of a diamond.

What is Standard metaphor?

A standard metaphor compares two things without using any visual comparison. For example, the metaphor “life is a journey” compares the experience of life to going on a journey.

Dead metaphor and overuse

The dead metaphors have become conventional and are often used without conscious awareness of their metaphorical origin. Dead metaphors have become part of standard vocabulary and are taken literally. For example, the phrase “the foot of the mountain” originally used the metaphor of the ‘foot’ to describe the base or bottom of the mountain, but over time, this metaphor has died and people now interpret it literally as the physical lower part of the mountain.

The overuse of dead metaphors is a common phenomenon in the language. These metaphors are so entrenched and are used automatically without thinking. This can lead to a lack of precision and freshness in writing and speech. When overused, dead metaphors can become clichés, which make the language less engaging and imaginative.

Metaphor vs Simile – What’s the Difference?

The two literary terms are closely associated but have different functions—both the academic terms are used for comparison. Here the examples will show the difference between these two terms.

‘Simile compares two things indirectly using the words ‘like’ and ‘as.’ It is also used to show the quality of something by indirectly comparing one thing to other.

‘Metaphor’ is a literary device that is used to compare the two things directly, and connecting words are not used in it. For example, ‘He is a night owl’ and “She is a shining Star.’

Good metaphor examples

The best metaphors are those that add new meaning or clarity to a concept or idea. A good metaphor creates a visual image in the reader’s mind and enhances the reader’s understanding of a concept or idea.

Phrase usage

Metaphors are commonly used in everyday language. For example, the phrase “take the bull by the horns” is a metaphor that means to confront a difficult situation.

Examples of Metaphors in Literature

Metaphors are an important element in literature. They are used to create vivid imagery, convey complex emotions, and add new meaning to a story or poem.

Here are the 9 examples of metaphor in literature.

1- “Antony and Cleopatra” by William Shakespeare


The barge she sat in,
like a burnish’d throne Burn’d on the water

The speaker, Enobarbus, is describing the arrival of Cleopatra on a magnificent barge on the Nile River. These lines employ a metaphor to convey the grandeur and splendor of Cleopatra’s entrance.

The first metaphor is “like a burnish’d throne”. Here, the barge is compared to a ‘burnish’d throne’. A throne is a seat of power and authority, which often associated with royalty and majesty. The second metaphor is “Burn’d on the water”. In this metaphor, the barge appears to be ‘burning’ on the water. This description is metaphorical as the barge is not actually on fire. It conveys the idea that the barge is so splendid and radiant that it seems to emit a fiery and luminous glow as it moves across the water.

2- “Fog” by Carl Sandburg

The fog comes in little cat feet
It sits looking,
over harbor and city,
on silent haunches,
and then moves on”
.

In the above line, ‘Sandburg’ is feeling the fog and is comparing it with the little cat’s feet, as when the cat comes, the sound is minimal. Similarly, the fog has come like a little cat’s feet.

3- “Daffodils” by Wordsworth

When all at once I saw a crowd”

Here ‘Wordsworth” compares the daffodils with the crowd of people without using the connecting words like or as.

4- “As you like it” by (William Shakespeare)

“All the worlds a stage”

Here the ‘Shakespeare’ compared this world with a stage by considering the human being as actors of stage.

5- “Sonnet 116” by Shakespeare

Love is the star to every wandering bark,
he wants to associate with love:
Its constancy and secure fixedness in a world of change and danger.”

Here, in the above text, the love is metaphorically compared to a guiding star, which emphasizes its role as a constant and unwavering force. This offers stability and direction in a world characterized by change and danger. This metaphor suggests that love, like a guiding star in the night sky serves as a dependable presence, which provides comfort and security amid uncertainties of the life.

6- “The Darkling Thrush” by Thomas Hardy

And Winters dregs made desolate
The weakening eye of day”

The phrase “Winter’s dregs” metaphorically refers to the last and bitter remnants of the winter, which suggest a period of extreme cold and desolation. Next, the “The weakening eye of day” portrays the sun as a weakening or diminishing eye, as if it is losing its strength during the winter. These metaphors convey the idea that the winter is a bleak and desolate season, where the warmth of the sun and light wane. The metaphors add depth and visual impact to the description of winter’s severity..

7- “Mutability” by P.B. Shelly

“The flower that smiles today,
Tomorrow dies.
All that we wish to stay,
Tempt’s and then flies.
What is this world’s delight?
Lightning that mock’s the night
brief even as bright.

‘Shelly’ in the beginning line of the poem makes us understand about the comparison of the present with the future. All the living things in this world are for a short period and will come to their end, which is this poem’s central theme. The use of metaphor ‘flower’ is to symbolize the fleeting nature of happiness and beauty in the life. The idea that “the flower that smiles today, tomorrow dies” conveys the impermanence of joy and the transitory nature of the pleasures of the life. Similarly, the metaphor of “lightning that mock’s the night” suggests that moments of brilliance and happiness are often brief and elusive.

8- “Solitary Reaper” by Wordsworth

The vale profound is overflowing with the sound.

Here the depth of the song of a woman has been categorized. Her voice has turned into liquid and has overfilled the whole valley with her enchanting voice.

9- “Hamlet” by William Shakespeare

No, let the candied tongue’ lick absurd pomp,
And crook the pregnant hinges of the knee
Where thrift may follow fawning”

Here ‘Shakespeare’ has used the mixed metaphor by considering ‘hinges’ of the knee as ‘pregnant’ because flattery has successfully gained advancement.

What is a metaphor? Examples of metaphor in literature
Examples of metaphor in literature

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