Both Anthropomorphism and personification are the literary devices that attributes involvement of human characteristics to non-human entities. However, these two are different from each other, with regard to their scope and application.
What is Anthropomorphism?
Anthropomorphism is the attribution of human traits, emotions or intentions. These features are related to non-human entities, such as animals, objects or gods. It is giving human qualities to something that is not human. You can read detailed article on anthropomorphism here.
Examples of Anthropomorphism
- Describing pets as having human emotions like love, anger, sadness etc.
- Portraying animals with human characteristics in cartoons and children’s stories e.g. Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny.
- Giving human qualities to gods in ancient mythologies e.g. Greek and Roman gods exhibited jealousy, greed etc.
- Referring to nature or inanimate objects as having motivations e.g. “The trees danced in the wind”.
What is Personification?
Personification is the figure of speech, wherein a thing, an idea or an animal is given human attributes. Using personification, non-human things are represented as having human qualities such as emotions, desires, sensations, and speech.
Examples of Personification
- “The sky wept heavy rain”. Here, sky has been given the human quality of weeping.
- “The sun smiled through the clouds”. Here, the sun is portrayed as smiling.
- “The trees sighed in the afternoon breeze”. Here, trees are shown with the human ability to sigh.
- “The raging storm destroyed the hut”. Here, storm has been given the human attribute of rage.
Difference between Anthropomorphism and Personification
|Giving human traits and qualities to non-human things
|Giving human attributes to non-living things
|Non-human subject is portrayed with human-like emotions, motivations etc.
|Non-living subject is shown with human abilities like speaking, thinking, feeling etc.
|Applies mainly to animals and gods
|Applies to objects, ideas and animals
|Reflects attributing human-like sentience
|Uses human attributes for literary effect
|Example: My dog was angry when I didn’t take him for a walk
|Example: The stack of papers screamed to be organized
Examples in Literature
Personification Examples in literature
The wind howled through the trees as if it were a banshee, warning of impending doom.
In this example, the wind is personified as a banshee. A mythical female spirit, that is known for wailing and foretelling death. The wind is given human-like qualities of warning and expressing sorrow.
“As You Like It” by Shakespeare
All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.
In this famous metaphor, the world is personified as a stage and people are likened to actors. This personification creates an image of life as a theatrical performance.
“The wind begun to rock the grass” by Emily Dickinson
In this poem, the wind is personified as a gentle hand that “rocks” the grass. It attributes a human-like action to the natural element, creating a sense of tenderness.
“I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud by William Wordsworth’
The daffodils danced in the breeze.
Here, the daffodils are personified. Their movements in the air have been described with dance, which give them a human-like quality.
“Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” by J.K. Rowling
The mirror showed Harry as he’d seen himself over the summer, aged and shrunken.
The mirror is personified as it “shows” Harry, which attributes it the human-like ability to display an image.
Anthropomorphism examples in literature
Winnie-the-Pooh” by A.A. Milne
Pooh was telling Piglet in an undertone, that there were lots of pots of honey outside, all different, and he was tasting them, to see which he liked best.
In this example, Pooh Bear is anthropomorphized as he tastes pots of honey and discusses his preferences with Piglet. This goes beyond personification as it portrays the bear as having human tastes and behaviors.
“Animal Farm” by George Orwell
The entire novel features animals like pigs, horses and cows, who take on human traits, such as leadership, politics and rebellion. These animals behave in ways that closely mirror human behavior.
“Charlotte’s Web” by E.B. White
The spider Charlotte in this story exhibits human-like qualities of intelligence, kindness and creativity. She helps Wilbur the pig by weaving messages in her web effectively saving his life.
FAQs Anthropomorphism Vs Personification
Q: What is the main difference between anthropomorphism and personification?
Ans: Anthropomorphism is specifically attributed to human characteristics with regard to animals or deities. This make the animal resembled to humans more closely in behavior and sometimes appearance. Personification, on the other hand, is a broader concept that attributes human qualities, emotions and behaviors to inanimate objects, animals or abstract concepts without necessarily making them fully human.
Q: Can the terms be used interchangeably?
Ans: There is some overlap that the terms are not entirely interchangeable. Anthropomorphism refers to the specific attribution of human characteristics to non-human entities. It often focus on animals and deities. Personification is a general term that encompasses various forms of having human-like traits to a wide range of entities, which include inanimate objects.
Q: Why are anthropomorphism and personification used in literature?
Ans: Both literary devices are used to make non-human entities more relatable, engaging and understandable to readers. They help to create vivid and memorable characters and settings, which allow the readers to connect with the story on a deeper level. These techniques also add depth and layers of meaning to the narrative.
Q: Can personification be a type of anthropomorphism?
Ans: Personification and anthropomorphism are related to each other. In some cases, the personification can involve animals, who exhibits human-like behaviors or characteristics to a degree that it resembles anthropomorphism. However, the personification is a broader term that encompasses a wide range of entities and may not always result in making them fully human-like.
Q: Can you provide examples of anthropomorphism and personification in famous literature?
Ans: In “Winnie-the-Pooh” by A.A. Milne, the characters like Pooh and Piglet exhibit anthropomorphism, which displays human-like emotions and behaviors. However, in William Wordsworth’s poem “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud,” the daffodils are personified as they “dance” in the breeze, attributing them with human-like movement.