Examples of Implied Metaphor in Literature

A metaphor is a figure of speech that makes a comparison between two unlike things. A metaphor states that one thing is another thing. For example, “Love is a battlefield” compares love to a battlefield. An implied metaphor makes a comparison without directly stating it. The comparison is suggested indirectly through the words and imagery used. The reader has to infer the metaphorical relationship.

Definition of Implied Metaphor

Implied metaphor is a metaphor that compares two unlike things in an indirect way. With an implied metaphor, the literal words mean one thing but the description suggests a figurative comparison that the reader infers based on connections between the words used. For example, describing someone as having a “fiery” temper does not literally mean their temper is made of fire. It suggests anger is like fire – potentially dangerous, destructive and out of control. The comparison is not explicitly stated as “anger is fire.” Instead, the adjective “fiery” implies the metaphorical link between anger and fire indirectly.

Implied metaphor relies on connotations and descriptive language to hint at a comparison rather than directly stating “X is Y” as a direct metaphor does. The reader has to make the leap to understand the figurative connection being implied through the imagery.

Some key features of implied metaphors:

  • Implied metaphors do not directly say one thing is another thing. They don’t use “is” or “was” to make the comparison clear.
  • Instead, they use descriptive words and imagery that suggest a metaphorical connection indirectly. The words imply a comparison without stating it outright.
  • The reader has to make a mental leap to get the underlying metaphor. They have to infer the figurative meaning behind the literal words.
  • This allows the reader to be more actively involved in figuring out the metaphor’s meaning. They get to participate in making sense of the implied comparison.

Everyday Examples of Implied Metaphor

Following are some common examples of implied metaphor:

  • “She has a fiery temper.” (Anger is indirectly compared to fire in terms of destructiveness and lack of control.)
  • “The assignment was a breeze.” (Ease is indirectly compared to a breeze in terms of gentle effortlessness.)
  • “He was fuming after the argument.” (Anger is indirectly suggested through the imagery of heat and smoke.)
  • “Her heart was an ice box.” (Lack of emotion or warmth is indirectly conveyed through the imagery of coldness.)
  • “The debate was a rollercoaster ride.” (The ups and downs of the debate are compared to the thrills of a rollercoaster.)
  • “The baby was a bundle of joy.” (A baby’s cuteness and the joy it brings are indirectly conveyed through the idea of a neatly wrapped gift bundle.)

Examples of Implied Metaphor in Literature


“The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald

“The dandelions glowed like scattered coins in the grass, their golden blooms beckoning with the false promise of wealth.”

The writer by using the descriptive imagery compares the dandelions to scattered coins in an indirect manner. Their golden color and scattered distribution implicitly evokes coins strewn across a surface. This implied metaphor hints at the hollow extravagance and false riches that drive the characters in the novel.


“Rebecca” by Daphne du Maurier

“The stars blazed with the hard brilliance of cut diamonds strewn across black velvet.”

Here, the author indirectly suggests a metaphorical link between the stars and diamonds. He uses the words like “brilliance”, “hard” and “cut” to explain them. The sharp brightness of the star is conveyed through the imagery of expertly faceted diamonds laid on contrasting black velvet. This implied metaphor captures the cold, which strikes beauty of the night sky.


“Wuthering Heights” by Emily Brontë

“The wind moaned outside like a mournful voice crying in the darkness, its lamentation trailing off into the lonely night.”

Brontë uses the descriptive language to indirectly compare the moaning wind to a crying voice. Words like “mournful”, “crying” and “lamentation” evoke a humanlike grief and pain without directly saying the wind is a lamenting voice. This haunting personification implies the wind’s lonely turmoil through metaphor.


“The Chronicles of Narnia The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” by C. S. Lewis

“The first drops of rain were like distant footsteps, the sky growing louder as the downpour approached.”

In this excerpt, Lewis uses descriptive imagery to indirectly compare the approaching rain to approaching footsteps. The rain does not literally represent footsteps, but the gradual increase in sound and nearness conveys the sense of something drawing incrementally closer. This auditory implied metaphor builds tension and gives the reader a visceral feeling of the impending storm.


“To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee

“The debate raged between them, their arguments crashing against each other like waves breaking on the shore.”

Here Lee indirectly evokes the back-and-forth, forceful nature of an argument through the metaphor of ocean waves. Words like “raged”, “crashing”, “breaking” suggest the intense, chaotic clash of viewpoints without explicitly stating the debate is a violent sea. This implied visual and auditory metaphor vividly captures the heated disagreement.


“The Old Man and the Sea” by Ernest Hemingway

“The night sky was a vast black ocean filled with the soft twinkling of stars, scattered like white foam.”

Hemingway avoids directly stating “the stars are foam upon the ocean.” Instead, through vivid description he paints a picture where stars implicitly resemble foam – small, white, interleaved dots floating on the surface of the dark sea of the night sky. This oceanic implied metaphor gives a sense of depth, mystery, and beauty to the starry sky.

Examples of Implied Metaphor in Literature
Examples of Implied Metaphor in Literature

Implied metaphors indirectly suggest comparisons between unlike things through the use of descriptive language, imagery, and connotations rather than explicit “is/was” statements. They require the reader to actively uncover the underlying metaphorical relationship. This interpretive participation makes implied metaphors powerful tools for engaging the reader’s imagination and condensing complex meanings indirectly. Masterful writers deploy implied metaphors to add color, texture, and poignancy to their writing. So while direct metaphors explicitly state the connection, implied metaphors invite readers to uncover comparisons on their own.

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