Extended Metaphors Examples in Literature

What are Extended Metaphors?

An extended metaphor is a literary device of comparison. It involves two unlike things being compared and developed further in a number of sentences, paragraphs and even whole piece of writing. These metaphors are used to compare the multiple sentences.

Moreover, the extended metaphors go beyond simple analogies and dive deep into the relationship between the subjects being compared. They enable writers to expressively and impactfully explore complex ideas, emotions and experiences.

Common Examples of Extended Metaphors

These metaphors are normally used in literature, poetry and everyday speech. Some common examples of extended metaphors are as under:

  • Life is a journey – The metaphor explores the idea of life as a path filled with challenges.
  • Time is money – Here the metaphor compares the value and management of time while handling the financial resources.
  • The world is a stage – It likens the human experience to a theatrical performance with people playing various roles.
  • Love is a rose – This metaphor delves into the beauty, fragility, and thorns associated with the emotion of love.
  • Argument is war – It frames the act of arguing as a battle with strategies, attacks and defenses.

Extended Metaphors Examples in Literature


“As You Like It” by William Shakespeare

“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.”

The writer uses the extended metaphor to compare the world with a stage and human life. He supports the concept that everybody on the Earth planet executes different types of duties and puts a new theme through their life in different situations. It makes use of a metaphor to show the world’s complexity, if we look closely the result will be a stunning and believable description of human’s journey.


“Macbeth” by William Shakespeare

“Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.”

Here, the character Macbeth uses metaphoric means to paint a noteworthy picture that reflects his discouragement and that shows us how what we convince ourselves is real really is not. The extended metaphor is used in the extract to depict life as a theatrical performance. 

He compares the life to “a walking shadow” with the aim of creating the idea of its short and vaporous nature. He continues his metaphorical description by telling that the life is no more than an undeserving role which everyone who loses an opportunity for his proper evaluation is supposed to the play. Therefore, this role prolongs his lifespan through the hour of his depiction. He is showcasing his feelings on a world stage.

In the last lines, Macbeth shifts the extended metaphor slightly. He compares life to “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.” This comparison suggests that life is not only brief and meaningless but also chaotic, nonsensical and devoid of purpose. The phrase “full of sound and fury” emphasizes the clamorous nature of human existence. The words “signifying nothing” reinforces the idea that life has no inherent meaning and significance.


“The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.”

The phrase “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, explores two ways life are being symbolized and the confusion that comes with it. The image is frequent in this passage because it is one of the elements that serves to the speaker as a metaphor to choose between the two roads. This metaphor also helps to effectively study the elements of a decision-making process including its consequences. It presents the life in such a dynamic way and invites the spectator to witness its unforeseen elements profoundly involved in the process of decision-making and life itself, which results in a very realistic and moving representation of the human reality.


“The Tyger” by William Blake

“Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies.
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand, dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder, & what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?”

The poet employs the extended metaphor “Tyger” to symbolize power, mystery and awe. This metaphor has been repeated in the interrogatory form, which tell about the tigerĀ“s origin and formation. When tiger is mentioned in combination with fire, this brings use to understand, discuss about creation, beauty, and something divine. The use of emblem for the tiger becomes a spring board for Blake to consider the enigmatic nature of creation and how divinity is in a complex web of going-on, thus the awe- inspiring forces presented through the tiger seem to have a powerful nature.


“The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by S. T. Coleridge

“The fair breeze blew, the white foam flew,
The furrow followed free;
We were the first that ever burst
Into that silent sea.

Down dropt the breeze, the sails dropt down,
‘Twas sad as sad could be;
And we did speak only to break
The silence of the sea!

All in a hot and copper sky,
The bloody Sun, at noon,
Right up above the mast did stand,
No bigger than the Moon.”

The poet adds the metaphorical conception of the ocean as a big blue massive, something a little bit mysterious in its nature. The seascape remains a silent witness to all horror, Sun appears bloody as a harbinger of dementia and the inexorable sense of separation and foreboding evoke the Mariner’s being slowly possessed by the ultimate horror. Through this elaborated symbol the readers realize how this voyage can be endlessly deep both for the spirit and the subconscious.

Extended Metaphors Examples in Literature
Extended Metaphors Examples in Literature

Importance of Extended Metaphors

Extended metaphors are powerful literary devices that serve several important functions:

Enhance Clarity and Understanding: Through dissimilar metaphors, readers gain deeper understanding of the things that are easy to see and follow or of the abstracts. Sustained use of the metaphor gives the picture of a living reality In the second stanza.

Evoke Emotional Response: While the intense, detailed depiction and prolonged analogies trough an extended metaphor give off vivid pictures that resonate emotionally among the readers. Supplementary materials may do this by strengthening the audience’s connection to the text and conceiving the concepts being addressed.

Develop Theme and Symbolism: A familiar metaphor will begin to dominate both the thought and the theme of the work. The symbolism can also transform the metaphor into a powerful allusion pertaining to substantial life concepts, human experiences, or simply being human.

Demonstrate Creativity and Skill: An accomplished use of extended metaphor may illustrate a writer’s linguistic competence, their skill at creating the drawn between things sporadically, and also how they exploit comparisons to be sustained.

Enhance Memorability: Besides actually having the reader know what the poem is indirectly conveying in specific, the extended metaphors might offer the poem a poetical essence which helps the reader to recall the poem for long time. There this way works out which is practically a key on which is built a work or an idea.

Related Terms

1- Allegory

Allegory is a sustained metaphor that is used here and there in the text instead of just anywhere in the text. While the figurative meaning is more important than the literal meaning, the latter can be used at a place in the text as well. In an allegory the characters, the environment and the incidents all are used as the hidden symbolic for the superior concepts or lessons.

2- Conceit

Conceits are long metaphors, in which a stark difference between things is thrown into an inconceivable picture of science. Conceit, mainly, are heavy ones requiring lots of deep thinking and encompassing the most common image comparisons.

Extended metaphors are mighty literary manifestations that help authors to view complicated notions, to make the readers feel certain emotions, and to make things stay very vivid in mind. Extended metaphors are rich with implicit links that at first glance may look unrelated, but with greater exploration they reveal depths previously unseen, bringing new levels of comprehension and wisdom. Extended metaphors can be found in not only novels or poem but most likely in everyday conversation too. These metaphors still intrigue us and cause us to think in simile to describe things. 

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