Standard Metaphor Examples In Literature

What is a standard metaphor?

Metaphors play a vital role in our language. They furnish a vivid method to set forth many ideas by describing one thing in terms of another. Standard metaphor is one of the branch of the metaphor.

It is also called a conventional metaphor. While using the standard metaphor, an indirect comparison is made between the two different things having common characteristics. For example, metaphors demonstrate a relation by suggesting that everything on the earth is moving around one route. This thought is the basis of a community culture and language.

Common Examples of Standard Metaphors

Time is a thief This metaphor points out that time steals the moments of life just like a thief without our noticing.

He has a heart of stone The expression demonstrates a person who is emotionally unresponsive, and his emotions are being compared with the hard nature of stone.

The world is a stage The famous metaphor, employed by Shakespeare, conveys that the life is a play and everybody is performing his/her role according to the scripts written by the fate.

Her home was a prison Here, the home has been compared to a prison, where someone feels confined and lacks of freedom.

His words were a double-edged sword The metaphor conveys that the words have ability to protect or hurt you. They serve dual purpose, like a sword perform with two sharp edges.

Laughter is the best medicine This is a common saying. The phrase metaphorically states that laughter heals similar as the medicines cure diseases.

Hope is an anchor Hope is the thing that stables us during the difficult times. It is similar to how an anchor holds a ship safely.

The classroom was a zoo The metaphor makes comparison to a noisy and chaotic classroom with a zoo. It implies a lack of control and wild behavior.

Her eyes were windows to her soul The metaphorical phrase conveys that the eyes are the best source through which once can see the feelings and thoughts of others. It is like the windows that offer a view into a house.

He’s a night owl The phrase expresses a person who stays up late and is active at night. This habit of a person is like an owl.

Examples of Standard Metaphors 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 compares the world to a stage, and life to a theatrical play in a metaphorical manner. He believes that the men and women living on the earth are actors.

The use of metaphor describes the cycle of role that each and every person plays over his/her lifetime.

Shakespeare categorizes it as the “seven ages” of man. Each “age” or stage i.e. from infancy to old age, represents a different part in the play of the life where one enters and exit.

The metaphor contains a temporary and designed view of the life where individuals are performing roles as defined by their ages.

It conveys the pre-planned and recurrent nature of the life. It reflects that on the inevitability of the stages we all pass through from birth to death.


“I felt a Funeral, in my Brain” by Emily Dickinson

“I felt a Funeral, in my Brain,
And Mourners to and fro
Kept treading – treading – till it seemed
That Sense was breaking through”

In the initial lines of the poem, the author elevates the analogy of death, which occurs within her mind.

Mourners pacing “to and fro” suggests the burdensome and repetitive thoughts that the ladies mind is constantly tormented by. “Treading” implicates an unending, suppression’s nature/fight.

It depicts that how the mental state of the writer is invaded by these thoughts, like the mourners who move during a funeral service. It brings out the features of decay and failure of reasoning and stability within the mind or cranium of the female protagonist.

The use of the funeral metaphor throughout the poem significantly amplifies the way whereby the writer depicts her negativity and deterioration of her mind power, by incorporating the somberness and certainty of funeral rituals to transmit the degree to which she is traumatized mentally.


“fog” by Carl Sandburg

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

Here, the writer employs a standard metaphor by comparing the arrival of the fog with a cat movement.

This metaphor shows the silence of the fog and that it enveloped the whole city and port in a very quiet manner.

Moreover, the visualization of the cat maintaining vigilance in complete silence or simply watching with no hint of movement is the perfect representation of fog—it comes quietly yet leave nothing to indicate its presence, and finally departs when it wants.

The use of standard metaphor in the poem not only disseminates the physical characteristics of the fog but also imbues it with an animal-like sentience. Further, it also enhances the atmospheric effect of the poem.


“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;

In the stanza, the word “roads” is a standard metaphor for the choices one faces in the life. The “yellow wood” is the symbolization of a place of opportunity and decision.

The phrase “could not travel both” shows the regret of the speaker.

It shows the human experience of uncertainty and the limitation that one should choose only one path at a time. the speaker attempts to predict the outcome of his choice much like how one attempt to foresee the consequences of one’s decisions.

The metaphor extends throughout the poem and emphasizes the theme of a choice.


“To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee

“Maycomb was an old town, but it was a tired old town when I first knew it. In rainy weather the streets turned to red slop; grass grew on sidewalks, the courthouse sagged in the square.”

The use of standard metaphor “a tired old town” means the same as a town being physically tired—due to the bowing of the courthouse and the grass-grown sidewalks.

In addition, it illustrates the moral and social tiredness with a background that generalize and affect the community.

It creates the atmosphere of a place, which is tired and absorbed by its customs, stands still in time and resists the rushes of daily life like a man dying.

It portraits Maycomb as a place shackled by the weight of old biases and conservative cheap old-time beliefs, which, because the story is about to develop, will have to prove their strengths.

See also: Metaphor Examples in Poetry


“Romeo and Juliet” by William Shakespeare

“O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright!
It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night
Like a rich jewel in an Ethiop’s ear—
Beauty too rich for use, for earth too dear!”

Romeo, upon his first glance, stunningly falls in love with Juliet. But on the contrary, he gets lost in his feelings and resorts to a metaphor by considering her as a “rich jewel in an ethnic ear”.

The choice of the comparison cannot be lost in the darkness background because it is as glowing as the precious stone set in the ear of anthropoid.

This celestial picture of Glow amidst poignant beauty transforms Juliet into the shining star towering above everything around her.

For Romeo, she is absolutely the most beautiful in all his life time and he feels, deep down, that it is not in her nature to live in this very imperfect world, a feeling which signifies his imbedded and abrupt falling in love with her.

By the way the author describes this scene, one can predict the real depth of Romeo’s feelings as well as it also depicts Juliet to a more ethereal level.

See also: Extended Metaphor

Functions of Standard Metaphors

Standard metaphors enrich language in several ways.:

  • Enhance understanding: Standard metaphors enhance perception of complex and abstract concepts by joining the unfamiliar with the familiar.
  • Increase engagement: These metaphors make communication more pleasing and memorable.
  • Express complexity: They often enfold the complex emotions and ideas in simple terms by making them easier to communicate.
Standard Metaphor Examples In Literature
Standard Metaphor Examples In Literature

Standard metaphor is almost inalienable part of any spoken language. The authors masterfully deploy this literary device to make their readers feel immersed in the context and to arouse sentiments. It follows that when you do study the structure and the use of this metaphor you can see it easily teaches us how it affects the way we comprehend. These metaphors, including extended styles, facilitate the process of language study. Moreover, they make it possible to be participants in the life of texts, both cognitively and emotionally.

More to read: Visual Metaphor in Literature

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