Everyone knows what a person is, but do you know what personification is? Personification is a type of metaphor and a common literary tool. It is when you assign the qualities of a person to something that isn't human or that isn't even alive, like nature or emotions. There are many reasons for using personification. It can be used as a method of describing something so that others can more easily understand it. It can be used to emphasize a point. It can be used to help paint a picture in your mind. You may in fact use personification without even knowing it.
There is often confusion between personification and anthropomorphism. While personification means giving an object or animal human characteristics to create interesting imagery – as in nursery rhymes like "Hey Diddle Diddle," where "the little dog laughed to see such fun" – anthropomorphism means making an object or animal act and look like they are human, as in Peter Rabbit.
Personification Examples in Literature
Personification is often found in literature and poetry. Some examples include:
"Two Sunflowers Move into the Yellow Room" by Nancy Willard
“Ah, William, we’re weary of weather,”
said the sunflowers, shining with dew.
“Our traveling habits have tired us.
Can you give us a room with a view?”
They arranged themselves at the window
and counted the steps of the sun,
and they both took root in the carpet
where the topaz tortoises run.
In this poem, the sunflowers are talking to the poet William Blake. They are tired of being outside and tell him that they want to be moved. We know that sunflowers cannot be tired or talk so Willard uses personification to give them these attributes.
"I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud" by William Wordsworth
"I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
This poem brings the beauty and tranquility of nature to life. The daffodils are personified as a crowd of people dancing, while Wordsworth floats like a cloud enjoying the show.
Personification can also be found in literature. William Shakespeare uses it throughout Romeo and Juliet. One example is in Act 2 when Friar Lawrence is picking flowers for his various potions. He says:
"The grey-ey'd morn smiles on the frowning night, Check'ring the Eastern clouds with streaks of light."
In describing the morning as smiling at the night he is personifying the morning and establishing a romantic setting for Romeo and Juliet's love to unfold.
50 Ways to Use Personification
The following sentences use the personification technique. See if you can identify which part of the word or phrase is the personification. The answers are below:
|1. The stars danced playfully in the moonlit sky.||26. While making my way to my car, it appeared to smile at me mischievously.|
|2. The run-down house appeared depressed.||27. The car, painted lime green, raced by screaming for attention.|
|3. The first rays of morning tiptoed through the meadow.||28. The butterflies in the meadow seemed to two-step with one another.|
|4. She did not realize that opportunity was knocking at her door.||29. The waffle jumped up out of the toaster.|
|5. He did not realize that his last chance was walking out the door.||30.The popcorn leapt out of the bowl.|
|6. The bees played hide and seek with the flowers as they buzzed from one to another.||31. When the DVD went on sale, it flew off the shelves.|
|7. The wind howled its mighty objection.||32. I tripped because the curb jumped out in front of me.|
|8. The snow swaddled the earth like a mother would her infant child.||33. Time creeps up on you.|
|9. The river swallowed the earth as the water continued to rise higher and higher.||34. The news took me by surprise.|
|10. Time flew and before we knew it, it was time for me to go home.||35. The fire ran wild.|
|11. The ocean waves lashed out at the boat and the storm continued to brew.||36. The thunder clapped angrily in the distance.|
|12. My computer throws a fit every time I try to use it.||37. The tornado ran through town without a care.|
|13. The thunder grumbled like an old man.||38. The door protested as it opened slowly.|
|14. The flowers waltzed in the gentle breeze.||39. The evil tree was lurking in the shadows.|
|15. Her life passed her by.||40. The tree branch moaned as I swung from it.|
|16. The sun glared down at me from the sky.||41. Time marches to the beat of its own drum.|
|17. The moon winked at me through the clouds above.||42. The storm attacked the town with great rage.|
|18. The wind sang through the meadow.||43. My life came screeching to a halt.|
|19. The car was suffering and was in need of some TLC.||44. The baseball screamed all the way into the outfield.|
|20. At precisely 6:30 am my alarm clock sprang to life.||45. The blizzard swallowed the town.|
|21. The window panes were talking as the wind blew through them.||46. The tsunami raced towards the coastline.|
|22. The ocean danced in the moonlight.||47. The avalanche devoured everything in its path.|
|23. The words appeared to leap off of the paper as she read the story.||48. The pistol glared at me from its holster.|
|24. The phone awakened with a mighty ring.||49. The car beckoned me from across the showroom.|
|25. The funeral raced by me in a blur.||50. I could hear Hawaii calling my name.|
Did you identify the personification in the examples above? The human trait assigned to the subject is in bold here. The subject being personified is underlined.
1. The starsdanced playfully in the moonlit sky.
26. While making my way to my car, itsmiled at me mischievously.
2. The run-down house appeared depressed.
27. The car, painted lime green, raced by screaming for attention.
3. The first rays of morningtiptoed through the meadow.
28. The butterflies in the meadow seemed to two-step with one another.
4. She did not realize that opportunitywas knocking at her door.
29. The wafflejumped up out of the toaster.
5. He did not realize that his last chancewas walking out the door.
30. The popcornleapt out of the bowl.
6. The beesplayed hide and seek with the flowers as they buzzed from one to another.
31. When the DVD went on sale, it flew off the shelves.
7. The windhowled its mighty objection.
32. I tripped because the curb jumped out in front of me.
8. The snow swaddled the earth like a mother would her infant child.
33. Timecreeps up on you.
9. The riverswallowed the earth as the water continued to rise higher and higher.
34. The newstook me by surprise.
10. Time flew and before we knew it, it was time for me to go home.
35. The fireran wild.
11. The ocean waves lashed out at the boat and the storm continued to brew.
36. The thunder clapped angrily in the distance.
12. My computer throws a fit every time I try to use it.
37. The tornadoran through town without a care.
13. The thunder grumbled like an old man.
38. The doorprotested as it opened slowly.
14. The flowerswaltzed in the gentle breeze.
39. The evil treewas lurking in the shadows.
15. Her life passed her by.
40. The tree branchmoaned as I swung from it.
16. The sunglared down at me from the sky.
41. Timemarches to the beat of its own drum.
17. The moonwinked at me through the clouds above.
42. The stormattacked the town with great rage.
18. The wind sang through the meadow.
43. My life came screeching to a halt.
19. The carwas suffering and was in need of some TLC.
44. The baseball screamed all the way into the outfield.
20. At precisely 6:30 am my alarm clocksprang to life.
45. The blizzardswallowed the town.
21. The window paneswere talking as the wind blew through them.
46. The tsunamiraced towards the coastline.
22. The oceandanced in the moonlight.
47. The avalanchedevoured everything in its path.
23. The wordsleapt off of the paper as she read the story.
48. The pistolglared at me from its holster.
24. The phoneawakened with a mighty ring.
49. The carbeckoned me from across the showroom.
25. The funeralraced by me in a blur.
50. I could hear Hawaii calling my name.
Purpose of Personification
As seen by the examples above, personification is used to assign human qualities to things that are not human, but it does not make them behave like a human. The purpose of this figurative language is to bring inanimate things to life to better explain them. Writers often use personification to make their writing more vivid and to have the reader understand the object or animal in a better way.
Do you have a good example to share? Add your example here.comments powered by
Examples of Personification
By YourDictionaryEveryone knows what a person is, but do you know what personification is? Personification is a type of metaphor and a common literary tool. It is when you assign the qualities of a person to something that isn't human or that isn't even alive, like nature or emotions. There are many reasons for using personification. It can be used as a method of describing something so that others can more easily understand it. It can be used to emphasize a point. It can be used to help paint a picture in your mind. You may in fact use personification without even knowing it.
Welcome to Techniquely Correct, where we talk about the techniques that help you better analyse - and write your own - texts. This week we're talking about personification and, even more interestingly, the opposite of personification.
Personification is a friendly face. You may not see them often, but when they do pop around to visit you're glad to see them because they are easy, uncomplicated, and familiar. As one of the first techniques you encounter when learning the skill of critical analysis, you know where you are with personification.
Personification is the attribution of human qualities, characteristics, or behaviours to non-humans, be they animals, inanimate objects, or even intangible concepts.
"The moon glared in the window at me." This is personification. Glaring is something your friends do when you show up to a party (or to work) in a Bieber shirt. It's not something the moon does. Glaring entails firstly the ability to see, since it involves looking at and perceiving something, and secondly the ability to feel emotion, since glaring is looking at something angrily or judgementally. The moon has neither eyes nor the capacity to care about your Bieber shirt, so here we are attributing human qualities - awareness, intelligence and behaviours - to an inanimate object.
What about this, though: "The cat glared at me as I left the room without feeding him." Is this personification? Well, kind of. Cats can see, and feel emotion, and are aware, but 'glaring' implies a level of intelligence more closely associated with humans. In short, it might be personification, or it might not be, depending on the context, and how the author is using it.
This, however, is definitely personification of an animal: "The cow chewed on the grass and decided that its life was pretty good: lots of grass, lots of peace, and no Bieber shirts anywhere to be seen." The level of intelligence being attributed to the cow here is clearly human. These are human thought processes. This is personification.
So what about the opposite situation, where we attribute animal qualities, characteristics or behaviours to humans? Is that a technique? Yes, indeed it is, and it is called Zoomorphism.
"She bared her fangs and leapt at him." Assuming 'she' is a human, this is zoomorphism. Humans do not have fangs, and 'baring your fangs' as a show of aggression is definitely an animal behaviour. General advice: don't wear Bieber shirts around people with fangs.
Of course zoomorphism can also apply to inanimate objects and intangible concepts. "The night followed him, hunted him, ready to rip into him with its dark claws." Here the night is being described as an animal, engaging in animal behaviour, having animal features like claws. This is zoomorphism.
If human qualities can be attributed to animals and objects, and animal qualities can be attributed to humans and objects, that only leaves one remaining possible technique. Can the qualities of inanimate objects be attributed to humans, and animals? Yes, they can, and this technique is called chremamorphism.
"The old man creaked and stood from his stoney throne and crumbled down the hallway." Here, a person is being described as having some qualities of rock, such as the ability to crumble. Note that the man is not wearing a Bieber shirt; this makes sense, as rocks are generally One Directioners.
Personification, Zoomorphism, Chremamphorism
Now you know the opposites of personification, so the next time you want to talk about them in an essay, you will be techniquely correct.
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