What Is a Metaphor?

Have you wondered what is a metaphor? You hear people say, that’s a great metaphor, but you are clueless about what they are saying. Perhaps you’ve read something, and you know they are making some reference to something else, but you can’t quite pinpoint the association. Alternatively, you may have spoken a metaphor, but you did not know that was what you were doing. Well, let’s go on the journey to find the answer to the question of what is a metaphor?

What Is a Metaphor?

A metaphor is a way of speaking that presents two unrelated things in a way that the reader can make the connection. Once the reader understands how the two unrelated things link to each other, then they will understand the meaning that the writer is trying to convey. As a literary device, metaphors produce similarities without the use of like or as (as similies do). A metaphor indicates that two ideas or things are equal in some way rather than only similar. Often the two unrelated things are images that the reader can connect to fully understanding the expression. Because metaphors are figures of speech, the picture provided by the writer is not taken literally.

Examples of Metaphors

It is important to note that metaphors are a figure of speech that contrasts two objects by saying that one is the other.

  1. One example is “My thoughts are stars I cannot fathom into constellations.” Fault In Our Stars, John Green

The speaker is comparing the thoughts in his head to constellations. Specifically, his inability to organize his ideas into a structured pattern like the constellations. His thoughts are random and without any real pattern. This randomness seems to be a struggle for him.

  1. “You ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog – Cryin’ all the time” Hound Dog, by Elvis Presley

The whole song deals with unfaithfulness. In this line, the woman is yelping all the time like a hound. This accusation means she is always complaining about something or the other.

  1. “Cause baby you’re a firework – Come on show them what you’re worth.” – As you shoot across the sky “Firework,” by Katy Perry

Here Perry compares the person to a firework. They are loud, colorful, and filled with a burst of energy.

  1. “Life is a highway – I wanna ride it all night long – If you’re going my way – I wanna drive it all night long Life Is A Highway,” by Rascal Flatts

The song compares life to a journey down a long road. The speaker appears to be excited about the journey through life.

  1. “The Night is a big black cat,” by Orr Clark

This poem compares the cat to the night and, in the next line, likens the cat’s eyes to the moonlight.

The Purpose of Metaphors

The purpose of metaphors is to add a little color to the writing to make it interesting. What metaphors do is take a very complex idea like “All the world,” for example and compare it to something much simpler like “a stage” to comprehend the whole world’s magnitude. If I can get the concept that I’m an actor performing on the world’s stage, I can understand my role on the planet. I can better understand what this experience is on earth.

Metaphors make writing more engaging for the reader. The vivid imagery makes the reader want to know what is happening. It can create a level of curiosity. It can make writing so compelling that the reader can feel what is taking place in the story. Metaphors can invoke strong emotional responses from a piece of work. For example, “love is a battlefield.” You can imagine the amount of pain a relationship can cause. It hurts, it scars. It’s sad at times. Sometimes you are winning, and other times you are losing. All of this from a simple metaphor.

Types of Metaphors

Here are a few different kinds of metaphors, each of which serves various functions.

An implied metaphor compares two things that are not the same as each other without directly naming one of those things.

A visual metaphor is where one image is linked to another to indicate an association. In ads, visual representations are widely used, such as a company showing their vehicle next to a panther to imply their vehicle is fast.

An extended metaphor is a variation of a metaphor that stretches from prose or poetry throughout many lines, paragraphs, or stanzas.

A simple metaphors are like your typical metaphors, but the two things compared have something in common with each other.

A dead metaphor is a form of metaphor that, due to overuse, has changed context over time. Since dead metaphors have long lost their original interpretation, they do not convey a concept in mind the same way as natural, implied, or visual metaphors do.  For this reason, some believe dead metaphors are no longer considered metaphors.

A mixed metaphor is a blend of two or more metaphors’ incompatibility. The impact is always humorous. Whether it is deliberate or unintended depends on one’s interpretation of how metaphors work.

Conclusion

Metaphors are a fun and exciting way to write stories, poetry, and music. We use metaphors in our own daily lives without being aware that we are doing it. Using metaphors is how we teach our children about life and the obstacles within it. A great example of teaching children about life is Langston Hughes’s “Mother to Son.” Figurative Language allows the mind to think creatively and to see the world through colorful lenses. Without metaphors, the unique way we express ourselves diminishes drastically.


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