[PDF Notes] Get complete information on Figures of Speech

The figures of speech are those forms of expression that are different from the ordinary modes in order to emphasise or make the meaning more effective. In the hands of a skilled craftsman these devices can enhance the value of the written material. When misused these devices can destroy the worth of the material. The following are the figures of speech most frequently used in poetry.

1. The simile:

A directly expressed comparison. It usually contains the words like or as. The successful simile can evoke an ever-expanding vivid image in the mind of the reader. An effective simile must have an element of surprise in it; it must be appropriate; it should realise the emotional reaction anticipated by the poet as idle as “a painted ship upon a painted ocean

Similes, however, may be misused.

Trite (commonplace) Simile: red as arose innocent as a child.

Exaggerated Simile: as powerful as ten men.

Inappropriate Simile: as silently as a ghoul, my love glided into my heart.

Her hair dropped round her pallid cheeks, like seaweed on a clam.

2. The metaphor:

A comparison which is implied rather than stated. It does not contain the words like or as.

Trite metaphor: pearly teeth, icy stare, clammy hands.

Exaggerated Metaphor: one who is the right hand of justice.

Appropriate Metaphor: The Lord is my shepherd. A spring of love gushes from his heart.

Mixed Metaphor: The fitter taste of her remarks acted as a fuse that set off my anger.

This is a big step forward in our jet-propelled push forward.

He will take a backseat in our eyes if he remains forever self-centered.

You will have to learn to steer a steady course as the sands of time fly by.

3. Personification:

The figure of speech in which we give human qualities to inhuman things or objects.

The wind sings a varied song.

This intensifier must be used with caution by the poet. Too often it can lead to sentimentalism, rather than heightened reality.

Inappropriate Personification: Nature cried in torrents when I failed the test.

4. Hyperbole:

Intentional exaggeration. In the hands of a skilled humorist, this can be a most powerful device. Used occasionally, it can involve the reader very quickly in the author’s ideas.

My thoughts threaten to shake down the goodness that is left in the world and leave all to evil and ruin.

5. Apostrophe:

The figure of speech in which the absent are addressed as though they were present, the living as well as the dead, objects as well as human beings. Again, this can be a device highly charged with emotion.

Blow, blow thou winter wind

Thou art not so unkind

As man’s ingratitude

This device can be so easily abused, leading to overcharged words that do not arouse reader’s imagination.

Come forth, all former graduates of Lafayette High…

Kindness, fill her heart with goodness, not fear.

6. Inversion:

The figure of speech in which words are presented out of their natural or expected order.

Of arms and a man I sing

This device is frowned upon by most modern serious poets. However, it is a crutch that is much overused by the beginner and those who are striving for effects that are beyond the words and thoughts that they are using.

7. Onomatopoeia

Formation of words to represent natural sounds. A most effective device in appealing to the sense of sound.

Shrill bugles buzzing of the bees

Whirring wings

As with the other figures of speech, this device can be effective or most inappropriate. Inappropriate: The buzzing of the babies in their cribs.

8. Alliteration:

Repetition of initial consonant sounds, rhyming of initial consonants, furrow followed free

Alliteration gives a sense of continuity. It is one of the oldest devices in the language and on that is most effective if it is not overused.

9. Assonance:

Repetition of vowel sounds, the pairing of the same vowel sounds without regard for consonants.

and screen from seeing and leave in sight

This is a device used to give tonal values to lines. It is difficult to introduce and not easily sensed by the reader.

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