Figurative Devices

Figurative devices add an extra level of meaning to the literal or denotative text.

Figurative is the opposite of literal.

Denotative: dictionary definition’s meaning

Connotative: implied or associated meaning

Simile: an explicit comparison using “like” or “as.”

Metaphor: a figurative device whereby one thing stands in for another; there is an implicit comparison involved (as opposed to the explicit comparison of a simile).

Personification: the attribution of human qualities to an inanimate object.

Symbol: an object which represents or stands for something else, usually a concrete object for an abstract concept. Normally it is widely recognised within a culture (though symbols can also be personal), unlike the metaphor, which is often more original. For example:

  • scales for justice
  • dove for peace
  • lily for purity
  • cross for Christianity

Allegory: a story with a double meaning or two levels, both a primary, surface, or literal meaning and a secondary, non-literal meaning. It usually involves the personification of abstract concepts. It is like a metaphor that is extended into a narrative.

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