By: Barbara P.
17 min read
Reviewed By: Chris H.
Published on: Jun 2, 2023
Have you ever wondered how words can come to life and take on human qualities? Well, that is personification—a literary device that adds depth and vividness to our writing.
In this blog, we'll explore personification, providing you with examples and valuable tips to learn this technique. We'll also address common mistakes and guide you on how to avoid them.
So, get ready to learn the art of personification!
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Personification is a literary device in which non-human objects, abstract concepts, or animals are given human qualities, characteristics, or actions.
It is a form of figurative language that helps bring inanimate things or concepts to life, making them more relatable for readers. By attributing human attributes to these entities, personification allows writers to evoke emotions, create vivid imagery, and enhance the overall meaning and impact of their writing.
For example, describing the wind as "whispering secrets" or the sun as "smiling" are instances of personification, ascribing human qualities to natural elements.
The word "personification" is pronounced as pur-suh-nuh-fi-KAY-shun. The literal meaning of personification refers to the act of attributing human qualities to non-human entities.
Here are some key aspects of personification:
In personification, physical attributes are assigned to non-human entities. This can involve giving them human-like features such as faces or bodies. For example, a cartoon character represents a talking animal with expressive facial features.
The expressional aspect of personification focuses on bringing non-human entities to life through animation or visual design. It involves giving them movements, gestures, and expressions.
For example, in the movie "Frozen," Olaf, the snowman, comes to life with playful movements, expressive gestures, and a contagious sense of joy.
Personification goes beyond physical appearance by attributing emotions and personalities to non-human objects or concepts. This aspect helps create a deeper connection with the audience, ascribing feelings and behaviors to things that typically don't possess them.
For example, in the book "The Giving Tree," the tree is personified as a loving and selfless entity that experiences emotions like sadness, happiness, and sacrifice.
Personification can also involve generating responses or behaviors from non-human entities that mimic human logic or reasoning. For example, a chatbot using personification may respond in a conversational manner, imitating human-like interactions.
Let’s take a look at some effective techniques for using personification in your writing:
|For example, "The trees stretched their arms towards the sky, adorned with vibrant leaves like a magnificent autumn tapestry."|
|For instance, "The waves whispered secrets to the shore, their gentle murmurs soothing the restless beach."|
|For instance, "The velvet night enveloped the city, its cool embrace calming the bustling streets."|
|For example, "Time flew by, its swift wings carrying us through the moments of our lives."|
|For instance, "Her voice was as sweet as honey, enchanting all who heard it."|
|For example, "The storm raged with fury, unleashing its wrath upon the trembling earth."|
|For instance, "The moon hung in the sky like a silver pendant, casting its ethereal glow over the sleeping world."|
|For example, "The abandoned house stood lonely and forlorn, its broken windows crying silent tears."|
|For instance, "The wind danced through the meadow, twirling the wildflowers in a graceful waltz."|
In this section, we will explore various examples of personification in different contexts.
Poetry is a genre that thrives on vivid imagery, emotional resonance, and the power of language. Personification plays a significant role in poetry, allowing poets to infuse life into objects, nature, and abstract concepts.
Here are some examples of famous poems that effectively employ personification:
"The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost
"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— / I took the one less traveled by."
Analysis: Here, the roads are given the human quality of making choices. The personification adds depth by symbolizing the choices and decisions we face in life, highlighting the speaker's individuality.
"Because I could not stop for Death" by Emily Dickinson
"Because I could not stop for Death, / He kindly stopped for me."
Analysis: Death is personified as a gentleman, portraying a peaceful and gentle departure from life. The personification creates a striking contrast between the concept of death and the human experience, evoking thought-provoking emotions.
In advertising and marketing, where the primary objective is to capture attention, engage consumers, and leave a lasting impression, personification proves to be a valuable technique.
Here are some examples of personification in this domain:
Personification is not limited to literature or advertising; it is a literary device that often finds its way into everyday language and communication. Here are some common examples of personification in daily life:
"The sun smiled down on us"
In this expression, the sun is attributed to the human quality of smiling, creating a cheerful and positive image.
"The wind whispered through the trees"
By ascribing the action of whispering to the wind, it creates a sense of mystery and softness in describing the sound of the wind rustling leaves.
"The flowers danced in the breeze"
Describing the movement of flowers as dancing adds a lively and graceful quality to their swaying motion.
This popular saying personifies time, treating it as a living creature with the ability to move quickly. It emphasizes how quickly time seems to pass.
"The stubborn door refused to open"
Here, the door is personified as being stubborn, implying resistance to being opened easily.
"The waves crashed angrily against the shore"
By attributing anger to the waves, it describes their forceful and aggressive movement.
"The car coughed and sputtered before finally starting"
Here, the car is personified as if it were experiencing a human coughing fit, adding a relatable and humorous touch to the description.
"The old house groaned under the weight of time"
By suggesting that the house is groaning, it conveys the idea that the house is old and experiencing the effects of aging.
"The city never sleeps"
This phrase personifies the city, implying its constant activity and liveliness, even during nighttime.
Here are some famous examples of personification in literature:
"The sun set behind the mountains, bidding the world farewell with a golden smile."
In this line from prose, the sun is personified as it is given the human action of bidding farewell and the human quality of smiling.
"The wind howled through the trees, expressing its anguish to the silent night."
Here, the wind is personified as it is given the human action of howling and the emotion of anguish.
"The flowers danced in the gentle breeze, their vibrant colors creating a symphony of beauty."
This sentence personifies the flowers by attributing the human action of dancing and creates a vivid image of their colorful movement.
"The waves crashed against the shore, their fury echoing through the empty beach."
The waves are personified with the action of crashing and the emotion of fury, intensifying the description of their forceful impact.
"Time flew by as the young couple enjoyed their moments of bliss, leaving behind only memories in its wake."
Time is personified here as it is given the human action of flying and the concept of leaving memories.
"The leaves whispered secrets to each other as the autumn breeze whispered through the trees."
The leaves are personified by attributing the human action of whispering and creating a sense of intimacy and mystery.
"The old house sagged under the weight of years, its creaking floors telling tales of bygone days."
The house is personified as it is described to sag and have creaking floors, imbuing it with a sense of age and character.
"The lonely moon peeked through the clouds, casting a soft, silver glow on the sleeping earth."
The moon is personified with the action of peeking and the quality of casting a glow, evoking a sense of intimacy and tranquility.
"The river meandered lazily through the countryside as if it had nowhere to be and all the time in the world."
The river is personified with the action of meandering and the quality of laziness, giving it a sense of leisure and unhurried movement.
Personification and anthropomorphism are related literary devices that involve attributing human characteristics or qualities to non-human entities. However, there are subtle differences between the two:
|Attributes human qualities to non-human things or abstract concepts.||Attributes human form or characteristics to non-human entities or animals.|
|Examples: "The flowers danced in the breeze."||Examples: A talking animal character in a children's story.|
|Enhances descriptions, evokes emotions, and creates vivid imagery.||Creates relatability and familiarity by giving non-human entities human-like traits.|
|Does not necessarily involve giving human form to the object or entity.||Involves attributing human physical traits or behaviors to non-human entities.|
|Often used in literature, advertising, and everyday language.||Commonly used in storytelling, mythology, folklore, and children's literature.|
|Helps establish a connection between the reader and the object or concept being personified.||Provides a relatable context for readers to engage with non-human characters or entities.|
|Focuses on the qualities or actions of the object rather than transforming its nature.||Involves transforming the non-human entity into a character with human-like qualities.|
|Supports the use of metaphors and symbolism in writing.||Can be used to convey moral lessons or explore human experiences through non-human traits.|
|Widely used across different genres and styles of writing.||Frequently employed in fantasy, fables, and stories involving talking animals.|
Watch this informative video to learn the difference between personification, metaphors and similies:
Here are some valuable tips for effectively using personification in your writing:
Understanding the Context and Purpose of Personification
Balancing Subtlety and Exaggeration
Considering the Target Audience
Consistency and Clarity
Editing and Revising
By following these tips, you can effectively use personification to enhance your writing, engage your readers, and create a vibrant and relatable narrative.
Now that you have a comprehensive understanding of personification, it's time to put your knowledge to the test! Here is a worksheet where you can apply your understanding of personification.
Here are some common pitfalls to avoid when incorporating personification into your writing:
By avoiding these common mistakes and refining your use of personification, you can enhance the impact and effectiveness of your writing.
Personification is a remarkable literary device that adds depth and emotion to various forms of communication. By attributing human qualities to non-human entities, personification allows us to connect with abstract concepts and inanimate objects.
Throughout this comprehensive blog, we have explored the various aspects and applications of personification. We looked into its use in poetry, prose, advertising, and marketing, showcasing successful examples that demonstrate its effectiveness in evoking emotions.
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Yes, personification can be used in non-fiction writing or academic discourse. For example, in a scientific article, one could say The virus sneaked its way into the cells, attributing the human action of sneaking to the virus.
Yes, personification can be used as a persuasive or rhetorical tool in speeches or debates. For instance, a speaker advocating for environmental conservation might say, Mother Nature is crying out for our help, attributing emotions to nature to evoke empathy.
Yes, personification can be found in ancient mythology and folklore. In Greek mythology, Zeus personifies the sky and the king of gods, while Athena personifies wisdom and war strategy.
Dr. Barbara is a highly experienced writer and author who holds a Ph.D. degree in public health from an Ivy League school. She has worked in the medical field for many years, conducting extensive research on various health topics. Her writing has been featured in several top-tier publications.
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