Dr. Hareshwar Roy

Metaphor is a figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to a person, idea, or object to which it is not literally applicable. It is an implied analogy or unstated comparison which imaginatively identifies one thing with another. This device is used by authors to turn or twist the meaning of a word. They use them to make their writing more interesting or entertaining. Metaphors are the most often used figure of speech. Other rhetorical comparative figures of speech, such as metonymy, parable, simile, Antithesis, hyperbole and synecdoche are species of metaphor.

Metaphor is present in the oldest written Sumerian language narrative.The term is from the Greek metaphora, meaning “transference”. It is formed by combining meta, meaning “over” and pherein, meaning “to carry.” The idea of metaphor can also be traced back to Aristotle who says “Metaphor is the application of a word that belongs to another thing: either from genus to species, species to genus, species to species, or by analogy.” The Greek plays of Sophocles, Aeschylus, and Euripides, are full of metaphors. In short, any theme in literature is a metaphor. It is viewed as an aspect of speech and writing and it qualifies as style too.
I.A. Richards reports that metaphor is in two parts: the tenor and the vehicle. The tenor is the subject to which attributes are ascribed. The vehicle is the subject whose attributes are borrowed. Other writers employ the general terms ground and figure to denote tenor and the vehicle. Consider the All the world's a stage monologue from As You Like It:
All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
In this metaphoric example, "the world" is compared to a stage, describing it with the attributes of “the stage”; "the world" is the tenor, and "a stage" is the vehicle; "men and women" is a secondary tenor, "players" is the secondary vehicle.

            The metaphor contains some common types. A dead metaphor is one in which the sense of the transferred image is absent. An extended metaphor establishes a principal subject and subsidiary subjects. The quotation of As You Like It is a good example. The world is described as a stage and then men and women are subsidiary subjects. Allegory and Parable are categorized as extended metaphors. A mixed metaphor is one that leaps from one identification to a second identification inconsistent with the first. Catachresis is a mixed metaphor.

The simplest and also the most effective poetic device is the use of comparison. It might almost be said that poetry is founded on two main means of comparing things: simile and metaphor. We heighten our ordinary speech by the continual use of such comparisons. When Robert Burns wrote "My love is like a red, red rose" he used a simile. When Robert Herrick wrote "You are a tulip" he used a metaphor. Emily Dickinson used comparison with great originality. She mixed similes and metaphors superbly .Thus, because of comparison and association, familiar objects become strange and glamorous. 


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