Returning to an old classic, Ciardi’s “How Does a Poem Mean?”, good figurative language is concrete, condensed and, above all interesting. It has a precision and vividness absent from everyday language. A paraphrase of a poem will almost always have more words and less impact than the original. The most effective metaphors are fresh, not outworn cliches. They conjure up pictures and other sensory recollections of sounds, smells, tastes. Since thoughts occur as pictures or images, not couched in words, the multitude of shifting images and pictures called up by words is a natural process.

Dramatically, a metaphor is an indirect comparison where a simile is a direct one. “He was a colt running across the meadow” is more direct than “He ran like a colt across the meadow.” A metaphor can be a one-line comparison or an overall comparison sustained throughout a longer piece.  This imagery becomes a wider term than metaphor; it is the “total sensory suggestion of poetry” (Ciardi). For example, Hawthorne’s novel The Blythedale Romance is saturated with a sense of illusion which several metaphors help to sustain. The theme of concealment of thoughts, emotions, and deeds reigns throughout and is paralleled by the concealment feature of the snow and the snowstorms. Thus, the snow image joins veils, masquerades, and mesmerisms and clairvoyance as major metaphors in the novel. The snow asserts its presence as a white veil (like that of the veiled lady) which adds to the mystery and ambiguity of the novel and the events which occur in it.

Metaphor, whether in poetry or in novels, is a powerful tool the poet/novelist can use to aid the reader in his search for meaning.  When used well, this tool makes the poem/novel clearer and denser at the same time; it clarifies or mystifies. Metaphor or metaphoric language sums up the importance of figurative language in general.  As Robert Frost wrote, ” Poetry provides the one permissible way of saying one thing and meaning another.”


Author: Rae Longest

This year marks my fiftieth year in AAUW (American Association of University Women). The Alvin chapter was begun in 1947, and as a new, green teacher to Alvin Independent School District, I joined in 1968. In the 80's we began a book group to share our love of reading, books,and fellowship with other women and girls who loved the same. We resurrected the group on-line in September of 2015. Eventually Powerful Women Readers folded as an on-line book club, but I kept the title and turned it into a blog. (See "Introduction,"first blog). This is my first experience at blogging or publishing anything and is becomes more fun with each blog posted. I am currently teaching as an adjunct at The University of Houston Clear Lake. This makes my 28th year there after three years at Alvin Community College and an almost-twenty year career as a classroom teacher with Alvin Independent School District. Reading and writing are "in my blood" just like teaching is. I hope you enjoy the blog.

4 thoughts on “METAPHOR PART II”

  1. I really like this article on metaphor, with its impact on language, Rae:). I particularly appreciate that you’ve highlighted how it can be used very effectively in novels and prose writing as well as in poetry. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Will definitely look into that one! TY Just finished Today I Became a Bird…got the recommendation from your blog, Readerbuzz. Never could get it back. Have to google it a couple of times a week and catch up. Hopefully, I’ll see Andrew before too long and he can figure it out.


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