Differences between personification and symbolism

Personification and symbolism are both literary devices used to convey deeper meanings and add layers of complexity to a text. However, they operate in slightly different ways and serve distinct purposes. Here’s a breakdown of the differences between personification and symbolism:

Personification: Personification involves attributing human characteristics, traits, or behaviors to non-human entities or inanimate objects. This can make the descriptions more vivid, relatable, and emotionally resonant. By giving human attributes to objects or animals, writers create a stronger connection between the reader and the subject.

Example: “The wind whispered through the trees, urging them to dance in the moonlight.”

In this example, the wind is personified as whispering and urging, which are human actions. The trees are also personified as being capable of dancing.

Read also: Difference between personification and pathetic fallacy

Symbolism: Symbolism involves the use of symbols to represent ideas, concepts, or qualities beyond their literal meaning. Symbols can be objects, actions, words, or even characters that carry deeper meanings and themes throughout a literary work. They allow writers to communicate complex ideas indirectly, inviting readers to interpret the text on a deeper level.

Example: “The dove is often seen as a symbol of peace and purity.”

Here, the dove is a symbol representing peace and purity. It carries a larger, abstract meaning beyond its literal identity as a bird.

Key Differences:


  1. Involves attributing human characteristics to non-human entities.
  2. Makes non-human subjects more relatable and emotionally engaging.
  3. Enhances descriptions by imbuing objects or animals with human traits.
  4. Creates a stronger connection between the reader and the subject.
  5. Often used in metaphors and similes to vividly illustrate concepts.
  6. Adds a sense of animation and life to inanimate objects or animals.
  7. Focuses on the actions, emotions, and behaviors of non-human subjects.
  8. Primarily used for descriptive and visual purposes.
  9. Relies on the reader’s familiarity with human traits and behavior.
  10. Helps create sensory and emotional experiences through words.


  1. Involves using elements to represent broader ideas or concepts.
  2. Adds depth and layers of meaning to a text.
  3. Encourages readers to interpret the text on a deeper, symbolic level.
  4. Conveys abstract themes and emotions indirectly.
  5. Often seen as a thread connecting different parts of a work.
  6. Requires readers to engage with the text and analyze its symbolic elements.
  7. Focuses on representing complex, abstract concepts.
  8. Used to convey themes, moral lessons, and social commentary.
  9. Often requires cultural, historical, or contextual understanding to interpret.
  10. Encourages critical thinking and exploration of subtext

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