What is personification?
Personification is a literary device and a figure of speech where human qualities and characteristics are attributed to non-human entities, animals, objects, or abstract concepts. This technique brings life and human-like attributes to inanimate objects or abstract ideas, making them more relatable and engaging for the reader or audience. By personifying things, the author or speaker can create vivid imagery and enhance the emotional impact of their writing or speech.
For example, a common personification is when a writer describes the sun “smiling” or the wind “whispering.” In these cases, human emotions and actions are given to natural phenomena.
Personification is often used in poetry, prose, fables, and other forms of literature to add depth, create metaphors, and make the writing more imaginative. It allows the author to bridge the gap between the human and non-human worlds, making it easier for readers to connect with the text on an emotional level.
Read also: Poetic terms
Here is a list of poems that include personification:
- “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost – In this famous poem, the speaker personifies two diverging paths in a wood, as if they have human-like qualities and are making choices.
- “Ode to the West Wind” by Percy Bysshe Shelley – The wind is personified as a powerful force that can bring both destruction and regeneration.
- “Because I could not stop for Death” by Emily Dickinson – Death is personified as a courteous driver who kindly takes the speaker on a journey to the afterlife.
- “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe – The raven is personified as a mysterious and ominous creature that speaks the haunting word “nevermore.”
- “To Autumn” by John Keats – The season of autumn is personified with human-like qualities and activities, creating a vivid and sensual portrayal of the season.
- “The Sun Rising” by John Donne – The sun is personified as an arrogant and intrusive character who is disturbed by the lovers in the poem.
- “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T.S. Eliot – Various objects and surroundings in the poem are personified to reflect the speaker’s internal struggles and anxieties.
- “The Lake Isle of Innisfree” by W.B. Yeats – The island of Innisfree is personified as a tranquil and idyllic place, enticing the speaker to escape there.
- “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” by William Wordsworth – The daffodils are personified, dancing and tossing their heads in the breeze.
- “The Charge of the Light Brigade” by Alfred Lord Tennyson – The cannons and other military elements are personified, giving the poem an intense and heroic tone.
- “A Red, Red Rose” by Robert Burns – Love and the rose are personified, expressing the depth of the speaker’s affection.
Types of personification:
- Natural Phenomenon Personification: In this type, natural elements such as the sun, moon, wind, and rain are given human-like characteristics and actions. For example, “The sun smiled down upon the earth,” or “The wind whispered through the trees.” By personifying nature, writers create a more engaging and relatable description of the world around us.
- Animal Personification: Animal personification involves attributing human traits and behaviors to animals. Classic examples include Aesop’s fables, where animals take on human roles and communicate with each other. For instance, in George Orwell’s “Animal Farm,” farm animals exhibit human qualities like leadership and ambition.
- Object Personification: In this form of personification, inanimate objects are given human attributes. For instance, “The old rocking chair creaked with age and longing for company.” By endowing objects with feelings and actions, writers establish a stronger emotional connection between the reader and the story’s elements.
- Historical or Mythological Personification: Writers often personify historical figures or mythological characters to create allegories or explore complex themes. For example, William Shakespeare personifies death as a character in his play “Romeo and Juliet,” when Juliet says, “Come, gentle night; come, loving, black-brow’d night, Give me my Romeo.”
- Time and Seasons Personification: Time and seasons are frequently personified to create a sense of movement and change. “Time flies,” or “Winter arrived with a fierce temperament,” are common examples of this type of personification.
- Emotion Personification: In this type, emotions and abstract concepts are personified, giving them human qualities and actions. For example, “Joy danced in her eyes,” or “Fear gnawed at his conscience.” Such personification helps readers connect emotionally with the characters and their feelings.
- Humanization of Technology: In modern literature and media, personifying technology is becoming more common. For instance, in the movie “Wall-E,” robots like Wall-E and EVE display human-like emotions, making them more endearing to the audience.