Analogy in Literature: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:01 Definition of an Analogy
  • 1:37 Examples
  • 2:58 Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Sarah Spitzig

Sarah has taught secondary math and English in three states, and is currently living and working in Ontario, Canada. She has recently earned a Master's degree.

Expert Contributor
Kaitlyn Danahy

Kate has a bachelor's degree in literature & creative writing from Gordon College. She taught high school literature in India and tutored in the US.

In this lesson, you will learn the definition of an analogy, how to use this common literary device in writing and how to interpret its meaning when reading text.

Definition of an Analogy

Literary devices are used in writing to enhance the meaning and images of a piece of writing, usually through comparison. Comparisons are often made so the reader can get a better sense or image about what is happening in the story. There are many kinds of literary devices, such as alliteration, simile, metaphor and idiom, just to name a few. They often give meaning to the writing so the reader can better interpret the story as a whole.

An analogy is a literary device that creates a relationship based on parallels or connections between two ideas. By establishing this relationship, the new idea is introduced through a familiar comparison, thus making the new concept easier to grasp. This is done in an effort to create similarities between the two subjects in order to give the reader an image and a point of comparison.

Simple analogies compare two things using a common framework. For example, 'Horse is to foal as dog is to puppy.' We understand that both ideas are comparing baby animals. Look at the following picture to see another example of a simple analogy:


So, 'Sock are to feet as gloves are to hands.'

Complex analogies make a more implicit comparison that helps the reader familiarize and visualize the relationship between the two things. For example, 'She was as cold as ice,' indicates that the girl was mean. Even though ice is not mean, the sentence evokes a feeling for the reader that she was very mean by comparing her to ice.

Examples of Analogies

Here are some examples of how to effectively use analogies in writing to compare the unknown to the known in order to make the subject more familiar to the reader.

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Additional Activities

Analogies are to Literary Devices as Theorems are to Formulas:

In this three-part activity, you will identify some complex analogies, transform others, and write your own. An answer key is below.


Read the following passage and identify the analogies (hint: there are two).

Chantrea stared at her math homework. She felt lost as she tried to understand an algebra theorem she had a test on the next day. She had never encountered a formula she couldn't understand before. Exhausted, she called her friend Kongkea, who came over to help Chantrea. Suddenly, Chantrea's eyes were opened, and she got a very good grade on her test.


Change the following complex analogies into simple analogies (warning: the last one is tricky!).

Lily told Angelo about her pet rabbit eating carrots. Angelo told Lily about his bird eating worms.

Santiago had to pick his classes for next semester, and he had to fulfill both a science and philosophy requirement. He chose chemistry and epistemology.

Zanjin's face was as blank as a wall.


Now write three of your own analogies. One can be simple; the other two should be complex. Try to articulate what the comparison is and explain why using the comparison is helpful to your reader.

Answer Key:

  • Identifying: "felt lost" analogizes Chantrea's confusion to being lost in her surroundings. "Chantrea's eyes were opened" compares opening one's eyes and thus being able to see to understanding.
  • Transforming: carrots are to rabbits as worms are to birds; chemistry is to science as epistemology is to philosophy; expressionless is to face as blank is to wall.
  • Writing: answers will vary; to use the third analogy under "Transforming" as an example, one might say the reader does not know what Zanjin's face looks like, but most likely knows what a blank wall looks like.

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