Anthropomorphic Personification: Definition & Examples

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

In this lesson, we will talk about some popular anthropomorphic novels, including ''Charlotte's Web'' by E.B. White, ''Animal Farm'' by George Orwell, and ''Watership Down'' by Richard Adams.

Symbolism in Literature

When you think of anthropomorphism, the first thought that might come to mind is children's literature. Anthropomorphism is a form of personification in which objects or animals are given human abilities, such as walking and talking. While it is true that anthropomorphism is used frequently to grab a child's attention in children's stories, it is also used in some books with very adult themes as a form of symbolism. Symbolism occurs when a thing is used to represent an idea in literature. Let's look at some examples of anthropomorphism is popular literature.

Charlotte's Web

One of the most beloved children's stories is Charlotte's Web by E.B. White. Charlotte's Web is the story of anthropomorphic farm animals with strong themes about the cycle of life and friendship. Charlotte A. Cavatica is a spider that becomes friends with Wilbur, a pig that could have faced slaughter if it were not for Charlotte's determination to save him. Templeton is an offensive, self-absorbed rat, that has to be enticed to help others. Although they are animals, the characters are relatable because of their anthropomorphic abilities.

Animal Farm

Not all farm animal stories are for children. George Orwell, the author of Animal Farm used this anthropomorphic novelette to offer his opinion on the highly controversial political climate of the Russian Revolution. Old Major is a pig that represents both Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin. Old Major inspires the animals to overthrow their owner, Mr. Jones, and to live a communal life on the farm. However, after he dies, the pigs that take his place show that man's desire for power and wealth will always create a division in class. Not just the pigs are anthropomorphic. Boxer, a strong work horse represents the working class of the Soviet Union that always followed their leader, believing they would reap the benefits that never came. Benjamin, the donkey, doesn't believe in communism, but keeps his mouth shut about it. Mollie, the white mare, represents the middle class who just wants her luxuries and doesn't care about politics. By using anthropomorphism, George Orwell is able to deliver a satirical message to Stalin that would not have been published using a more direct approach.

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