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Personification in Literature: Definition & Examples Video

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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Debbie Notari
In this lesson, we will look at personification. Personification is a form of figurative language in which something that is not human is given human characteristics. This device is often used in poetry to enhance the meaning and beauty of poems.

Definition

Personification is a part of figurative language. A writer can either say something literally, or figuratively. If it's literal, then the words mean exactly what they say. But the meaning of figurative words is hidden behind description. When a writer uses figurative language, the description brings a deeper meaning and understanding to the words.

Personification is a type of figurative language where non-humans are given human characteristics. In this lesson, we will look at a few examples of how personification is used in literature.

Examples of Personification in Phrases

Here are a few examples of phrases. For instance, to describe rain, one might say, 'The clouds wept.' Clouds obviously cannot cry, but we can imagine them crying when it's raining. Here is another example. 'The floor complained when Grandpa stepped on it.' Floors don't literally complain, of course.

Examples of Personification in Poetry (Example 1)

In this section, we'll look at three examples of personification in poetry. The first is the poem, 'Because I could not Stop for Death,' by Emily Dickinson. In this poem, Death is treated like a person, taking on the characteristics of a carriage driver. The first stanza reads:

'Because I could not stop for Death,

He kindly stopped for me;

The carriage held but just ourselves

And Immortality.'

In Dickinson's poem, Death stops the carriage, drives slowly, passes a school, and pauses. These are the actions of humans, but in this poem Death has taken on these characteristics.

Examples of Personification in Poetry (Example 2)

The second example is 'The Sick Rose,' by William Blake. It reads:

'O Rose thou are sick,

The invisible worm,

That flies in the night,

In the howling storm:

Has found out thy bed

Of crimson joy,

And his dark secret love

Does thy life destroy.'

Roses aren't like people who become ill. Also, a rose doesn't have a bed or a secret love. But the poet uses personification to enhance both the description of the rose and our understanding of the destruction of something beautiful.

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