(The Figures of Speech)
The Rhetoric (Figures of Speech) a book on Rhetoric by Menonim Menonimus, Internet Edition by www.menonimus.org.
First Edition: 2022
(The Rhetoric | Figures of Speech)
Figures Based on Similarity or Analogy of Agreement
Figures Based on Association
Figures Based on Difference
Figures Based on Imagination
Figures Based on Indirectness
Figures Based on Sound
Figures Based on Construction
Analysis of Figures of Speech
(Figure of Speech)
The word ‘Rhetoric’ is derived from the Greek word ‘rhetor’. Etymologically it means the art of impressive or persuasive speaking. In ancient Greece, Rhetoric was a subject of study to train public speakers on how to make their speeches more impressive, persuasive, and remarkable. Nowadays its meaning has widened and it refers to any ornamental composition whether prose or poetry. In other words, to say, it refers to some linguistic devices by which we can make our composition decorative, melodious, thought-provoking, interesting, attractive, and motivational. It is like dressing an ordinary girl in queenly robes to look attractive and thus to draw the attention of the onlookers. The main objectives of rhetoric are to present an ordinary thing in an extraordinary way to excite wonder, awe, and interest. Notice the following two statements-
- Sita’s hair is black.
- Sita’s hair is as black as an adder.
The first statement is an ordinary one and the second statement is an extraordinary (figurative) one.
Both rhetoric and grammar play on the arrangement of words in a sentence. But rhetoric is not grammar and grammar is not rhetoric. Grammar deals with the rules of arranging words in an agreed way while making a sentence. It aims at the correctness of writing and speaking. On the other hand, rhetoric aims at the beauty and effectiveness of language.
There are many types of figures of speech and for a better study we can classify them as under:
- Figures of Speech based on Similarity or Analogy or Agreement
- Figures of Speech based on Association
- Figures of Speech based on Difference
- Figures of Speech based on Imagination
- Figures of Speech based on Indirectness
- Figures of Speech based on Sound
- Figures of Speech based on Construction
A detailed discussion of all these classes of figures of speech is done in the following chapters.
The Rhetoric | Figures of Speech
Figures Based on Similarity or Analogy or Agreement
Figures based on similarity or analogy or agreement includes (1) Simile (2) Metaphor (3) Allegory (4) Parable and (5) Fable. Let us illustrate them as follows:
The word ‘simile’ comes from the Latin word ‘similis’ which means likeness. A simile is an explicit statement of likeness between two different things or actions. It consists of placing two different things side by side and comparing them with regard to some features common to both. For example,
Rajen is as ferocious as a tiger.
In this statement, ‘Rajen’ is compared to a ‘tiger’. Here ‘Rajen’ and ‘tiger’ are two different things but are alike in possessing one characteristic in common, namely ‘ferocity’. A simile is always introduced by such words as like, as, so, as as, etc.
Look at the following statement:
‘Rekha is as kind as Radha’.
In this statement, the comparison is made between Rekha and Radha. This is not a simile, but only a comparison because Rekha and Radha are of the same kind (human being). To be a simile the comparison must be made between two different (dissimilar) things and the point of similarity between the two things compared must be clearly stated.
There is no restriction to the use of similes in poetry as poetry is abstract in quality that plays on emotion than factual reality and emotion can be better elaborated by similes and other figures of speech. On the other hand, any prose work especially an essay-type composition is concrete and informative that emphasizes on presenting factual reality. So to keep up the concreteness of facts and information in any prose composition, we should make sparing use of similes. Otherwise, the prose work may lose its factual reliability. Again to say that prose writers should use similes in such a way that no harm is done to the content if the similes are cut down.
- My pen is like the hammer of the hand of a blacksmith
I build words striking with it
It is as sharp as the blade of the plough of a peasant
In its furrow is the Sita of gold
It is as rough as the saw of a carpenter
I draw out the bloody words of experience by cutting the fiber of hardwood,
My words are as target-piercing as the arrow of the bow of a Sautal youth
They became excited with blood and flesh and wish
Some of them are as high as the hills,
Some of them are as obedient as the river,
Some of them are as deep as the lake
They obey the command of none.
I am the poet of the great continent carved with rivers and mountain
The world is my poetry. (Hiren Bhattacharya)
- Like a child from the womb, like a ghost from the tomb
I arise and unbuild it again. –Shelley
- Drive my dead thoughts over the universe like withered leaves to quicken a new birth. –Shelley.
- Life is as tedious as a twice-told tale. –Shakespeare.
- We drop like the fruits of a tree. –Meredith
- The sky was like the painting drawn by a child deep blue from the top to the bottom.
- The breeze was whispering through the leaves of trees like a chorus.
- Her lips pressed mine that felt as soft as the velvety rose petal.
- In study, Ram is as slow as a turtle on the muddy ground.
- His skin felt like the grains of sand.
- She seemed sweet as candy.
- Silima is as pretty as a picture.
- Her skin was like milk.
- As the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of a fool.
16. Dating is like getting a pair of new shoes when you first get them, you want to wear them all the time. And when you see another pair of shoes you like, you slowly mistreat the old one.
- Huge waves like white foamy water.
- The cloud was fluffy like cotton wool.
- Her cheek was as slippery as an eel.
- As quick as the wink, he dashed for the field.
- She works like a horse.
- He moves like a snail.
- She eats like a pig.
- Friends are like chocolate cakes.
- He is as quick as flash.
- She felt the raindrops as small kisses on her face.
- The baby is a perpetual motion machine.
- The news was more shocking than a thousand volts of electricity.
- It was darker than a moonless night.
- Travelling to other countries is like trying on other lives.
- Getting dressed is more complicated than a rocket launch.
- It was as unpleasant as a dose of cough medicine.
- Her skin is softer than a puppy’s fur.
- She seems as quiet as a mouse.
- Raindrops were like drumbeats on the roof.
- It was as short as a piece of grass.
- The kitchen looks like a battlefield.
- Mary is like a bulldozer.
- She is like an opinionate volcano.
- The encyclopedia is like gold mines.
- Come like a hot knife through butter.
- Writing poetry is like bungee jumping.
- Talent is like being born with blue eyes.
- A dancer is like water.
- Water is like spring.
- Spring is like fire.
- Fire is like inspiration.
- Inspiration is like a shooting star.
- Leaves are like old people.
- Old people are like vegetables.
- Vegetables are like medicine.
- Happiness is like a ‘butterfly’ (short-lived).
- School is like a circus.
- Her nose is like a hook.
- It is as harmless as a dream.
- Your teeth were as useless as an old cycle tyre.
- Her tears flow like a river in flood.
- Her face was red like an apple.
- The sky seems green as grass
- Small like a crumb (a portion of bread)
- His hands and feet were as comely as the leaves of a mango sapling.
- Her two breasts looked like the belly of a pregnant goat.
- The sea waves glitter like diamonds under the sunlight.
- The water like a witch’s oils burnt green and blue and white. –Coleridge
The word ‘Metaphor’ comes from the Greek word ‘meta’ which means ‘change’ and ‘phero’ which means ‘I bear’. Therefore metaphor means the transfer of significance from one object to another in such a manner that comparison is implied though not explicitely stated. For example,
‘The camel is the ship of the desert.’
Here the metaphor consists of the implied similarity between the camel and the ship. The camel crosses the desert in the same manner as the ship crosses the sea. The similarity lies in the manner of moving ahead.
In other words, to say, a metaphor states that one thing is another thing. Here, in the above example, the camel is said to be a ship (another thing).
A metaphor may take the form of a noun, an adjective, and a verb. Example,
(a) Metaphor as Noun
- The wish is the ‘father’ to the thought.
- Life seems to be an utterly unimportant ‘by-product’. -Jeans
- Raja is in the ‘sunset’ of his days.
- The Lord is my‘ rock’ and my ‘fortress’.
- I have not a ‘shade’ of doubt about you.
- Sir Philip Sidney was the ‘flower’ of Knighthood.
- William Pitt was the ‘pillar’ of the state.
- Ram has no ‘ray’ of hope.
- The Vedas kindled the ‘light’ of knowledge in my heart.
- Life is a walking ‘shadow’, a poor ‘player’
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more; it is a ‘tale’
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
Signifying nothing. –Shakespeare
(b) Metaphor as Verb
- His efforts were crowned with success.
- Hari ‘cultivated’ his neighbor’s acquaintance.
- We must learn to ‘bridle’ our passion.
- I will ‘drink’ life to the lees.
- I have ‘harboured’ no malice against him.
- A new thought suddenly ‘struck’ him.
- He‘swam’bravely against the stream of popular applause.
- Sita has ‘caught’ a bad cold.
- The city was ‘stormed’ after a long seize.
(c) Metaphor as Adjective
- Radhika grabbed the‘ golden’ opportunity.
- Seema has a ‘stony’ heart.
- That was a ‘transparent’ falsehood.
- Lady Macbeth was a woman of ‘iron’ firmness.
- That was a ‘lame’ excuse.
There is both similarity and distinction between simile and metaphor. The similarity lies in the comparison but the distinction lies in the manner of comparison. In a simile, the manner of comparison is clearly stated by using words as ‘like, as, so’ etc. but in a metaphor, the comparison is not clearly stated; it is only implied. For example,
Your news hurts my heart in the manner as a dagger hurts a heart. (simile)
Your news is a dagger to my heart. (metaphor)
Note well that every simile can be compressed into a metaphor and every metaphor can be expanded into a simile. Example,
- Afghanistan is the Switzerland of Asia. (metaphor)
Afghanistan is a mountainous country in Asia as Switzerland is in Europe. (simile)
- The waves ‘thundered’ on the shore. (metaphor)
As the thunder produces a loud defeaning sound so the sea waves hitting on the shore produce defeaning loud sound. (simile)
- Kalidas is the Shakespeare of India. (metaphor)
Kalidas is the greatest dramatist of India as Shakespeare is of England. (simile)
- Variety is the ‘spice’ of life. (metaphor)
As spice flavours food so variety makes life pleasant.
An Allegory is a narrative either in prose or verse which carries a second deeper meaning or significance besides its literal or surface meaning. In other words, to say, an Allegory is a narrative description of a subject under the guise of another similar subject. In a sense, an Allegory may be called an Extended Metaphor. In an allegory, the author invokes objects with symbolic significance. An allegory defers from Fable in the respect that the characters of a fable are not human beings but beasts, birds or inanimate objects that point to a moral lesson. There are three main types of allegory as-(1) Religious Allegory, (2) Political Allegory and (3) Historical Allegory. The English Language has produced some exemplary allegories such as- John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, Edmund Spencer’s The Faery Queen, John Dryden’s Absalom and Achitophel, Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, Tennyson’s The Idylls of the King and some others.
A parable is a simple story used to illustrate a moral, spiritual or religious truth. It is in a sense, an earthly story with a divine meaning. The parable may be called an expanded simile. There are some best parables in the Bible among which mention may be made of the Parables of the Good Samaritan (St. Luke’s Gospel, Chapter Chapter-X- 30-37) and the Parable of the Prodigal Son (St. Luke’s Gospel, Chapter XV, 11-32).
The parable of the Good Samaritan describes that there was a traveler (probably a Jew), who was robbed and beaten badly by some people and was left on the roadside. A Levite and a priest passed through that road, but both ignored him.
Eventually, a Samaritan came and helped the wounded and miserable person, regardless of his race or religious belief (usually, Samaritans despised Jews). Later, the traveler revealed himself as Christ.
The moral of this parable is to help all those in need, without prejudice to anyone because of perceived differences.
The parable of the Prodigal Son reads like this-
Once upon a time, there was a rich man and he had two sons. His first son was good and obedient to his father. But the second son was wayward and did not want to wait for his inheritance till the death of his father and immediately demanded his share. Then his father divided his property among his two sons. But within a few months, he wasted all his wealth and became miserable. Later, realizing that he would need his father’s help in order to survive, he returned home and begged to become one of his father’s hired servants. Then his father, instead of being furious, welcomed his wayward son, celebrating his return.
The eldest son, who lived with his father all the time, was furious and refused to participate in the celebration. He told his father:
“Look, I serve you for so many years, and never disobey you, and yet you haven’t given me a kid that I can make merriment with my friends…”
The father replied to his eldest son:
“Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. I am to rejoice for your brother as he was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found again.”
When the father died, he left the rest of his inheritance to his eldest son.
The story conveys the symbolic message that God is like a father who loves humanity despite his rebellious nature, and that those who follow His path are welcomed by Him, even if they have gone astray.
Likewise, there are parables in the Upanishad, in the Koran, and in the Deuteronomy.
The Parable is considered to be a great teaching tool because it often uses symbolic imagery and metaphors that the readers can easily recognize. Thus, the storyteller can express complex moral truths in such a way that they become related and understandable to their own lives. Sometimes the audience has to understand the text that a parable tells, and they participate in arriving at the conclusion that way. Generally, parables help readers to understand philosophical issues or moral lessons in related terms, while story-tellers can better lead them to apply such principles in their everyday lives.
The word ‘Fable’ has come from the Latin ‘Fabula’ meaning a ‘discourse’ or ‘story’. A Fable is a short narrative in prose or verses the main characters of which are not human beings, but beasts, birds or inanimate objects that point to a moral lesson. The characters are types rather than individuals which represent men and women living in society, with their frailties, foibles, sins or vices. For examples- ‘Aesop’s Fables’ in Greek, Chaucer’s ‘Nonnes Prestes Tale’ in English, ‘Roman de Renard’ in French, Vishnu Sharma’s ‘Hitopadesh’ in Sanskrit and so on.
Fable either in written or oral form is present among people in almost all languages all over the world. The Fables may be divided into two types as- (a) Traditional or Primitive Fables and (b) Literary Fables.
Traditional Fables or Primitive Fables refer to those fables which were composed orally by mostly unknown authors and have been coming down orally from generation to generation, from person to person. These types of fables were the products of the Classical as well as the Medieval Ages of literature. This type of fable belongs to the large group of folk literature. Only a few of these types of fables were compiled and to some extent reshaped by some compilers during the middle ages. Still today there are lots of fables to be collected and preserved. Otherwise, the din and bustle of the present day would bury them forever. Among these types of fables that have got preserved, mention may be made of Aesop’s Fables, Vishnu Sharma’s Hitopadesh, Chaucer’s Nonnes Prestes Tales etc.
On the other hand, Literary Fables refer to those types of Fables which are written imitating Traditional or Primitive Fables. Among this type of fables examples may be made of George Orwell’s Animal Farm, James Thurber’s Fables of Our Time, Vikram Seth’s The Frog and Nightingale and so on.
A study of those two types of fables shows that there are some salient features that are generally common to any fables; these are- (i) characters are non-human beings as- birds, beasts, supernatural agents or inanimate objects; (ii) the characters are mostly type representing frailties, foibles, vices, sins and virtues of men and women living in society; (iii) allegorical or metaphorical in device; (iv) humorous or satirical in tone and (v) ending in moral lesson expressed by the characters or by the narrator. 0 0 0
The Rhetoric | Figures of Speech
Figures Based on Association
Figures based on Association include (1) Metonymy (2) Synecdoche (3) Hypallage and (4) Allusion. Let us illustrate them as follows
The word ‘metonymy’ has come from the Greek word ‘metonumia’ meaning substitution of name. This figure of speech consists of the substitution of the thing named for the thing meant. For example
I read ‘Shakespeare’ regularly.
In this statement, Shakespeare is used for this work.
- Mohammad lived a pious life from ‘cradle to grave’. = (from childhood to death).
- Rajen was raised to ‘the bench’. = (the office of the judge).
- He succeeded to the ‘crown’. = (monarchy)
- We are accustomed to ‘red-tape’. = (official formality).
- The ‘grey hairs’ should be respected. = (old people)
- ‘Leather’ pays better than learning. = (shoe-making job)
- The ‘crown’ (king) would not yield to the ‘mitre’ (priest).
- The ‘pen’ (writer) is mightier than the ‘sword’ (soldier).
- The ‘press’ (journalists) are being harassed these days.
- Give thy ear (attention) to everyman.
- This book is bound in ‘Morocco’ (leather made in Morocco).
- I read ‘Milton’ (Milton’s works) in College.
- The ‘whole city’ (all the inhabitants of the city) went out to see the scientist.
- He drank the ‘cup’ (the content of the cup).
- Mahatma Gandhi is known to ‘all India’ (all Indians).
- The ‘jug’ (the contents of the jug) boils.
- Ram is basking in the ‘sun’ (sunshine).
- A thing of beauty is a ‘joy’ (cause of joy) forever.
- His success was his ‘honour’ (cause of honour).
- Rabindranath is the ‘pride’ (object of pride) of India.
- Weep no more, woeful shepherds, weep no more
For Lycidas, ‘your sorrow’ (object of sorrow) is not dead. – Milton.
- All the houses (people living in the houses) are hungry.
Synecdoche is a figure of speech that usually consists in using one noun for another of kindred meaning. Example,
- We need ‘more hands’ (more workmen) to complete the work.
- Uneasy lies the ‘head’ (king) that wears the crown.
- ‘Silver and gold’ (riches) I have none.
- I have been here for consecutive ‘three winters’. (three years)
- A fleet of hundred ‘sails’ (ships) left the harbour.
- Give us our daily ‘bread’ (food).
- All the ‘rank and fashion’ (people of rank and fashion) came to the concert.
- Let not ‘ambition’ (ambitious people) mock their useful toil.
- There is a mixture of the ‘tiger’ (ferocity) and the ‘ape’ (tendency to imitate others) in the character of a Frenchman. –Voltaire.
- ‘The mother’ (motherly affection) rose in her breast.
- Every king is not a ‘Solomon’ (wise man).
- ‘A Daniel’ (very wise judge) comes to judgment. –Shakespeare.
- He is not a ‘Demosthenes’ (orator).
- The Knight was clad in complete ‘steel’ (armour made of steel).
- Her hands and feet were bound in ‘irons’ (fetters made of iron).
- Some mute inglorious ‘Milton’ (great poet like Milton) here may rest.
- India needs some ‘Newtons’ (great scientists) today.
Hypallage (Transferred Epithet)
‘Hypallage’ is a Greek word that means ‘interchange’. This figure consists in the transference of an adjective or adverb from the word to which it properly belongs to another. Example:
Rajesh was weary of the ‘sleepless’ night.
In this sentence, the adjective ‘sleepless’ belongs to Rajesh who could not sleep in the night but it is transferred from ‘Rajesh’ to ‘night’.
- I live a ‘busy’ life.
- They were walking fifteen ‘weary’ miles.
- Let us speak our ‘free’ hearts to each other.
- Some ‘glorious’ days await him.
Allusion is a figure of speech in which an indirect reference is made in speech or writing to a book, character, person, legend, event, etc. Example
Chocolate is my ‘Achilles heel’.
Here the allusion is made to Achilles, a hero in Greek mythology, whose heel was his weakness. In this case, the speaker’s ‘weakness’ is chocolate.
- Sabina is a good swimmer, but she is no ‘Ariel’.
(This allusion is to the fairy tale of a Disney movie entitled “The Little Mermaid” whose name was Ariel. Referring to someone as “no Ariel” implies that she is not as natural in swimming as Ariel is.
- I was left there helpless but fortunately, some good ‘Samaritan’ came and helped me out!
(In this statement an allusion is made to the Biblical story of the good Samaritan, from Luke 10:29-37. A good Samaritan is someone who helps others in need, just as the Samaritan does in the story.
- He is a poet no doubt, but think him not be the author of ‘The Paradise lost’.
(In this statement an allusion is made to John Milton and his great work.)
- Do you need the right guidance? Then read the ‘Last Testament’ revealed to the ‘last Prophet’.
(Here the allusion is made to The Holy Koran and the prophet Hazarat Muhammad)
- The sun of his freedom set down with the death of his father as India lost its freedom in the battle fought in 1757.
(Here the allusion is made to the Battle of Plassey fought in 1757 between Siraj-ud-daullah and the British East India Company. 0 0 0
The Rhetoric | Figures of Speech
Figures Based on Difference
Figures based on difference includes (1) Antithesis (2) Epigram (3) Oxymoron (4) Paradox (5) Climax (6) Anti-climax and (7) The Condensed Sentence. Let us illustrate them as follows
The word ‘Antithesis’ has come from the Greek word ‘antitheton’ meaning ‘opposition. Etymologically this figure of speech consists in the use of two contrasting ideas in a sentence for the sake of emphasis. Example:
Art is long, life is short.
In this statement there are two contrasting ideas- (i) art is long and (ii) life is short and they are set against each other.
- United we stand, divided we fall.
- Man proposes; God disposes.
- We live in deeds, not in years.
- The prodigal robs his heirs, the miser himself.
- To err is human, to forgive is divine.
- A man exaggerates his friend’s virtues, an enemy his crimes.
- God made the country, man made the town.
- Give every man thy ear, few thy voice. –Shakespeare.
- A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
- I must be cruel only to be kind.
- Let us be sacrificers, not butchers.
- Sleep is silvern, silence is golden.
- Many are called but few are chosen.
- A small leak will sink a great ship.
- Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more. – Shakespeare.
- Love is an ideal thing, marriage a real thing. –Goethe.
- That is one small step for a man, but a giant leap for mankind. –Neil Armstrong.
This figure consists in an apparent contradiction in language which, by causing temporary shock, rouses our attention to some deeper meaning underlying it. An epigram is often brief and witty. Example
The child is the father of man.
This statement contains an apparent verbal contradiction, but a thoughtful examination reveals that there is a general truth in the statement i.e. the habits and inclinations of a child give us almost an idea of what he will like when he grows up.
- He makes no friend, who never makes a foe.
- He is in all faults, who has no fault at all.
- Language is the art of concealing thoughts.
- Our antagonist is our helper.
- The more corrupt the state is, the more numerous the laws are.–Tacitus
- Defend me from my friends.
- None can teach well who wants to teach.
- I am not young enough to know everything. –Oscar Wilde
- Art lies in concealing art.
- The king is dead, long live the king!
- Arguments are to be avoided; they are always vulgar and often convincing. -Oscar Wilde
- Cowards die many times before their death. –Shakespeare.
- I can resist everything but temptation. — Oscar Wilde
- Silence is sometimes more eloquent than words.
- Mankind must put an end to war, or war will put an end to mankind. – John F. Kennedy
- The greatest of faults is to be conscious of none.
- No one is completely unhappy at the failure of his best friend.
- No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.
- It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.
- I am starting with the man in the mirror. –Michael Jackson.
- Blessed are the peacemakers. –Jesus Christ.
- There is neither a moral book nor an immoral book. Books are well-written or badly written. That is all.
- To define the beautiful is to misunderstand it.
An oxymoron is a figure of speech that combines contradictory words or phrases with opposing meanings. Example:
It was an ‘open’ ‘secret’.
In this statement two contradictory words ‘open’ and ‘secret’ are set together. Oxymorons may seem illogical at first but in context they usually make sense.
- His ‘honour’ rooted in ‘dishonour’ stood
And faith unfaithful kept him ‘falsely’ ‘true’. –Tennyson.
- Since his father’s death, Rajen is spending his days with ‘pleasing anxiety’.
- My wife is ‘carefully careless’ in matters of buying costly clothes.
- The owner of this factory lived a life of ‘active’ ‘idleness’.
- Life is ‘bitter’ ‘sweet’.
- Such ‘welcome’ and ‘unwelcome’ things happen to him often.
- I am pleased at this ‘tedious’ ‘amusement’.
- He read aloud the report in ‘expressive silence’.
- Who believes in your ‘tormenting white lie’.
- Jenny left her garage as an ‘organised mess’.
- Jenifa and her sister had a ‘friendly fight’ over the lipstick.
- Jenny is a ‘deeply’ ‘superficial’ person.
- O brawling love! O loving hate!
O anything of nothing first create!
O heavy lightness, serious vanity! – Shakespeare (Romes and Juliet)
A Paradox is a self-contradictory statement. At first reading, a paradox seems to be absurd or impossible, but deeper reading shows that it contains a valid truth. Example:
The paths of glory lead but to the grave. -Thomas Gray
At first, the above-quoted line seems to be absurd or impossible, but a little thought shows that it states an important or valid truth as the final end of human life is death; though glorious are its achievements. The purpose of a paradox is to arrest attention and provoke fresh thought.
- Save money by spending it.
- I know that I know nothing. –Socrates.
- That was the beginning of the end.
- I only message those who don’t message.
- The most corrected copies are commonly the least correct.
- The less is more.
- Nobody goes to that restaurant, it is too crowded.
- Don’t go near the water till you learn how to swim.
- Stay home and visit me.
The word ‘climax’ is derived from the Greek word ‘Klimax’ which means a ladder. In this figure of speech, a series of ideas are presented in such a way that the sense rises by successive steps to what is more and more important and impressive. Examples-
The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself
Yea, all which it inherits shall dissolve. – Shakespeare (The Tempest)
In this statement, the poet goes on to present his ideas that all things must come to ruin in course of time but he comes to the conclusion in five successive steps as (i) the cloud-capped towers, (ii) the gorgeous palaces, (iii) the solemn temples (iv) the great globe itself, and (v) all which it inherits and thus makes his ideas impressive.
- As Caesar loved me, I weep for him; as he was fortunate, I rejoice at it; as he was valiant, I honour him, but as he was ambitious, I slew him. –Shakespeare.
- There is tears for his love, joy for his fortune, honour for valour and death for ambition. – Shakespeare.
- He had a heart to resolve, a head to contrive, a hand to execute.
- To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield. –Tennyson
- I came, I saw, I conquered. –Shakespeare
- Ships, towers, domes, theatres and temples lie open unto the fields and to the sky. –Wordsworth.
- Look up at the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a superman!
- Let a man acknowledge his obligation to himself, his family, his country and his God.
- Since concord was lost, friendship was lost, fidelity was lost, liberty was lost- all was lost.
Anti-climax or Bathos is a figure of speech that is just opposite to climax. Anticlimax is a figure of speech where a series of ideas or thoughts are arranged from higher to lower ones for producing a ludicrous effect. Example:
Who in course of one revolving moon
Was a lawyer, statesman, fiddler and buffoon.
In this statement, the ideas are arranged in a descending manner-from lofty to commonplace ones for producing a ludicrous effect.
- Here, thou great Anna!
When three realms obey
Dost sometimes counsel take and sometimes tea.
- He lost his wife, his child, his goods, his dog at one full sweep.
- He won the war, the kitchen and the widow.
- Honour to you as you are promoted from a teacher to clerk and then to ward boy.
- If you want I can put my hand into the hole of a snake
If you want I can spend the night in the cage with a tiger
If you want I can jump down the sea in the trembling cold
Only I can not go to the airport because it is drizzling. –Nakul Kumar Biswas
The Condensed Sentence
The condensed sentence is a figure of speech based on difference. It consists in joining together some ideas which are so different that they should be separately stated. It is used to produce a comic effect. Examples:
She dropped tears and her pocket-handkerchief.
In this statement, two ideas as dropping tears’ and ‘dropping a handkerchief are so different that they should be stated separately but they are joined together for producing a ludicrous effect.
- Lalita left her child and the shoe forlorn on the road.
- He lost the war and the monkey.
- The king lost his kingdom and his cat in the war. 0 0 0
The Rhetoric | Figures of Speech
Figures Based on Imagination
Figures based on Imagination include (1) Personification (2) Pathetic Fallacy (3) Apostrophe (4) Vision and (5) Hyperbole (Exaggeration). Let us illustrate them as follows
Personification is a figure of speech in which inanimate objects and abstract ideas are spoken of as if they are human beings. Example:
The thirsty ‘earth’ soaks up the rain
And drinks and gapes up to drink again.
Here, the poet personifies the earth and speaks of it as thirsty as a man.
- ‘Venice’, the eldest child of liberty.
- ‘Ancient oaks’ are groaning with rheumatism.
- ‘The river’ glideth at his own sweet will.
- ‘No grandeur’ hear, with a disdainful smile
The short and simple annals of the poor.
- ‘Nature’ might stand up
And say to all the world, ‘This was a man!’ –Shakespeare.
- ‘Opportunity’ knocks at the door but once.
- ‘The mountains and the hills’ broke forth into singing.
- Fear at my heart as at a cup
‘My life blood’ seemed to sip. –Coleridge.
- ‘Death’ lays his icy hand on the king.
- I like ‘onions’, but they don’t like me.
- The ‘school bell’ called us from outside.
- This ‘advertisement’ speaks to me.
- ‘The wind’ is whispering outside us.
- ‘The sun’ kissed my cheeks when I went outside.
- The smiling brook glides down and sings untold songs to our hearts.
The pathetic fallacy is another species of personification. In this figure of speech, nature is portrayed as taking a definite interest in human action. This figure has been so called because it is a fallacy or illusion caused by an excited state of feelings (emotion). Example:
Earth felt the wound, and Nature from her seat
Sighing through all her works, gave sighs of woe. –Milton
Here Milton shows nature as mourning when Eve plucked and ate the forbidden fruit.
- The pale yellow woods were waning.
The broad stream in his banks complaining. –Tennyson.
Here the poet shows the woods as paining away at, and the broad stream as complaining against the tragic misfortune of Lady of Shallot.
- The oaks forgot their whispering
The pines their reverie.
The pathetic fallacy should not be confused with personification as personification attributes human qualities to inanimate objects or abstract ideas while the pathetic fallacy takes a definite interest in human action.
The word ‘apostrophe’ is derived from the Greek word ‘apos-strepho’ which means ‘turn away’. By this figure, the speaker turns away from the course of his speech and addresses a person absent or dead or an inanimate object or an abstract idea. Apostrophe involves personification when the address is made to an inanimate object or an abstract idea. Personification implied by this figure is sometimes called ‘Passive Personification’ because the inanimate objects or abstract ideas are here conceived of as having the capacity of passively listening to the address made to them. Example:
O friend! I know not which way I must look for comfort. –Wordsworth
Here the poet suddenly turns away from his course of speech and addresses one of his friends who is absent and expresses his feeling.
- O Christ! It is the Incheape Rock. –Southey
- Dear God! The very houses seem asleep. –Wordsworth.
- Milton! Thou should be living at this hour. –Wordsworth.
(b) Inanimate Object:
- Chillon! Thy prison is a holy place. – Byron
- Earth! render back from out thy breast.
A remnant of our Spartan dead! –Byron
- O Wind,
If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind? –Shelley
(c) Abstract idea:
- O Liberty! My spirit felt thee there. –Coleridge.
- O Solitude! Where are the charms
That sages have seen in thy face? –Cowper
- O Judgment! Thou art fled to brutish breast. –Shakespeare.
- Mischief! Thou art afoot. –Shakespeare.
Vision is a figure of speech by which a speaker or a writer, in relating something past, or in describing some anticipated future, employs the present tense instead of the past or future, and thus makes it appear as if the event were actually happening before his eyes. Examples:
- I seem to behold this great city, the ornament of the earth and the capitals of all nations, suddenly involves in one conflagration. I see before me the slaughtered heaps of citizens lying unburied in the midst of the ruined country. –Cicero
- The sack and carnage of Delhi lasts from three o’clock in the morning until three afternoon. The streets echo with the shouts of brutal soldiery, and with the cries and shrieks of the inhabitants. The atmosphere reeks with blood. The houses are set on fire, and hundreds perish in the flame. The husbands kill their wives and then destroy themselves. –Wheeler’s India.
- Pride in their port, defiance in their eye
I see the lords of human kind pass by. –Goldsmith.
- Even now, methinks, as pondering here I stand
I see the rural virtues leave the land. – Goldsmith
‘Hyperbole’ is a Greek word meaning ‘excess’. By this figure of speech, things are presented as greater or less, better or worse than they really are. It is an exaggeration in describing a thing. Examples:
- Here’s the smell of blood still; all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten the little hand.- Shakespeare (Macbeth)
- I loved Ophelia; forty thousand brothers
Could not with all their quantity of love
Make up the sum. –Shakespeare (Hamlet)
- They were swifter than eagles and stronger than lions.
- Put a tongue
In every wound of Caesar, that should move
The stones of Rome to rise and mutiny. –Shakespeare
- He doth bestride the narrow world
Like a Colossus; and we pretty men
Walk under his huge legs, and peep about
To find ourselves dihonourable grave. –Shakespeare
- I have told you a million times not to lie!
- I will die if she asks me to dance.
- The person in front of me walked as slow as a turtle.
- I would move mountains for some coffee right now.
- I shall believe you when the pig flies.
The Rhetoric | Figures of Speech
Figures Based Indirectness
Figures based on Indirectness include (1) Innuendo (2) Irony (3) Sarcasm (4) Periphrasis (5) Euphemism and (6) Litotes. Let us illustrate them as follows
The word ‘innuendo’ means an oblique hint. In this figure of speech, a thing is hinted or insinuated instead of plainly stated. In this figure of speech, the main purpose of the speaker or writer is kept out of view and is left to be inferred by the listeners or readers. Examples:
- He was born rich but honest parents.
Here the use of ‘but’ instead of ‘and’ obliquely suggests that the rich are generally dishonest.
- I want to die a natural death.
This was a statement of a patient and he made this when he was asked to consult a physician. It indirectly means that the doctors instead of curing a patient hastens death.
- My friends are poor but honest.
- Nitish is pious, he spent only some days with Alisa.
The word ‘iony’ is derived from the Greek word ‘eiron’ meaning ‘a dissembler’. By this figure of speech, the speaker of the writer pretends to praise something or someone but means to blame or ridicule it or him. To say in other words, by this figure we say one thing but mean just the opposite. It is said to be the most insulting of all figures of speech. Example:
- A good father! a good husband! Ample apologies for fifteen years of persecution, tyranny and falsehood. -Macaulay
In the statement, the speaker pretends to praise by saying ‘a good father, and ‘a good husband’ but means just the opposite because this good man is accused of persecution, tyranny and falsehood.
- Are you so gospelled
To pray for this good man and his issue. –Shakespeare
- Yet Brutus says he was ambitious,
And Brutus is an honourable man. – Shakespeare.
- The brotherly love of our enlarging Christianity is proved by the multiplication of murder. –Ruskin.
- Except thunder, lightning and hailstorm off and on we are having beautiful weather.
- Oh, fantastic! Now I cannot attend the party I had been waiting for 3 months.
- William has been a marriage counselor for fifteen years and he’s just filing for divorce.
The word ‘sarcasm’ is derived from the Greek word ‘sarkasmos’ meaning ‘tearing flesh’ or ‘sneering’. It is a figure of speech in which the speaker or writer says something in such a way as to excite contempt or ridicule. Examples:
- Certainly, God did not make man and left it to Aristotle to make him rational. –Locke
- We, Christians have enough religion to make us hate but not enough to make us love each other. –Swift.
- The Chief Priest said, mocking Christ, ‘He saved others but himself he could not save.
- I’m not insulting you, I’m just describing you.
- Stop about growing old and think about growing up.
Note that in sarcasm we don’t state the contrary of what we mean; we really mean exactly what we say, but we say in such a way as to excite contempt or ridicule. The purpose of both irony and sarcasm is to blame or ridicule a thing or a person. In irony what is said means just the opposite. But in sarcasm we don’t mean the contrary of what we state; we state in a way as to ridicule something or someone directly.
Periphrasis or Circumlocution
Periphrasis or circumlocution is a figure of speech that consists in expressing a thing in a round-about way instead of stating directly. Examples:
- His ‘prominent feature’ was like an eagle’s beak.
In the statement, the phrase ‘prominent feature’ indirectly refers to the nose.
- Don’t be proud of the ‘shroud of sentient clay’. (flesh/ body)
- He ‘sleeps the sleep that knows no breaking’. (is dead)
- His statement was ‘purely an effort of imagination’. (false)
- He resembles ‘the animal that browses on thistles’. (an ass)
- His thoughts are set on ‘the sightless courier of the air’. (wind)
- He will return in the year’s penultimate month. (November).
- He has ‘worn the nuptial tie’. (got married)
- ‘The lords of the creation’ are on the verge of falling down from piety. (mankind)
- We can not avoid ‘the weaker vessels of the creator’. (womankind)
Euphemism is a figure of speech that consists in saying something offensive, unpleasant, harsh or disagreeable in a pleasant, softening or agreeable way. Examples:
- He is ‘not quite exact in his statement’. (a liar)
- Hari is ‘an imaginative person’. (a liar)
- He has ‘passed away’. (he is dead)
- He has ‘joined the great majoriy’. (is dead)
- He is telling me a ‘fairy tale’ (a lie)
- They ‘dropped down one by one’. (died) –Coleridge
- He that’s coming must be ‘provided for’. (killed) –Shakespeare.
- William is an ‘economically challanged’ person. (a poor person)
- Jennie has left us for her ‘heavenly abode’. (has died)
Litotes is a deliberate understatement. This figure of speech consists of the use of negative words or phrases to express a positive statement. Examples:
- He is not wise.
Here ‘not wise’ is used to express a positive meaning that ‘he is a fool’.
- You are ‘not wrong’. (right)
- Shakespeare is a writer of ‘no mean order’. (high order).
- It was ‘no earthly’ sacrifice. (heavenly)
- Hiren is ‘not unknown’ in the literary circle. (known)
- I had ‘no little difficulty’ in persuading Ratan to join the club. (much difficulty)
- ‘Days not dark’ are ahead of you. (bright days)
- Visiting a marketplace is ‘not uncommon for him. (common)
- The weather is ‘not unpleasant’. (pleasant). 0 0 0
The Rhetoric | Figures of Speech
Figures Based on Sound
Figures based on Sound includes (1) Onomatopoeia (2) Alliteration and (3) Pun. Let us illustrate them as follows
Onomatopoeia is a figure of speech in which words evoke the actual sound of the thing they refer to or describe. To say in other words, onomatopoeia is a figure of speech in which certain words are used which suggests the natural sound of a thing. It creates a sound effect and makes a description more expressive and interesting.
- ‘Tick tock’ of a clock,
- ‘Ding dong’ of a doorbell.
- The ‘buzzing bee’ flew away.
- The ‘rustling’ leaves kept me awake.
- With a heavy ‘thump’, a lifeless ‘lump’
They dropped down one by one. –Coleridge.
Alliteration is a figure of speech that consists in the repetition of the same letter or syllable at the beginning of two or more words in a sentence. Examples:
- Alone, alone, all, all alone,
Alone on a wide, wide sea. –Coleridge
(Here the syllable ‘al’ is repeated in more than two words.)
- The fair breeze blew, the white foam flew
The furrow followed free. –Coleridge
- Birds of a feather flock together.
- A strong man struggles bravely against the storms of life.
- Ruin seizes thee, ruthless king.
- By apt alliteration’s artful aid. –Pope
- Cut your coat according to your cloth.
- He is talking no nonsense.
- Some house hunters are handcapped by the police.
- Wicked witch of the west.
- I feel like making melodies in my heart.
Pun (also called paronomasia) is a figure of speech that involves a wordplay suggesting two or more meanings. It is often used for humorous or rhetorical effects. Sometimes it provides verbal ambiguity and bewilders the listeners. Examples:
- If a man loses his wife, he pines for a ‘second’. (Here, the pun is made on the word ‘second.’ It may either mean ‘for a very short time’ or ‘for a second wife’)
- The leopard changes its ‘spots’ whenever it goes from one ‘spot’ to another.
(The first ‘spots’ is used in the sense of ‘small round marks on the body of a leopard’ and the second ‘spot’ is used in the sense of a particular place.)
- Her cat is near the computer to keep an eye on the ‘mouse’. (In this statement the pun is made with the word ‘mouse’ i.e. it may mean either a mouse (creature) or the input tool or a computer.)
- Make like a tree and ‘leave’. (Here the pun is made with the word ‘leave’.
- The road to success is always under ‘construction’.
The Rhetoric | Figures of Speech
Figures Based on Construction
Figures based on Construction include (1) Zeugma (2) Chiasmus (3) Interrogation (4) Exclamation (5) Aposiopesis (6) Hendiadys (7) Asyndeton (8) Polysyndeton and (9) Hyperbation. Let us illustrate them as follows:
Zeugma is a Greek word and it means ‘yoke’. In this figure of speech a verb or an adjective does duty on two nouns to one of which it is strictly applicable, while the word appropriate to the other is not used. This figure of speech intends to produce a humorous effect. Example:
He killed the boys and the luggage.
Here the verb ‘kill’ governs ‘boys’ and luggage’ though it is strictly applicabel to ‘boys’ only. The word appropriate to ‘luggage’ is ‘destroyed’ but it is not used.
- The ‘moment’ and the ‘vessel’ passed. –Tennyson.
- The ‘feast’ and ‘noon’ grew high. – Milton.
- They left the place with weeping ‘eyes’ and ‘heart’.
- They covered themselves with ‘dust’ and ‘glory’.
- He opened his ‘mind’ and ‘wallet’ every time he went out with his wife. The Rhetoric | Figures of Speech
Chiasmus is a figure of speech in which two or more clauses are balanced against each other by the reversal of their structures. This figure is used in order to produce an artistic effect.
- Beauty is truth, truth is beauty.
In this statement, the order of words in the first clause (i.e. Beauty is truth) is reversed in the second (i.e. truth is beauty)
- Fair is foul and foul is fair. –Shakespeare
- We live to learn and learn to live.
- For the sky and the sea, and the seas and the sky
Lay like a load on my weary eye. –Coleridge
- Never let a fool kiss you or a kiss fool you.
- You forget what you want to remember and you remember what you want to forget.
- Do I love you because you are beautiful?
Or are you beautiful because I love you? The Rhetoric | Figures of Speech
Interrogation or Rhetorical Question
In this figure of speech, something is sought to be denied or affirmed under the form of an earnest interrogation in order to draw the attention of the listeners or readers. Examples:
- Who is so vile that will not love his country?
- Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots?
- Am I my brother’s keeper?
- You may think that you are not superstitious. But would you walk under a burning building?
- Am I not a native? Were my parents born in any foreign country? The Rhetoric | Figures of Speech
Rhetorical Exclamation refers to the abrupt expression of emotion or wish or contemplation. This figure of speech is generally introduced by an interjection or by such words as ‘how’, ‘what’ etc. Examples:
- What piece of work is a man!
How noble in reason!
How infinite in faculty!
In form and moving how express and admirable!
In action, how like an Angel!
In apprehension, how like a God!
The beauty of the world, the paragon of animals—
And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? –Shakespeare (Hamlet, Act-II, Scene II)
- O that those lips had language!
- O what a fall was there, my countrymen! –Shakespeare
- How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon this bank! The Rhetoric | Figures of Speech
Aposiopesis is a figure of speech in which a writer or speaker suddenly breaks off from what he is going to say and leaves the sentence incomplete or unwilling to continue. Examples:
- Oh thou–by what name shall I call thee?
- I will do such thing-
What they would be, I know not
But they shall be the terror of the earth!
- If meet him once I shall do-
The world would gaze at me and say-how this man could do such a thing. The Rhetoric | Figures of Speech
Hendiadys is a Greek word meaning ‘one thing by two’. In this figure of speech, two words (usually nouns) are joined by the conjunction ‘and’ in which one qualifies the other grammatically. Examples:
- His look drew ‘audience and attention’. (=attentive audience.)
- ‘Life and sufferance’. (= suffering life)
- The air was resonant with ‘joy and song’. (= joyous song)
- With joy and tidings fraught. (=joyous tidings)
- He came despite the rain and weather. (= rainy weather)
- ‘The cold and the wind’ blew down the hill. (= the cold wind)
- Whatever you ‘pray and ask’. (=ask and pray). The Rhetoric | Figures of Speech
‘Asyndeton’ is a Greek word meaning ‘unconnected’. It is a figure of speech in which the connecting conjunctions are omitted for the sake of vividness. Examples:
- I slip, I slide, I gloom, I glance.
Among my skimming swallows. –Tennyson.
- O, what a noble mind is here overthrown!
The courtier’s, scholar’s, soldier’s eye, tongue, sword. –Shakespeare
- The spring, the head, the fountain of your blood is stopped. –Shakespeare.
- O, I like your eyes, nose, cheeks, ears, black hairs. The Rhetoric | Figures of Speech
‘Polysndeton’ is a Greek word meaning ‘excessive’. This figure of speech consists in the redundant or excessive use of conjunctions as ‘and’, ‘but’, ‘or’ etc). It is the opposite of Asyndeton. Examples:
- That hoard ‘and’ sleep ‘and’ feed ‘and’ know not me- Tennyson.
- If there be cords or knives or poison or fire or suffocating streams, I’ll not endure it. –Shakespeare.
- First the air is blue and then it is bluer and then green and then black.
- Here are my table and books and pens and pencils and note books. The Rhetoric | Figures of Speech
This figure of speech consists in the inversion of the grammatical order of words in a sentence for the sake of emphasis. Examples:
- My days among the dead are passed. (=My days are passed among the dead.)
- Much have I travelled in the realms of gold. (=I have travelled much in the realms of gold.)
- Much have I seen and known.
- Immense is the impact of science in our everyday life.
The Rhetoric | Figures of Speech
Minor Figures of Speech
In addition to the figures of speech discussed above, there are some other figures of speech that are categorized as minor figures. They are- (1) Paralipsis (2) Anaphora (or Epanaphora) (3) Epistrophe and (4) Tautology (or Pleonasm). Let us illustrate them as follows: The Rhetoric | Figures of Speech
Paralipsis is a figure of speech in which a speaker or writer professes to omit all mention of a subject that he really wants to emphasize. To say in other words, Paralipsis is a way of denying or pretending to deny what has already been spoken. Examples:
- I come to bury Caesar, not ‘to praise’ him. –Shakespeare (‘Julius Caesar, Act III, Scene II)
Here Antony really wants to emphasize what he professes to omit (i.e. to praise Caesar).
- I speak not to disprove what Brutus spoke
But here I am to speak what I do know.
- I will not do them wrong: rather I choose
To wrong the dead, to wrong myself and you.
- I know who did it, but I won’t mention Rasel’s name (the person has already mentioned the name).
- I will speak only about his good nature (implies that the person certainly has a bad side).
- I need not mention that everything should be done within the deadline. The Rhetoric | Figures of Speech
Anaphora (or Epanaphora)
‘Anaphora’ or ‘Epanaphora’ means ‘carrying back’. This figure consists in the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of successive clauses or sentences. Examples:
- Ring out the old shapes of foul disease
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold
Ring out the thousand wars of old. –Tennyson (In Memoriam)
- Be bold, be brief, be gone.
- Stay safe, stay well, stay happy.
- Fool me once, shame on you
Fool me twice, shame on me. The Rhetoric | Figures of Speech
‘Epistrophe’ is a figure of speech which consists in the repetition of the same words or phrases at the end of successive clauses or sentences. Examples:
- Swimming is ‘good for health’,
Walking is ‘good for health’,
Everything that helps in the circulation of blood is ‘good for health’.
- Shakespeare was ‘a poet’, Milton was ‘a poet’, Wordsworth was ‘a poet’, Keats was ‘a poet’.
- It was the best of ‘times’, it was the worst of ‘times’. The Rhetoric | Figures of Speech
Tautology (or Pleonasm)
Tautology is a figure of speech in which the same fact or idea is repeated in different words within a sentence. Examples:
- Virtue and virtue ‘alone’ is the ‘only’ thing that counts in life. (Here tautology consists in repeating the word ‘only’ that has already been expressed in ‘alone’).
- I ‘rejoiced’ at the ‘happy’ sight.
- He was quite ‘exhausted’ and ‘fatigued’.
- To have a say in public is the privilege and birthright of every man in a democratic country. 0 0 0.
The Rhetoric | Figures of Speech
Analysis of Figures of Speech
We use figures of speech in our daily speech without being aware that we are using them. Both prose writers and poets make abundant use of figures of speech in their works, either consciously or unconsciously. For a better understanding of any literary work, we must have a thorough knowledge of all the figures of speech. But mastering rhetoric is not an easy task. Here, some verses, sentences, or short paragraphs are collected from various writings to analyze the figures of speech that lie within them. Students or readers are advised to practice these as much as possible in order to gain mastery over the use of figures of speech. (The Rhetoric | Figures of Speech)
- I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high over vales and hills
When all at once I saw a crowd
A host of golden daffodils! –Wordsworth.
Analysis: The above-quoted stanza contains two figures of speech (i) simile and (ii) metaphor
The very first line ‘I wandered lonely as a cloud’ – is a simile. Here the poet compares himself to a cloud with regard to loneliness, (the feature common to both the cloud and the poet) and the similarity is clearly stated by the word ‘as’.
(ii) The second figure of speech is a metaphor and it consists in the comparison between ‘crowd’ and ‘daffodils’; but the comparison is implied only, not clearly stated.
- And the ice, mast-high came floating by
As green as emerald.
Analysis: These quoted lines contain two figures of speech-metaphor and simile.
The first line contains a metaphor and it consists in the comparison between the height of the ‘mast’ and the height of the ‘ice’ and this comparison is implied only, not clearly stated.
The second figure of speech is a simile and it consists in the explicit statement of the similarity between the ice and emerald in respect of colour. The similarity is stated clearly by the use of the conjunction ‘as’.
- To err is human, to forgive is divine.
Analysis: From the viewpoint of the figure of speech, the above-quoted line is an example of Antithesis. Here two contradictory ideas –(i) to err is human, and (ii) to forgive is divine –are set against each other for the sake of emphasis.
- For the sky and the sea and the sea and the sky
Lay like a load on my weary eye.
Analysis: The above-quoted lines contain three figures of speech-chiasmus, simile, and hypallage (or transferred epithet).
The first line i.e. ‘for the sky and the sea and the sea and the sky’ is an instance of chiasmus. It is because the phrase ‘for the sky and the sea’ in the first clause is reversed in the second clause as ‘and the sea and the sky’.
Secondly, the whole passage is an instance of simile. Here a similarity between ‘the sky and the sea’ on the one hand and ‘a load’ on the other is brought about and explicitly stated by using the conjunction ‘like’.
Thirdly, the ‘weary eye’ is an instance of hypallage because the adjective ‘weary’ does not actually belong to the ‘eyes’. It really belongs to the mariner, but the poet has transferred the word from its proper place and used it before ‘eyes.
- Much have I seen and known: cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honoured of them all,
And drunk delight of battle with my peers
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.
Analysis: This passage contains a number of figures of speech.
The first sentence (Much have I seen and known) is an instance of Hyperbaton (inversion) which consists in the inversion of the grammatical order of words in a sentence for the sake of emphasis.
Secondly, the expression “cities of men…… not least” is an example of climax. This series of words are here arranged in such a way that the lest impressive or important of them (i.e. cities of men) comes first, and the most impressive (i.e. myself not least) comes last.
Thirdly, the expression (i.e. delight of battle) is a metaphor. Here ‘delight of battle’ has been compared to wine. The comparison is implied only, not stated clearly.
The last line is an instance of Onomatopoeia which is seen here in such words as ‘ringing’ and ‘windy’ which suggest their sense by their sound.
- For who, to dumb forgetfulness a prey
This pleasing anxious being e’er resigned
Left the warm precincts of cheerful day,
Nor cast one longing lingering look behind?
Analysis: There are a number of figures of speech in the stanza.
In the first line, we have a case of Methapor. Here ‘forgetfulness’ is compared to a bird of prey, but this comparison has not been explicitly express, it is implied only. The word ‘Forgetfulness’ is also personified.
The phrase ‘pleasing anxious’ in the second line, is an instance of oxymoron. Here two contradictory words ‘pleasing’ and ‘anxious’ are set together for effect.
In the third verse, there is a metaphor. The word ‘precincts’ belongs properly to a cathedral (or other sacred place), but here it is transferred to the day in such a way that a comparison between a cathedral and the day is implied, though not explicitly stated.
In the same verse, the phrase ‘cheerful day’ is an instance of hypallage. Here the villagers are cheerful, not the day. But this adjective is transferred from the villagers to the day.
In the last line, there is alliteration as the letter ‘l’ occurs at the beginning of the words: ‘longing’, ‘lingering’ and ‘look’.
- Some village-Hampden, that with dauntless breast
The little tyrant of his fields withstood;
Some mute inglorious Milton here may rest
Some Cromwell guiltless of his country’s blood.
Analysis: The words ‘Hampden’, ‘Milton’ and ‘Cromwell’ are the instances of Synecdoche in which an individual is used to designate a class. Here ‘Hampden’ stands for the class of men who fight fearlessly against the tyrannical rule; ‘Milton’ is used for the class of great poets and ‘Cromwell’ is used for the class of great public leaders.
‘Fields’ and ‘country’s’ are the instances of Metonymy. In ‘fields’ the instrument is used to mean the agent (i.e. the landlord) and in country’s’ the container (i.e. country) is used to mean the thing contained (i.e. countrymen).
There is synecdoche in ‘tyrant’. In tyrant’ the concrete (i.e. tyrant) is used to designate the abstract (i. e. tyrannies).
In ‘dauntless breast’ we have an instance of hypallage. The adjective ‘dauntless’ properly belongs to some villagers of Hampden’ but it is transferred to ‘breast.
- Far from the madding crowds ignoble strife
Their sober wishes never learned to stray:
Along the cool sequestered vale of life
They kept the noiseless tenour of their way.
Analysis: There are a number of figures of speech in the stanza.
The word ‘wishes’ in the second line is personified as some human qualities are attributed in it. In the word ‘stray’ we have a case of metaphor. The word properly belongs to the ‘live stock’ but here it is transferred to ‘wishes’ in such a way that comparison is implied, though not formally stated.
In the third line there is a metaphor again. Here ‘life’ is compared to a ‘vale’ and this comparison is implied only, not clearly stated.
The last line bears an instance of hypallage. The villagers referred to are ‘noiseless’ and not the ‘tenour of their way’. But this epithet (i.e. noiseless) is transferred from the villagers to the ‘tenour’.
9. Fear at my heart as at a cup
My life blood seemed to sip.
Analysis: This passage contains three figures of speech- simile, personification and metonymy.
The very first line is a simile. Here the poet compares his heart with a man that drinks tea or any liquid from a cup and this comparison is stated explicitly by using the word ‘as’.
In the same line the word ‘Fear’ is personified as it is thought of as acting as a human being.
Again the word ‘cup’ is a used as a metonymy because the cup is used here for its contents (wine or tea).
10. Perfume and flowers fall in showers.
Analysis: This sentence contains three figures of speech- hendiadys, onomatopoeia and metaphor.
The expression ‘perfume and flowers’ is an instance of hendiadys. Here the word ‘perfume’ and ‘flowers’ are joined by the conjunction ‘and’. It is used instead of the expression ‘perfumed flowers’ in which ‘perfume’ qualifies ‘flowers’ grammatically.
The whole sentence is also an example of onomatopoeia as the sound of the word ‘showers’ suggests the sense.
The sentence is again an example of metaphor. Here the falling of flowers has been compared to the falling of rain. But the comparison is not stated clearly, instead it is implied only.
11. The child is the father of man.
Analysis: This sentence is an instance of epigram. At first reading, it appears inappropriate as to how a child can be the father of man. But a deep reading or a little thought reveals to us that the potential of a child foretells how he would be when he grows up.
12. The faint fresh flame of the young year flushes,
From leaf to flower, from flower to fruit.
Analysis: This passage contains three figures of speech-alliteration, metaphor and chiasmus.
The alliteration consists in the repetition of the letter ‘f’ at the beginning of the words ‘faint, fresh, flame, flushes, from, flower and fruit’.
The first line is also an instance of metaphor. The ‘young’ has been compared to a young child. But the comparison is implied only, not explicitly stated.
In the second line, there is an example of chiasmus. It consists in the inversion of the order of the word ‘flower’.
13. In every society a career should be open to talent.
Analysis: This statement is an example of Synecdoche. Here the abstract is used to designate the concrete. Here ‘talent’ which is an abstract is used for a ‘talented person’ (concrete noun).
14. The oaks forgot their whispering
The pines their reverie.
Analysis: This passage is an instance of pathetic fallacy. In it, nature is portrayed as taking a definite interest in human action. The oaks and pines have not only been personified but also have been shown as sympathizing with human sorrows.
15. The portly presence of potentates goodly in girth.
Analysis: This sentence is an instance of alliteration. Here the letter ‘p’ is repeated at the beginning of the words ‘portly, presence and potentates’. Again the words ‘goodly’ and ‘girth’ bears alliteration made up with the letter ‘g’.
16. Into the jaws of Death
Into the mouth of Hell
Rode the six hundred.
Analysis: This passage is an instance of personification. Here ‘Death’ and ‘Hell’ have been personified.
17. Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thoughts.
Analysis: This statement is an instance of Epigram. It bears an apparent contradiction in language- namely our sweetest songs are made up of saddest thoughts. But a thoughtful examination of the statement shows that it contains an important truth namely saddest thoughts give us true pleasure by drawing our emotion.
18. Better to reign in Hell than to serve in Heaven.
Analysis: This is an instance of Antithesis. Here two contradictory ideas –(i) reign in Hell and (ii) serve in Heaven – are set against each other in a balanced form for effect.
19. The mind is in its own place, and in itself, can make Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.
Analysis: This is an example of chiasmus. Here in the statement, we see that the order of words ‘Heaven of Hell’ is reverted at the end.
20. The Hall was full of melody and misses.
Analysis: This sentence is an instance of Hendiadys. Here the two words ‘melody’ and ‘misses’ (joined by the conjunction ‘and’) have been used instead of the expression ‘melodious misses’ and in this expression the word ‘melodious’ qualifies the noun ‘misses’.
21. I will drink life to the lees.
Analysis: This is an example of metaphor. Here ‘life’ has been compared to ‘wine’ and the point of comparison has been implied only, not clearly stated. This metaphor can be expanded in to a simile as under-
I will drink life to the lees just as a man drinks wine to the lees.
22. Man is a hater of truth, a lover of fiction.
Analysis: This is an instance of Antithesis. Here two contradictory ideas- (i) hater of truth and (ii) a lover of fiction are set against each other in a balanced form for the sake of emphasis.
23. Our antagonist is our helper.
Analysis: This is an example of epigram. In the saying, there is an apparent contradiction in language, namely, how an antagonist can be a helper. But a little thought shows us that it contains a deep truth, namely, the hostility of others brings out the talent of a man.
24. I do not consult physician, for I want to die without them.
Analysis: This statement is an example of innuendo. Here the speaker wants to say that physicians do not cure people but they kill them. But this purpose is kept out of view, and is left to be inferred by the hearers. It has only been obliquely hinted.
25. Faith unfaithful kept him falsely true.
Analysis: This is an instance of oxymoron. Here two pairs of contradictory words such as- (i) faith unfaithful and (ii) falsely true are brought together for effect.
26. That consolation, that joy, that triumph was afforded him.
Analysis: This is an instance of climax. Here the words ‘consolation, joy, triumph’ are presented in such a way that the sense rises by successive steps from the least to the more and more impressive or important.
27. Sceptre and crown
Must tumble down
And in the dust be equal made
With the poor crooked scythe and spade.
Analysis: The passage contains the figure of speech called Metonymy. In ‘sceptre’ and crown’ we have an instance of the substitution of the symbols for the thing symbolized. ‘Sceptre’ and ‘crown’ are the symbols of kings, and they are used to mean the things.
Likewise in ‘scythe’ and spade’ we have the case of the substitution of the instrument for the agent. The instruments ‘scythe’ and ‘spade’ stand for their agent.
28. I must be cruel only to be kind.
Analysis: This statement is an instance of Antithesis. Here two contrasting ideas, namely, (i) to be cruel and (ii) to be kind- are set against each other in a balanced form for the sake of emphasis.
29. The sun breeds maggot in a dead dog.
Analysis: This sentence is an example of metaphor. Here the attributes of a woman have been transferred to the inanimate object ‘sun’. This metaphor can be expanded into a simile as follows:
As a woman breeds a child so the sun breeds maggot in the dead body of a dog.
30. Failures are the pillars of success.
Analysis: This statement contains two figures of speech-metaphor and epigram.
The word ‘pillar’ which properly belongs to a ‘building’ has been transferred to ‘success’ in such a way that a comparison between ‘pillars’ and ‘failures’ is implied, though not deliberately stated. This metaphor can be expanded into a simile as under:
As pillars hold a building so failures hold the key to success.
The sentence is also an example of epigram. In the sentence there is an apparent contradiction in language- how failures can be the pillars of success. At first reading it may appear to be impossible but a careful study reveals that it contains a deep truth, namely, that failures open our eyes to the defects which stand in the way of success.
31. Hate was for him a virtue, vengeance was a duty, pardon was an infamy.
Analysis: This is an instance of climax. Here the ideas are presented in such a way that the sense rises by successive steps to which is more and more impressive and important.
32. We fall to rise, we baffle to fight batter, we sleep to wake.
Analysis: This is an example of climax. Here the ideas are presented in such a way that the sense rises by successive steps from the lowest to what is higher in importance or impression.
33. All the rank and fashion came out to see the sight.
Analysis: This is an instance of metonymy. It is a figure of speech that consists in the substitution of the thing named for the thing meant. Here ‘rank and fashion’ (the thing named) is used for ‘the people of high rank’ (the thing meant).
34. Faith unfaithful kept him falsely true.
Analysis: This is an instance of oxymoron. Here two pair of contradictory phrases (i) faith unfaithful (ii) falsely true are set together for effect.
35. Thus idly busy rolls their world away.
Analysis: This is an instance of oxymoron. Here two contradictory words (i) idly and (ii) busy are set together for effect.
36. He is weak in Euclid.
Analysis: This is an example of Metonymy. Here the author (i.e. Euclid) is substituted for his work (i.e. geometry).
37. O judgment! Thou are fled to brutish beasts.
Analysis: This statement contains two figures of speech-(i) Apostrophe and (ii) Tautology.
Here ‘O judgment’ is an apostrophe because the author turns away from his subject and addresses an abstract idea ‘judgment’.
There is a tautology in the use of the words ‘brutish’ and ‘beasts’ because what is repeated in the ‘beast’ has already been expressed in the word ‘brutish’.
38. Cowards die many times before their death.
Analysis: This is an instance of epigram. Here an apparent contradiction in language, namely, how a man (coward) can die many times before his death. But a little thought shows us that a coward suffers from death-like mental condition before his physical death.
39. Man proposes; God disposes.
Analysis: This is an instance of antithesis because here two contradictory ideas namely, (i) man proposes and (ii) God disposes are set against each other in a balanced form for the sake of emphasis.
40. He has a fluent tongue.
Analysis: This is an example of metonymy. Here the organ (i.e. tongue) is substituted for the agent (i.e. speech). 0 0 0. The Rhetoric | Figures of Speech
The Rhetoric | Figures of Speech
- Rhetoric and Prosody
- The Best Books on Rhetoric
- The Five Canons of Rhetoric
Books of Literary Criticism by M. Menonimus:
- World Short Story Criticism
- World Poetry Criticism
- World Drama Criticism
- World Novel Criticism
- World Essay Criticism
- Indian English Poetry Criticism
- Indian English Poets and Poetry Chief Features
- Emily Dickinson’s Poetry-A Thematic Study
- Walt Whitman’s Poetry-A Thematic Study
- Critical Essays on English Poetry
- Tawfiq al-Hakim’s Novel: Return of the Spirit-An Analytical Study
- Tawfiq al-Hakim’s Novel: ‘Yawmiyyat Naib Fil Arayaf’-An Analytical Study
- Analytical Studies of Some Arabic Short Stories
- A Brief History of Arabic Literature: Pre-Islamic Period …