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literary terms

Examples of figurative device.


A figurative device is a way of explaining something in terms of something else, in a way that is not real or true. If I want to suggest that I have a friend whom I can count on, someone really solid, I might say, "He is a rock."  Now, if I were to tell you that, you would know that this friend was not really a rock, at least I hope so!  If he were really a rock, we would say he was "literally" a rock, meaning that was what he really was, perhaps a lump of iron ore sitting on the ground. But because my friend is not really a rock, we say he is "figuratively" a rock.

Our everyday language is filled with figurative language, as is literature.  When we say, "It is raining cats and dogs," no one looks out the window to see if tabbies and poodles are falling from the sky.  That is because that statement is not to be taken literally, as meaning exactly what it says. We understand that this is figurative language. When a writer says, "Her smile was like sunshine," we understand that the woman's smile does not generate thousands of degrees of heat, which it would if it were really like sunshine.  That is figurative language, too. The reader understands that the writer means that the woman's smile makes him feel warm and loved. 

One way for you to get an understanding of how much figurative speech we use in speech and writing would be for you to try to jot down all of the figurative language you hear or see in a day.  You will be amazed when you do this at how dependent we are on figurative speech. It is also amazing how seldom we misunderstand figurative speech and take it literally! 

I have provided a link that explains the different kinds of figurative language and that provides examples of each kind.

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