Figurative language is used in both literature and poetry to create layers of meaning which the reader accesses through the senses, symbolism, and sound devices. Figurative language brings the reader deeper into the theme of the work, without the author having to explicitly lay out the theme for the reader. It is a way for the reader to enter the words with their minds and emotions, rather than simply comprehending a story or poem. Figurative language encourages the reader to make connections with the characters, the plot, and the deeper message of a work which creates a more memorable experience for the reader.
Examples of Figurative Language in Literature, from personification to onomatopoeia.
“O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright! / Her beauty hangs upon the cheek of night, / Like a rich jewel in an Ethiop’s ear.”
“And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.”
“He gives his harness bells a shake / To ask if there is some mistake.”
"Even death did not mar its grace, for it lay on the earth like a broken vase of red flowers, and we stood around it, awed by its exotic beauty."
“Neptune’s ocean wash this blood / Clean from my hand? No. This my hand will rather / The multitudinous seas incarnadine, marking the green one red.”
“It was a rimy morning, and very dam. I had seen the damp lying on the outside of my little window, as if some goblin had been crying there all night, and using the window for a pocket-handkerchief. Now, I saw the damp lying on the bare hedges and spare grass, like a coarser sort of spiders’ webs: hanging itself from twig to twig and blade to blade.”
“Beautiful tyrant! Fiend angelical! / Dove-feathered raven, wolvish-ravening lamb! / Despised substance of divinest show / Just opposite to what thou justly seem’st.”
“Hear the loud alarum bells, / Brazen bells! / What a tale of terror, now, their turbulency tells! / In the startled ear of night / How they scream out their affright! / Too much horrified to speak, / They can only shriek, shriek, / Out of tune… / How they clang, and clash, and roar!”
“Is this a dagger which I see before me / The dagger toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee! / I have thee not, and yet I see thee still.”
“War is Peace”; “Freedom is Slavery”; “Ignorance is Strength.”