Personification Essay Definition

Everyone knows what a person is, but do you know what personification is? Personification is a type of metaphor and a common literary tool. It is when you assign the qualities of a person to something that isn't human or that isn't even alive, like nature or emotions. There are many reasons for using personification. It can be used as a method of describing something so that others can more easily understand it. It can be used to emphasize a point. It can be used to help paint a picture in your mind. You may in fact use personification without even knowing it.

There is often confusion between personification and anthropomorphism. While personification means giving an object or animal human characteristics to create interesting imagery – as in nursery rhymes like "Hey Diddle Diddle," where "the little dog laughed to see such fun" – anthropomorphism means making an object or animal act and look like they are human, as in Peter Rabbit.

Personification Examples in Literature

Personification is often found in literature and poetry. Some examples include:

"Two Sunflowers Move into the Yellow Room" by Nancy Willard

“Ah, William, we’re weary of weather,”
said the sunflowers, shining with dew.
“Our traveling habits have tired us.
Can you give us a room with a view?”
They arranged themselves at the window
and counted the steps of the sun,
and they both took root in the carpet
where the topaz tortoises run.

In this poem, the sunflowers are talking to the poet William Blake. They are tired of being outside and tell him that they want to be moved. We know that sunflowers cannot be tired or talk so Willard uses personification to give them these attributes.

"I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud" by William Wordsworth

"I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

This poem brings the beauty and tranquility of nature to life. The daffodils are personified as a crowd of people dancing, while Wordsworth floats like a cloud enjoying the show.

Personification can also be found in literature. William Shakespeare uses it throughout Romeo and Juliet. One example is in Act 2 when Friar Lawrence is picking flowers for his various potions. He says:

"The grey-ey'd morn smiles on the frowning night, Check'ring the Eastern clouds with streaks of light."

In describing the morning as smiling at the night he is personifying the morning and establishing a romantic setting for Romeo and Juliet's love to unfold.

50 Ways to Use Personification

The following sentences use the personification technique. See if you can identify which part of the word or phrase is the personification. The answers are below:

1. The stars danced playfully in the moonlit sky.26. While making my way to my car, it appeared to smile at me mischievously.
2. The run-down house appeared depressed.27. The car, painted lime green, raced by screaming for attention.
3. The first rays of morning tiptoed through the meadow.28. The butterflies in the meadow seemed to two-step with one another.
4. She did not realize that opportunity was knocking at her door.29. The waffle jumped up out of the toaster.
5. He did not realize that his last chance was walking out the door.30.The popcorn leapt out of the bowl.
6. The bees played hide and seek with the flowers as they buzzed from one to another.31. When the DVD went on sale, it flew off the shelves.
7. The wind howled its mighty objection.32. I tripped because the curb jumped out in front of me.
8. The snow swaddled the earth like a mother would her infant child.33. Time creeps up on you.
9. The river swallowed the earth as the water continued to rise higher and higher.34. The news took me by surprise.
10. Time flew and before we knew it, it was time for me to go home.35. The fire ran wild.
11. The ocean waves lashed out at the boat and the storm continued to brew.36. The thunder clapped angrily in the distance.
12. My computer throws a fit every time I try to use it.37. The tornado ran through town without a care.
13. The thunder grumbled like an old man.38. The door protested as it opened slowly.
14. The flowers waltzed in the gentle breeze.39. The evil tree was lurking in the shadows.
15. Her life passed her by.40. The tree branch moaned as I swung from it.
16. The sun glared down at me from the sky.41. Time marches to the beat of its own drum.
17. The moon winked at me through the clouds above.42. The storm attacked the town with great rage.
18. The wind sang through the meadow.43. My life came screeching to a halt.
19. The car was suffering and was in need of some TLC.44. The baseball screamed all the way into the outfield.
20. At precisely 6:30 am my alarm clock sprang to life.45. The blizzard swallowed the town.
21. The window panes were talking as the wind blew through them.46. The tsunami raced towards the coastline.
22. The ocean danced in the moonlight.47. The avalanche devoured everything in its path.
23. The words appeared to leap off of the paper as she read the story.48. The pistol glared at me from its holster.
24. The phone awakened with a mighty ring.49. The car beckoned me from across the showroom.
25. The funeral raced by me in a blur.50. I could hear Hawaii calling my name.

Did you identify the personification in the examples above? The human trait assigned to the subject is in bold here. The subject being personified is underlined.

1. The starsdanced playfully in the moonlit sky.

26. While making my way to my car, itsmiled at me mischievously.

2. The run-down house appeared depressed.

27. The car, painted lime green, raced by screaming for attention.

3. The first rays of morningtiptoed through the meadow.

28. The butterflies in the meadow seemed to two-step with one another.

4. She did not realize that opportunitywas knocking at her door.

29. The wafflejumped up out of the toaster.

5. He did not realize that his last chancewas walking out the door.

30. The popcornleapt out of the bowl.

6. The beesplayed hide and seek with the flowers as they buzzed from one to another.

31. When the DVD went on sale, it flew off the shelves.

7. The windhowled its mighty objection.

32. I tripped because the curb jumped out in front of me.

8. The snow swaddled the earth like a mother would her infant child.

33. Timecreeps up on you.

9. The riverswallowed the earth as the water continued to rise higher and higher.

34. The newstook me by surprise.

10. Time flew and before we knew it, it was time for me to go home.

35. The fireran wild.

11. The ocean waves lashed out at the boat and the storm continued to brew.

36. The thunder clapped angrily in the distance.

12. My computer throws a fit every time I try to use it.

37. The tornadoran through town without a care.

13. The thunder grumbled like an old man.

38. The doorprotested as it opened slowly.

14. The flowerswaltzed in the gentle breeze.

39. The evil treewas lurking in the shadows.

15. Her life passed her by.

40. The tree branchmoaned as I swung from it.

16. The sunglared down at me from the sky.

41. Timemarches to the beat of its own drum.

17. The moonwinked at me through the clouds above.

42. The stormattacked the town with great rage.

18. The wind sang through the meadow.

43. My life came screeching to a halt.

19. The carwas suffering and was in need of some TLC.

44. The baseball screamed all the way into the outfield.

20. At precisely 6:30 am my alarm clocksprang to life.

45. The blizzardswallowed the town.

21. The window paneswere talking as the wind blew through them.

46. The tsunamiraced towards the coastline.

22. The oceandanced in the moonlight.

47. The avalanchedevoured everything in its path.

23. The wordsleapt off of the paper as she read the story.

48. The pistolglared at me from its holster.

24. The phoneawakened with a mighty ring.

49. The carbeckoned me from across the showroom.

25. The funeralraced by me in a blur.

50. I could hear Hawaii calling my name.

Purpose of Personification

As seen by the examples above, personification is used to assign human qualities to things that are not human, but it does not make them behave like a human. The purpose of this figurative language is to bring inanimate things to life to better explain them. Writers often use personification to make their writing more vivid and to have the reader understand the object or animal in a better way.

Do you have a good example to share? Add your example here.

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Examples of Personification

By YourDictionary

Everyone knows what a person is, but do you know what personification is? Personification is a type of metaphor and a common literary tool. It is when you assign the qualities of a person to something that isn't human or that isn't even alive, like nature or emotions. There are many reasons for using personification. It can be used as a method of describing something so that others can more easily understand it. It can be used to emphasize a point. It can be used to help paint a picture in your mind. You may in fact use personification without even knowing it.

Definition of Personification

Personification is a figure of speech in which a thing – an idea or an animal – is given human attributes. The non-human objects are portrayed in such a way that we feel they have the ability to act like human beings. For example, when we say, “The sky weeps,” we are giving the sky the ability to cry, which is a human quality. Thus, we can say that the sky has been personified in the given sentence.

Common Examples of Personification

  1. Look at my car. She is a beauty, isn’t she?
  2. The wind whispered through dry grass.
  3. The flowers danced in the gentle breeze.
  4. Time and tide wait for none.
  5. The fire swallowed the entire forest.

We see from the above examples of personification that this literary device helps us relate actions of inanimate objects to our own emotions.

Short Examples of Personification in Speech

  1. The shadow of the moon danced on the lake.
  2. There was a heavy thunderstorm, the wind snorted outside, rattling my windowpanes.
  3. The flowers were blooming, and the bees kissed them every now and then.
  4. The flood raged over the entire village.
  5. The tread of time is so ruthless that it tramples even the kings under its feet.
  6. It was early morning – I met a cat yawning and stretching in the street.
  7. The skyscraper was so tall that it seemed to kiss the sky.
  8. The tree was pulled down, and the birds lamented over its dead body.
  9. The tall pines in the hilly area fondled the clouds.
  10. The long road to his home was a twisting snake, with no visible end.
  11. The full moon peeped through partial clouds.
  12. His car suffered a severe stroke in the middle of the road, and refused to move forward.
  13. The ship danced over the undulating waves of the ocean.
  14. When he sat the test, the words and the ideas fled from his mind.
  15. When he came out of the house of his deceased friend, everything looked to him to be weeping.

Examples of Personification in Literature

Example #1: The Green Gables Letters (By L. M. Montgomery)

“I hied me away to the woods — away back into the sun-washed alleys carpeted with fallen gold and glades where the moss is green and vivid yet. The woods are getting ready to sleep — they are not yet asleep but they are disrobing and are having all sorts of little bed-time conferences and whisperings and good-nights.”

The lack of activity in the forest has been beautifully personified as the forest getting ready to sleep, busy at bed-time chatting and wishing good-nights, all of which are human customs.

Example #2: Romeo and Juliet, Act I, Scene II (By William Shakespeare)

“When well-appareled April on the heel
Of limping winter treads.”

There are two personification examples here. April cannot put on a dress, and winter does not limp, nor does it have a heel on which a month can walk. Shakespeare personifies the month of April and the winter season by giving them two distinct human qualities.

Example #3: Loveliest of Trees the Cherry Now (By A. H. Houseman)

“Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.”

He sees a cherry tree covered with beautiful white flowers in the forest, and says that the cherry tree wears white clothes to celebrate Easter. He gives human attributes to a tree in order to describe it in human terms.

Example #4: Have You Got A Brook In Your Little Heart (By Emily Elizabeth Dickinson)

“Have you got a brook in your little heart,
Where bashful flowers blow,
And blushing birds go down to drink,
And shadows tremble so?”

The bashful flowers, blushing birds, and trembling shadows are examples of personification.

Example #5: How Pearl Button Was Kidnapped (By William Shakespeare)

“Pearl Button swung on the little gate in front of the House of Boxes. It was the early afternoon of a sunshiny day with little winds playing hide-and-seek in it.”

It personifies wind by saying that it is as playful as little children playing hide-and-seek on a sunny day.

Example #6: Two Sunflowers Move in a Yellow Room (By William Blake)

“Two Sunflowers
Move in the Yellow Room.
‘Ah, William, we’re weary of weather,’
said the sunflowers, shining with dew.
Our traveling habits have tired us.
Can you give us a room with a view?”

This poem by William Blake contains a lot of examples of personification. The poem starts in a dialogue form, where a sunflower is directly addressing the poet by calling his name. Again, in the third line the flower says, “our travelling habits have tired us”, which is a good personification. The flowers are depicting a human characteristic of weariness caused by the weather. In a human way, they make a request to the poet to put them in a room with a window with plenty of sunshine.

Example #7: I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud (By William Wordsworth)

“I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.”

This poem by William Wordsworth contains artistic examples of personification. The fourth line says, “A host of golden daffodils,” and the fifth line has those flowers “Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.”

Example #8: The Waste Land (By T. S. ELIOT)

“April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.”

These are the opening lines of The Waste Land, by T. S. Eliot. The very first line contains personification in that it labels April as the cruelest month’.

Example #9: Because I could not stop for Death (By Emily Dickinson)

“Because I could not stop for Death –
He kindly stopped for me –
The Carriage held but just Ourselves –
And Immortality.
We slowly drove – He knew no haste
And I had put away
My labor and my leisure too,
For His Civility –”

The whole poem is full of examples of personification. In fact, death has been personified by the poet, saying “He kindly stopped for me.” Again in the second stanza, “He knew no haste,” and so on.

Function of Personification

Personification is not merely a decorative device, but serves the purpose of giving deeper meanings to literary texts. It adds vividness to expressions, as we always look at the world from a human perspective. Writers and poets rely on personification to bring inanimate things to life, so that their nature and actions are understood in a better way. Because it is easier for us to relate to something that is human, or which possesses human traits, its use encourages us to develop a perspective that is new as well as creative.

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