What Is The Definition Of Simile In Poetry

What is the definition of Simile in poetry?

Precise definition of simile in poetry remains a source of contention. It usually involves the comparison of two objects, places, persons, ideas or feelings with the purpose of accentuating the qualities of one by the other. This style of writing has been used by writers and poets from time immemorial to describe a situation in a more appealing and captivating manner. Found frequently in almost all genres of poetry, simile contains a comparison of two different items that are connected to each other by the use of words such as “like” or “as”. Let us delve deeper into this form of poetry.

Types of Similes

The two types of similes mostly prevalent in English literature are the metaphor and simile. While both of them involve comparison of two objects, metaphor is a figurative comparison whereby a certain quality of one object is transferred to the other. Simile, on the other hand, contains a comparison of two distinct items and not just a quality as in metaphorical comparison. By adding ‘like’ or ‘as’ before the comparison, the true nature of the simile is clearly established.

Structure of Similes

Colloquially, the comparison involves two parts; the target and the source. The target is the object that is being compared to the other (source) with the help of simile. It is also known as the ‘tenor’. This process is based on the idea that the quantifiable descriptor of the source can be transferred onto the target. For example, in the phrase ‘she is as beautiful as the moon’, the target is ‘she’ while the source is ‘the moon’.

Purpose of Simile in Poetry

The artistic viscerality that simile lends to literature cannot be over-emphasised. The use of comparison in poetry goes as far back as ancient literature and it remains as important today as it was centuries ago. By comparing two objects, simile adds colour to the poem and makes it more accessible to the readers. The poet uses simile to illustrate a point or a situation in a more engaging fashion that leaves a lasting impression on the readers’ minds. Simile, therefore, serves the important purpose of helping readers connect with the text.

Examples of Simile in Poetry

There are plenty of examples of simile being incorporated in poetry from different timescales. Here’s a few examples of similes from well-known poets. In William Blake’s ‘A Poison Tree’, we find the comparison of an apple to a shameful spark (of revenge). In William Wordsworth’s ‘Daffodils’, we come across the comparison of a cloud of daffodils to a fluttering and dancing mass.

Influence of Similes on Poetic Writing

Similes have the potential to imbue a poem with layers of meaning and lend a powerful resonance to the text. This stylistic device has been used by poets while talking about beauty, ugliness, joy, despair and many other emotions. It serves as a bridge between two dissimilar objects and gives the readers a better insight into both of them. By making light of a somewhat dark situation and vice versa, simile has been a source of comfort for readers for centuries. As has been observed, simile helps in enhancing the literary value of a poem by connecting the readers with it in a deeper, more personal way.

Analysis of Poetic Similes

The beauty of poetic similes lies in their ability to elicit a mental image within the readers’ imaginations. For instance, the comparison used in William Blake’s ‘A Poison Tree’ creates a vivid picture in the readers’ minds. Similarly, William Wordsworth’s comparison of daffodils to a dancing mass could be interpreted to mean the joy felt during a sunny day. Therefore, when used in the correct context, this poetic device has the power to motivate readers and get them to wax lyrical about it.

Similes in Contemporary Poetry

Similes have been around since centuries, however, modern-day poetic writing indicates an increasing preference for dramatising and exaggerating the similarities between objects for the purpose of illustrating a situation more effectively. Contemporary literature uses simile to the extent that the comparison almost becomes part of the poem itself. An example of such an instance is seen in Walt Whitman’s ‘Leaves of Grass’, where Whitman talks of how rays of light look like a ‘trail of distant rainbows’ while talking of fondly remembered moments.

Importance of Simile in Poetry

Being the comparison of two objects, the use of simile allows readers to see the beauty of both in a manner that words cannot. If they were to explain it, they might be able to get across a couple of meanings from one object, however, incorporating the second with the help of simile enhances their understanding and encourages them to explore further. By doing so, readers may find further similarities in other objects and develop a better, more profound perspective of life. Therefore, simile has been of great importance in poetic writing ever since its inception.

Conclusion of Simile’s Effect on Poetry

Simile has proved to be an invaluable tool for poets and writers over the years. This much-favoured poetic device is employed to give depth, texture and a plethora of meaning to words. It can also be used to explain a situation or a certain type of person in a manner that words cannot and as a result, add gravity and emotion. Therefore, simile is an essential component of poetic writing and has been instrumental in allowing readers to delve deeper into literature and come out with a better understanding.

Dannah Hannah is an established poet and author who loves to write about the beauty and power of poetry. She has published several collections of her own works, as well as articles and reviews on poets she admires. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English, with a specialization in poetics, from the University of Toronto. Hannah was also a panelist for the 2017 Futurepoem book Poetry + Social Justice, which aimed to bring attention to activism through poetry. She lives in Toronto, Canada, where she continues to write and explore the depths of poetry and its influence on our lives.

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