The comparison is a rhetorical stylistic medium used in works of any literary genre. A comparison is the direct countertransference of two or more facts, objects or linguistic images, which at least have a common feature. Comparisons are usually initiated with the words as and how, and can be used in the rhetoric for illustration, as well as intensify a thought process or describe an object in more detail.
Comparisons can be made in two different ways: (1) Either one object is compared to another because of its nature, because it belongs to the same species or comes from a similar environment, or (2) the comparison is made between Objects belonging to different areas. In both cases, there is at least one commonality.
(1) Magdalena is as beautiful as Rebekka.
In the above example, the two persons are compared. The signal word is the how, the so-called Relata, to each other. Furthermore, we are dealing with the first variant of the comparison. Since the two persons are very likely to belong to the same species and are therefore compared by virtue of a property which has similar characteristics in both cases.
This form is usually used for the simple comparison of two objects. Stylistically, this way has hardly any relevance, since it is more a contrasting countertransference, whereby no linguistic image is created, but simply is juxtaposed. However, this is done in the second example.
(2) Hercules was as strong as a bull.
In this example, two objects are compared with each other, which in reality have little to do with each other. The first term means a man or semi-god, while the other is an animal. Accordingly, man and animal are equated and juxtaposed in order to create an enhanced image. The characteristics of the bull are thus transferred to Hercules.
The previous examples are simple sentences, which clearly present the comparison. In principle, the objects which are compared but not directly following each other must be able to be compared with one another via several linguistic corners. Let’s look at an example.
On the beautiful daughter of a bad poet.
The father rhymes,
Not a little connoisseurs to please.
The daughter laments: o! she does not punish!
The good child wants everyone,
Like her father’s rhyme, fallen.
The above verses are an epigram by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing. Here, too, the two relatives, ie, daughter and rhymes, are connected to one another by the word Wie, and thus brought to a level. The effect of the comparison is here particularly shifted into the comic or funny, since it is unexpected and connects objects, at first sight no comparison allowed.
Note: In all examples, there is always a commonality, because of which the objects are compared with each other. In the first, the adjective is beautiful, in the second it is strong, in the epigram the desire to please. These words, which make the comparison possible, are called tertium comparationis, which can be translated with the third of the comparison and indicates what is compared at all.
However, comparisons can also do without tertium comparationis. In the 1980s the phrase “A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle” became popular in the course of the women’s movement. No third element is mentioned here, but it can be shown that women do not need a man as much as a fish. In the sentence, however, this is not “said”.
Parable and comparison
The stylistic reminder strongly resembles the rhetorical figure of the parable. In fact, the parable is a special case of the comparison which, for the sake of illustration, juxtaposes several objects.
The examples or excerpts presented presented two objects. They followed pattern A and B with respect to C as follows. Thus the one woman (A) is more beautiful (C) than the other woman (B). If, however, several objects are compared, so that A, A and A behave to B, B and B with respect to the reference moment C, then it is a parable. Let’s look at an example.
Effect and function of the comparison
Basically, it is difficult to ascribe to a stylistic device a clear function or effect, which is in any case correct. However, stylistic figures are usually used for a specific reason, which must be checked in the respective text. Nevertheless, we would like to give hints.
Overview: Meaning, characteristics and effect of the style figure
The comparison always means a form of counter-matching of two or more objects that have a commonality. This common is indicated by the comparative moment (tertium comparationis). This can be called or must be thought by the receiver (reader, listener) on its own.
The stylistic device is often used to illustrate something or to determine an object even closer and more precisely. In everyday life similar objects are usually compared. In the literature, however, it is also possible to explain what is unknown; if Hercules is, for example, as strong as a bull, the reader has a rough idea of the power.
A special form is the parable. This also serves to illustrate an abstract fact. Consequently, the comparison is also related to the allegory and the metaphor. The metaphor is even referred to as a shortened comparison, since it lacks the comparative moment (eg: Hercules is a Taurus → must be tapped).