Personification is a stylistic device that makes people and persons from abstract or general things. The personification is a secondary form of the metaphor and is also heavily based on allegory. The style-figure furnishes non-living beings with characteristics or actions that are otherwise only attributed to living creatures. Thus the personification increases the vitality and vividness of language.
Sometimes it is very difficult to draw a clear distinction between personification, metaphor, allegory and all varieties and special forms of the stylistic figures mentioned. This is simply because personalization, allegory and metaphor often go hand in hand (→ examples of the metaphor).
This knowledge is important in that a personification must always be examined in the context of the other named stylistic means in order to make a secure distinction possible. Let us look at an example of the poet Yvan Goll.
Factories threatened with their panting chimneys
The inanimate nouns and personalizing verbs were highlighted by us. It becomes clear that things are breathed into life, since human gestures and actions have been transferred to the industrial terms Schlot and Fabrik.
In the verse, non-living things were thus humanized by means of verbs, which sometimes makes the language more vivid and vivid. The personification is thus present!
This effect is enhanced by the use of an onomatopoietic (“wheezing”).
Note: The word “persona” derives from the Latin “persona” and means something like a mask. Thus, the personification sets things up and changes them.
Personification, metaphor and allegory
Personification is often formed by comparisons and metaphorical turns. Furthermore, we call an extended personification with the word allegory.
To understand this context, we need to look at the nature of the metaphor. This is characterized by the fact that a word is not used in its literal sense, but in the transmitted meaning.
This happens in that the word is brought into a semantic connection with the transmitted meaning. Let’s look at an example.
I cried a sea of tears.
This line of verse is a hyperbola and at the same time a metaphorical expression of great sadness. This context becomes clear to us because we “weep” the verb “tears” and connect the grief to the sea as an enormous accumulation of water.
The metaphor brings together both conceptions, and we can conclude that the lyric self has shed a tremendous amount of tears. The word sea is thus not used literally, but only in a transposed sense.
The metaphor, therefore, means a word which has a meaning different from its lexical, that is, normal meaning.
If we take this, we quickly realize the extent to which metaphor and personification are connected. For personification attributes human qualities to lifeless, as a result of which a new and different level of meaning emerges automatically. Let us look at an example.
Life is beautiful, for the sun is laughing.
The metaphorical twist in this verse is quite obvious. Because when the sun laughs us, we mean that we are doing well and we are happy. The personification is in the connection of the verb “lachen” and the noun “sun”. Thus, the metaphor is formed by means of a personification.
Note: In numerous specialist books, personification and metaphor are treated separately from each other. However, the personification should be regarded as a special form of the metaphor.
An extended personification is, in principle, an allegory. This means that a person acts through attributes, actions and speeches as the symbolizing of an abstract concept, for example a virtue or a vice. Let’s look at an example.
Justitia decided that it was well true.
Justitia is a woman in mythology who holds a balance in one hand and a sword in the other. In addition, Justitia is blind because her eyes are hidden.
→ Justitia is thus the personification of justice and an allegory for it.
These features are intended to illustrate the fact that the right is spoken without regard to the person (connected eyes), after an abundant weighing of the balance (balance) and enforced with hardness (sword).
Allegory: Very concrete representation of abstract concepts or thoughts, which is often realized by means of a personification. The thought is transferred to an image that has to be re-opened.