Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Personification

Think back to seventh grade English. For some of you (including myself) that is a loooooong time ago. But think hard...

There's something you learned way back then called personification.
What? You don't remember it?
Well, quite simply, personification can be defined as giving human traits or characteristics to an inanimate object.

Sound hard? Not really. I'm guessing you've used personification just today.

That slice of chocolate cake is really calling to me.
(Cake can't call because that's a human characteristic)

That humidity beat the snot out of me.
(Humidity can't beat)

The wind whistled through the trees.
(Wind can't whistle)

See? It's that easy!

But....these examples are overdone....they're so common that many times we don't even see the beauty of the personification. And personification can be quite lovely.

Let me show you.

* And like the flowers beside them chill and shiver, Will like the flowers beside them soon be gone - Robert Frost

* Drowsed with the fume of poppies - John Keats

* I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions.
Whatever I see, I swallow immediately.
Just as it is, unmisted by love or dislike
I am not cruel, only truthful – from Mirror by Sylvia Plath

And personification isn't just for dead poets. One of my favorite authors used personification quite frequently in her most recent book, The Dark and Hollow Places. Below is my absolute favorite example from that book.

* The clouds are pregnant with snow - Carrie Ryan

I don't know why but this speaks to me like poetry.

So what examples do you have of personification? Do you have a favorite author who uses it? Is it something you incorporate into your writing, whether intentionally or subconsciously?

5 comments:

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I do it. When I switch the passive verb to something more active, I end up with a personification. It's always an accident. Bet you if I planned to do it, it would end up being a huge #personificationfail. :D

Jen Daiker said...

I'm with Stina if I planned to do it, it'd be a mess. However when I do it by accident it ends up working. Go figure. I don't use them all that often in my writing... but in person it's always used.

My hubby and I even laugh about it... "Why do we say that? It doesn't make sense."

lbdiamond said...

LOL! I practice autonomy all the time. Particularly when I'm encouraging my car to go faster. She's never failed me and I pat her dashboard lovingly after she accelerates how I want. ;)

Jennifer Shirk said...

I'm not sure if I use it... if I do it's totally unintentionally. (obviously) :-)

Angela Felsted said...

I LOVE personification. It is one of my favorite tools. When I first started dating my husband and he introduced seafood (yes, I was so deprived before I met him), he personified the crab legs on his plate.