21 Personification Examples (+ Definiti Related Terms)

Mystery Novel Journalism
2022 Jun 08

Do you need some good personification examples?

Whether youre writing a poem, studying a play, or even looking for some ways to spice up your copywriting, personification is a powerfulfigure of speech.

Not quite sure what personification is? Lets take a quick look:

Here, the sea is described like its a living being: sighing and moaning, like a human.

So how (and why) does personification get used in literature, poetry, pop culture, and everyday life?

The term personification is used in a few different ways. Heres the most common definition and the one were going to be focusing on throughout our examples.

Personification is the attribution of human characteristics to inanimate objects, animals, or even abstract ideas.

You might also hear personification used to indicate that a character embodies a particular idea, quality, or vice, in a piece of literature or art.

Personification is a form of figurative language, where writers convey an idea or feeling by saying something that isnt literally true.

Personification can make a non-human entity seem more vivid, even more dangerous, especially if the personification involves the use ofsensory words.

The fire swallowed the housemight have more of an emotional impact thanThe fire engulfed the house.

Often, particularly in poetry, personification is used to create a specific mood. It might make things seem more ominous, for instance, or it could give a sense of mystery.

Its easiest to understand personification (and how it differs from other techniques, like anthropomorphism) by taking a look at some examples.

As you can see from the range of examples here, personification is widely used not only in classic works of literature but also in popular culture and everyday speech.

Death, in approaching him had stalked with his black shadow before him, and enveloped the victim.

This short story by Poe is filled with themes of horror and madness.

Like all of Poes writing, its evocative and suspenseful. In this short extract, death is personified: it stalks like a person and casts a shadow.

Death is often personified, sometimes to the extent of becoming an actual character for examples of that, try Terry Pratchetts Discworld series or Emily Dickinsons poemBecause I Could Not Stop for Death.

Wine talks; ask anyone. The oracle at the street corner; the uninvited guest at the wedding feast; the holy fool. It ventriloquizes. It has a million voices. It unleashes the tongue, teasing out secrets you never meant to tell, secrets you never even knew. It shouts, rants, whispers. It speaks of great plans, tragic loves and terrible betrayals. It screams with laughter. It chuckles softly to itself.

Wine is personified from the first sentence of this novel: wine talks. Its given human attributes, not just the ability to talk, but to tease out secrets, to shout, rant, whisper, and even laugh.

In the original UK edition of the book, the wine itself acts as a narrator:

Take me, for instance. Fleurie, 1962. Last survivor of a crate of twelve, bottled and laid down the year Jay was born. Five years ago, he laid me out on a table set with silver candlesticks, but nothing came of it. In spite of that he and the girl stayed together.

The US edition (unusually) is quite different, with the whimsical first-person narrative of the wine completely lacking; instead, the story is told as a more straightforward third-person narrative.

But soft! What light through yonder window breaks?

It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.

Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,

Who is already sick and pale with grief,

That thou, her maid, art far more fair than she.

(You canread the rest of the speech here.)

In this very famous speech from Romeo and Juliet, Romeo personifies the moon, attributing human emotions (envy, grief) as well as human qualities (becoming sick) to it.

Natural forces, like the sun, moon, stars, wind, rain, storms, tides, and fire are often personified in literature.

Interestingly, here, Juliet is compared with the sun in a metaphor making her more powerful and also more remote than she really is as a human teenager.

That floats on high oer vales and hills,

Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

This very famous poem from the romantic poet William Wordsworth describes seeing a crowd a very human term of daffodils. The daffodils are dancing in the breeze, a human action that brings alive their movement and evokes a sense of joy in the imagined sight.

The daffodils lively, whimsical nature is further explored in the second stanza, which tells us they were tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

Even the first line of this poem has a degree of personification, suggesting that clouds can be lonely.

Related:39 Imagery Examples (+7 Types) To Stimulate The Senses

Its fierce kiss will stay on your lips,

In this poem, Carol Ann Duffy uses an onion as a symbol of love. The onion is given the ability to kiss a human action and its also given two human emotions, possessiveness, and faithfulness.

Heres a poem about returning to work in the New Year and having to participate in idle chitchat about /mCei8tCS82

Brian Bilston (@brian_bilston)January 4, 2022

This funny and (somewhat uncharacteristically) sinister poem is by Brian Bilston, whos often called the poet laureate of Twitter.

In it, the narrators dreams are personified as something with human thumbs: they smudge their thumbprints on the day to come.

Personification can involve photos or illustrations, not just words. The image below is part of ashort series of humorous and eye-catching ads, with a toy bull beating up a toy bear.

Here, the bull is personified: its sitting in an armchair and reading a newspaper, with its feet up on a bearskin rug:

Related:25 Types of Humor to Tickle Your Funny Bone (+ Examples)

John McClane:Now I know what a TV dinner feels like.

In films, personification is often used for one-liners, like this quip from John McClane, crawling through a vent in the Nakatomi Plaza. Obviously, TV dinners dont really have the human capacity to feel.

Yippee-ki-yay mother.readers 🙂

Im Dexter and Im not sure what I am. I just know theres something dark in me, and I hide it. I certainly dont talk about it, but its there always. This Dark Passenger. And when hes driving, I feel alive. Half sick with the thrill, the complete wrongness. I dont fight him, I dont want to. Hes all Ive got. Nothing else could love me, not even especially not me. Or is that just a lie the Dark Passenger tells me?

Dexters Dark Passenger is how he describes his impulse to kill. He gives it human qualities like the ability to love, and the ability to tell lies.

We use personification all the time in everyday speech. Some personification has tipped over into cliche such as when I say that food Im craving is calling my name.

Here are 12 examples of how we personify everyday events and objects:

Next, well dive into some literary terms closely related to personification. Its important to distinguish between these, as its easy to get personification muddled up with some of them particularly with anthropomorphism.

Anthropomorphism is when an animal or object behaves in a human-like way. Its easy to confuse it with personification, but heres how they differ.

If the narrator refers to the moon as watching, but means this only as a metaphor, thats personification.

If the moon has eyes and is truly watching the Earth, thats anthropomorphism.

Anthropomorphism is commonly associated with work aimed at children, but it also takes place in plenty of serious, adult works. (Think of George Orwells Animal Farm, for instance.)

Pathetic fallacy attributes human emotion to something thats non-human.

Note that its always about emotion not about other human attributes, like singing or strolling.

Crucially, pathetic fallacy is also used to link with something that a human character is feeling the things around them reflect their mood. If the sky is sullen but the narrator is full of cheer, thats not a good example of pathetic fallacy.

Often, pathetic fallacy is used in relation to nature. The rain might be described as miserable, for instance but really its the character whos unhappy.

An allegory is a story or poem that has a hidden meaning usually a political or moral message.

The story might seem to be about one thing on the surface, but theres a deeper meaning to it. Sometimes, this meaning is spelled out, perhaps with the allegory being presented first, then an interpretation being offered.

A great example is Platos Allegory of the Cave, where human beliefs about reality are likened to people in a cave, able to only see shadows rather than the real things that cast those shadows.

You could think of an allegory as being like a very extended, whole-story, metaphor.

A metaphor draws a parallel between one thing and another, completely unrelated, thing. It states that one thing is the other even though this is not literally true. For instance, this argument is a slippery slope or the snow is a white carpet across the land.

In Romeos speech earlier, he used a metaphor when talking about Juliet, saying Juliet is the sun.

Related:57 Metaphor Examples Thatll Pack Your Prose With Persuasion

Weve looked at lots of different examples of personification above. Some are very recent, others are centuries old. Some are from classic works of literature, others are from pop culture.

Whether youre studying literature, aiming to become a better writer, or even hoping tomake extra cash writing, getting to grips with personification can help.

Next time youre reading a book or poem, or watching a TV show, keep an eye out for personification. Dont just spot it, though figure out what effect it has. That way, youll gain a deeper understanding of how personification works.

Ali Luke has been freelancing full-time since 2008, writing for sites including Copyblogger, ProBlogger, Craft Your Content, The Write Life, and more. Her blogAliventureshas tips to help you make the most of your writing time. If you need a confidence boost, check out her post ondeveloping three types of self-confidence that will help your writing career.

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