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What literary term means the following: An inanimate object given animate...

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anmartin08 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted June 27, 2007 at 3:57 AM via web

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What literary term means the following: An inanimate object given animate characteristics, like a talking dog or a couch full of love.

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npdckrsn | College Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

Posted August 8, 2008 at 7:47 AM (Answer #4)

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The answers you have been given are pretty good, but one of my professors once said that we are much given to "pathetic fallacy" by placing emotional characteristics upon inanimate objects. In A Handbook to Literature we are told that the term was coined by Ruskin to denote the tendency of man to credit NATURE with the emotions of human beings. I believe this is the term you will want to use in the examples you have given.

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William Delaney | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted May 19, 2014 at 3:11 PM (Reply #1)

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Just because someone, however distinguished, calls something a "fallacy" does not necessarily make it a fallacy or prohibit writers from using it. I see nothing wrong in ascribing human feelings to things in nature--so long as the writer is sincere about it. In fact, some of these kinds of metaphors and similes are beautiful and memorable. 

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bmadnick | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted June 27, 2007 at 4:02 AM (Answer #1)

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You could be talking about personification. This is where nonhuman objects or animals are given human qualities. A "talking dog" is given the human quality of speech, and "a couch full of love" is given the human ability to love.

Another term that you might be referring to is anthropomorphism. This is when human motivation, characteristics, or behavior are given to inanimate objects, animals, or natural phenomena.

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brendawm | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted July 4, 2007 at 12:44 PM (Answer #2)

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The term you are looking for is personification, which means the giving of physical or human characteristics to ideas, thoughts or inanimate objects. Wonderful beginner examples of personification can be found in William Wordsworth's poem, "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud".  I listed some examples for you.

      
I WANDERED lonely as a cloud 

That floats on high o'er vales and hills, 

When all at once I saw a crowd,   

A host, of golden daffodils;   

Beside the lake, beneath the trees, 

Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.Ten thousand (daisies) saw I at a glance,Tossing their heads in spritely dance.The waves beside them danced. ....And then my heart with pleasure fills, And dances with the daffodils. 

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rb1384 | College Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

Posted February 25, 2008 at 4:12 PM (Answer #3)

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I think you're comparing apples with oranges here :-)

A talking dog would be an example of anthropomorphism. If you break it down - anthro = man or human and morph = shape - the author is giving human characteristics to something that isn't human.

 "...couch full of love..." is an example of a metaphor, the most common kind of literary comparison.

In Zora Neale Hurston's "The Gilded Six Bits" she writes, "The hours went by on their rusty ankles." She is comparing two dissimilar things (hours don't have ankles...they probably don't even have toes) to create the effect of time passing very slowly. This metaphor is particularly rich because she is writing about an African American community that would be within a generation or two of emancipation.

For future reference on this kind of question, I would highly recommend either the enotes literary terms section or the American Heritage Dictionary (4th edition) for definitions and usage.

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Yojana_Thapa | Student, Grade 10 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted January 31, 2014 at 3:32 PM (Answer #5)

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This literary tem would be personification.

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zumba96 | Student, Grade 11 | (Level 2) Valedictorian

Posted April 29, 2014 at 10:41 PM (Answer #6)

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That is personification. Personification is used when you want to make an inanimate or object that normally would not complete those actions complete them. For example, the wind whistled in the night. That is personification because the wind did not literally whistle. 

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jess1999 | TA , Grade 9 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted June 17, 2014 at 6:01 PM (Answer #7)

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The literary term that you are referring to would be personification. Personification is when something nonhuman is given a human characteristics / personality. For example, the talking dog is an example of personification because dogs don't talk like we humans do. The couch full of love is an example of personification because couch don't give love unlike us human.

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maria-vivanco | Student, Grade 11 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted July 28, 2014 at 10:41 PM (Answer #8)

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When you give a non inanimate object animate characteristics like a person it's called personification. You are making the inanimate thing come to life 

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parama9000 | Student, Grade 11 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted July 31, 2014 at 2:12 PM (Answer #9)

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Personification should apply in your case, where inanimate or non-living objects are given human-like characteristics.

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mandiriccio | High School Teacher | eNotes Newbie

Posted September 8, 2014 at 10:14 PM (Answer #10)

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Personification possibly? -- That is when something non-living is given characteristics of something living.

Ex. 'The stars danced'

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