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Figurative language in "Bohemian Rhapsody": can someone help me get the figurative language from the song "Bohemian Rhapsody?"

Two primary types of figurative language used in "Bohemian Rhapsody" are understatement and analogy. The lyrics of the song repeatedly downplay what is clearly meant to be a tragic event or series of events. This is understatement. In addition, the references to killing someone need not be taken literally but may be an extended metaphor representing an act that brings shame or social ostracism to the actor. An extended metaphor is an analogy.

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The lyrics to "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Freddie Mercury are enigmatic and open to interpretation. Thus what one listener might take as literal language could be taken as figurative language by someone else. In fact, the first two lines of the song invite listeners to decide whether it depicts "real life" or "just a fantasy." Under either interpretation, the song makes frequent use of understatement. Listeners who choose the "just a fantasy" interpretation will recognize the analogy the song offers.

Understatement is a type of figurative language that deliberately downplays the importance of what is being discussed. It is the opposite of hyperbole (exaggeration for effect). "Bohemian Rhapsody" is clearly a song full of passion and deep emotions, implying that its subject matter is of great importance. Yet the lyrics frequently use words of less intensity that belie the magnitude of the situation.

"I'm just a poor boy; I need no sympathy" is an understatement because the word "just" implies that being poor (whether financially or by any other measure) makes a person less important. It is probably safe to say that all people require or deserve sympathy when they go through a rough situation, so the persona's claim that he needs none is an understatement. "Doesn't really matter to me" would also be an understatement for anyone "caught in a landslide," whether real or metaphorical. "Easy come, easy go" is typically used as a cliche that downplays the importance of something that has been lost. At the end of the song, "nothing really matters" and "any way the wind blows" repeat, further implying that what has come previously is easily dismissed when, in fact, it has all been quite intense.

Whether one sees an analogy in the song depends on whether one takes the stanza about killing a man literally. If the song doesn't refer to a literal murder, then the killing can be an extended metaphor for an action that brings great shame, social ostracism, and punishment to the actor. A metaphor becomes an analogy when it is extended to include multiple points of comparison. In this analogy, the method of killing is described as pulling "my trigger" after putting a gun to a man's head. This could represent losing one's temper (being triggered) and then causing harm to someone, either emotionally or physically. This has consequences, notably sadness for his mother and separation from the people he knows and loves ("gotta leave you all behind").

Listeners do not have to have killed someone to relate to these lyrics. Anyone who has made a hot-tempered mistake that damaged relationships can feel the agony that's being expressed. Listeners can easily grasp the analogy on a visceral or subconscious level.

These two types of figurative language—understatement and analogy—add to the emotional intensity of "Bohemian Rhapsody."

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In Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody," there are a several uses of figurative language. The following line is an example of a euphemism.

Gotta leave you all behind and face the truth...

A euphemism is defined as:

...the use of an indirect, mild, delicate, inoffensive, or vague word or expression for one thought to be coarse, sordid, or otherwise unpleasant, offensive, or blunt.

In other words, is a nice way of referring to something unpleasant or nasty. For example, one may "pass away" rather than "croak," "keel over" or "die." In this line of the song, "face the truth" can be perceived to mean that the speaker must either face the consequences of his actions or perhaps even execution for murder.

In The Merchant of Venice, Gratiano speaks of a ring with the inscription, "Love me and leave me not." (V.i.149) It is possible that the following line of the song is borrowed from Shakespeare's play—if so, this is called an allusion. (It might also be a line borrowed from a movie title from 1955, Love Me or Leave Me.)

So you think you can love me and leave me to die...

An allusion is a reference to a well-known person, place, idea—or even a phrase. Its purpose is to bring the essence of what is familiar in the original person, idea, etc., to that which is being compared to so as to may it more meaningful, more impactful.

The purpose of allusion is to bring a world of experience outside the limitations of a statement to the reader.

In literature, figurative language should not be taken literally. It is language employed to make one's writing, especially descriptions, more vivid to the reader.

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The words "any way the wind blows" are used to describe being easy-going (actually, so is "easy come, easy go"). These are idioms or metaphors. They mean that the person just goes along with what others say. Since they are commonly used, that makes them idioms.
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What a cool song that was back in the 70's!

Figurative language is the comparison of two unlike things that is not literally true. Writers use figurative language to describe something or make a point.

Queen uses some simple figurative language in several points in the song. Near the beginning we have the line

Caught in a landslide

no escape from reality

This is figurative language because the speaker (or singer, in this case) is not really in a "landslide." If he was he would be covered with rocks and earth. Therefore the statement is not literally true. The meaning is figurative: he is trying to say that his life is overwhelming him in some way.

This type of figurative language is called a metaphor.

There are other instances of figurative language in the song also.

 

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